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July 27, 2022

Chair's Column: It Took a Village: Closing in on the End of the Bar Year

Recently I was reminded of the importance of how we handle ourselves can have such a positive impact on our daily lives and on others.  This thought is also reflected in the last line of one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that made all of the difference.”   

Earlier this summer, I was working with several attorneys planning a conference (not an ABA conference) and as you can expect there were several opinions regarding organizing conference sessions and receptions.   As tensions and disagreements increased, a staff member from an association chose a road less traveled and handled the group with a smile and made reassuring comments such as “we’ve got this” and “we’ll take care of certain aspects” and “it will all work smoothly and easy for you.”  That approach immediately deflated tensions and disagreements among several committee members and helped the group get through a challenging planning process.

As I reflect on the end of the 2021-2022 bar year, I am filled with emotions of gratefulness and appreciation of my year as Chair of the ABA Health Law Section.  These past 12 months have been a rewarding experience working with a village of the Section staff and leadership, and have incredibly flown by.   We all are in good hands as Kathy Poppitt becomes the next Chair of the Section and the other officers start their new positions at the end of our Council meeting at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago on August 6, 2022.

This past year has been highlighted by many great Section events and achievements, all of which took a village to plan, implement and make happen.  The following are some of the highlights during this past bar year:

The Health Law Section had three major conferences in 2021-2022, including one virtual conference and two in-person (or live conferences).  In September 2021, the Section held the virtual Physician Legal Issues Conference, which was co-sponsored by our longtime strategic partner, the Chicago Medical Society.  We had registrants literally from around the world who attended, through an electronic platform over a five-day period.

In December 2021, the Section held our first Washington Health Law Summit (WHS) in Washington, D.C. since 2019.   We were lucky in that the 2021 WHS conference was held just prior to a national surge of the COVID-19 variant Omicron.  The Health Law Section staff guided us through hosting a successful conference, including carrying out and meeting the ABA meetings policy that required confirmation that all attendees had either been vaccinated or received a recent COVID-19 negative test.

In April 2022, the Section held our Annual Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law Conference in Miami, FL.  This was our first EMI Conference in over two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  EMI 2022 was attended by several of our Section leaders and covered several emerging health law substantive topics.

One of my initiatives for this past bar year was to continue to pursue and increase the Section’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.   This goal was made easy by the hard work of Stephanie Willis, who is the chair of the Section’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the members of the Committee.  The Section’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee presented two programs at EMI, has increased social media presence and visibility; started working on a Diversity Fellowship Program for the Section, and has been working on plans to support and implement ABA Resolution 102 by former Section Chair David Douglass which calls for attorneys to make a commitment of 20 hours per year dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the practice of law. Julian Rivera was  awarded the Section’s Champion of Diversity Award at the EMI conference this past April in Miami.

The Section also had several collaboration initiatives in the past bar year.   We worked with the Vice President of Partnerships and Director of Education for the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) to organize and provide speakers for webinars on data breaches and information security, and for three presentations at the HFMA Annual Meeting this past June in Denver, CO. 

We are continuing the Section’s collaboration and planning with the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).  We have also begun discussions with several healthcare specialty associations on potential collaboration initiatives. The Section is  continuing a longtime collaborative partnership with the Chicago Medical Society.  I am thankful for the leadership and support of our collaboration initiatives with the Chicago Medical Society’s Dr. Tariq Butt, President, and Ted Kanellakes, the  Executive Director.

The Section also just held our annual leadership planning meeting in Salt Lake City for the coming bar year.  The Chair-elect Kathy Poppitt did an outstanding job in putting together this leadership meeting and guiding us through two days of meetings and networking sessions.  I personally enjoyed the Shark Tank exercise on Saturday morning. 

Finally, I’m very sorry to report the tragic passing of Eric Weatherford who died during a snorkeling accident while on vacation with his family earlier this week.   He had been a longtime leader and active member of the ABA Health Law Section.  Eric was a partner with Husch Blackwell in Dallas, Texas and a great husband, father, friend and just a good person.

Here’s to the Village of the Health Law Section continuing to do great work in the 2022-2023 Bar Year!

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