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September 01, 2017 Chair's Column

As the New Bar Year Begins….

Hilary H. Young, Joy & Young, L.L.P., Austin, TX

As the new Bar year began on September 1, Hurricane Harvey had finally left Houston and the Gulf Coast behind and was bringing heavy rain to the Ohio valley as Post-Tropical Cyclone Harvey. Flooding persisted in many areas of Southeast Texas, while in other areas people began to assess the damage and begin the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding. Along with everyone else, I have been riveted by the events in Houston with its unprecedented flooding.

I live in Austin now, but Houston was my first “grown-up” town. I moved there fresh out of college to start my professional life as a high school Latin teacher (the law came later). I was horrified by my first encounter with palmetto bugs (aka Texas cockroaches of unusual size). I experienced periodic street flooding and hunkered down with friends as Hurricane Alicia swept up I-45 from Galveston and across Houston. Trucks driving down the street and spraying broadly for mosquitoes were a regular sight. What do you expect from a city built in a swamp? But Houston was also exciting. The lack of zoning resulted in commercial and residential areas flowing organically from one into the other. Great restaurants and cultural events were everywhere. Despite its legendary bad traffic, Houston had a terrific energy, wonderful people, and always something interesting to do.

Lo these many years later, Houston has grown into the fourth largest city in the country. The city covers over 600 square miles, while the metropolitan region reaches over 10,000 square miles.1 And it is amazingly diverse. Whites (non-Hispanic) constitute 38 percent of the region’s population; Hispanics make up 36 percent, African-Americans 17 percent, and Asians 9 percent.2 Throughout the onslaught of Harvey, the media brought us countless stories and pictures of people putting themselves on the line to rescue or help others. Any differences in ideas, cultural background, race, nationality, or political leanings fell away in the face of the storm. During Harvey, people were just people, doing what they could to help each other and solve the problems at hand. And the resilience of people has been inspiring. These qualities shine brightly in the midst of the devastation.

Those of us watching from a distance have been moved to help, too. People have gathered supplies, food, and water. Some took items into the devastated areas; others provided support for evacuees. One of my neighbors is fostering cats recovered from Houston; others made financial contributions. These efforts are laudable. But the risk is that we will turn away to other things as the waters recede even though the need for help will continue. As a number of people have said, the recovery and rebuilding from Harvey will be a marathon, not a sprint. And with Hurricane Irma sweeping through the Caribbean and tracking towards Florida, there may be even more of this work to do. We should not forget how to see each other as people and how to work together to solve the problems we face, both in Houston and elsewhere.

These are the events and thoughts I have swirling around as I receive the gavel from the inimitable Joyce Hall and begin my year as your Section Chair. The Health Law Section, with its members and leaders, is home to many of these inspiring qualities. We are welcoming and inclusive. We are committed to having our Section and leadership ranks reflect the diversity in our profession, and to having the diversity in our profession reflect the diversity in our country. We want our conferences, webinars, and publications to benefit our members so they can be better health lawyers. We want to support and encourage law students and young lawyers as they begin their careers. We are collegial and help each other. And we enjoy working and playing together.

We have those who came before us to thank for this culture. I look back at the Past Chairs who created the Health Law Forum and grew it into a Section, and particularly those who had a hand in my own professional growth, including Paul Herrington, Howard Wall, Bob Roth, Tony Patterson, Greg Pemberton, Paul DeMuro, Andy Demetriou, David Hilgers, Linda Baumann, David Johnson, David Douglass, Kathye Scully-Hayes, Michael Clark, Bill Horton, and Joyce Hall. And the cool part is that many of them are still involved with the Section while making room for others behind them to advance.

So, we face forward and begin the 2017-2018 Bar year. Every year presents the Section with challenges and opportunities. This year is no exception. Both the ABA and the Health Law Section are working diligently and creatively to be financially responsible while providing timely value to our members. The Section had its annual Leadership Meeting in July to prepare for the new Bar year. Conceived and implemented under then-Chair David Douglass in 2013, this meeting was our fifth. We spent a portion of our time together in a hack-a-thon, brainstorming together new ways to support the activities that serve our members. And we left St. Louis fired up for a great year. Our Interest Groups and other committees are working on publications, webinars and podcasts, policy initiatives, and other materials to support you in your practice. Planning is underway for the Washington Health Law Summit in December, the Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law Conference in February, and the Physicians Legal Issues Conference in June. I hope many of you will join us for one or more of these outstanding conferences and collegiality.

In some of the other sections, it is customary for the Chair to pursue a theme or personal initiative. But that is not quite how we roll in Health Law. For us (and certainly for me), it is more about what we can do together to continue good work we have been doing, and to connect, collaborate, and create materials and opportunities that will support you in your practice and perhaps even contribute towards better healthcare policy in this country. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and I am glad you are part of it. Here’s to a great year!

Hilary H. Young, Joy & Young, L.L.P., Austin, TX