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September 22, 2021

Chair’s Column: Grateful for the Opportunity and Challenges

By Clay J. Countryman, Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P., Baton Rouge, LA

Welcome to my First Chair’s Column!  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be the Chair of the ABA Health Law Section for the 2021/2022 bar year and look forward to working with our Section leaders in the year ahead.

We are very fortunate to have had so many outstanding Section Chairs who have created and supported the ABA Health Law Section since its inception over 25 years ago.  These Section leaders include Howard Wall, Andy Demetriou, Paul Herrington, Tony Patterson, Bill Horton, Hilary Young, Alexandria Hien McCombs, Joyce Hall, and you too Hal Katz! – to name a few.

My journey with the ABA Health Law Section began in 1998 when I met Paul Herrington (often referred to as “E. Paul” or “the father of the Section”) at a Health Law Section conference in Nashville.  Paul encouraged me to become active in the ABA Young Lawyers Division health law committee and apply for the ABA YLD liaison to the Health Law Section Council.  I later chaired the YLD health law committee and became the liaison to the Health Law Section Council.

Through involvement with the ABA YLD health law committee, I became friends with several future leaders of the Health Law Section such as Shannon Hartsfield, Marcelo Corpuz, Robin Siegel, and Elaine Zacharakis.  It seems like just yesterday when our group did a panel presentation at the 1999 ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta and a couple of us almost fell off the small podium used for our group.

I am often reminded that some of the great aspects of the ABA Health Law Section are the collegiality and inclusiveness of our Section members.  The professional and personal relationships and interactions with Health Law Section and healthcare industry leaders from across the country have been invaluable to my career, continuing education on health law topics and to me personally.

Now on to the business, goals, and priorities for the ABA Health Law Section for this bar year and beyond.   Each one of us is needed more than ever to take an active role and support the activities and work of the Section so that we may continue to be a leader in health law and provide value to our members.

My focus and goals for the bar year ahead are based on “collaboration and inclusion.”  The theme of collaboration describes our goals this year to collaborate and work with other healthcare associations and organizations, as well as other ABA Sections, Divisions, and Forums, on projects related to health law topics of interest to attorneys and healthcare industry business leaders.  As a partner of mine once said, it is time that we get out of our silos and reach across the aisle so to speak to work on issues that affect us all and learn from others.

The theme of inclusion describes one of the long-standing core values and attributes of the Health Law Section, which is to be inclusive in everything we do as a Section, such as the creation of educational programs, conferences, and leadership appointment opportunities.  Diversity and inclusion have always been a priority in all activities of the Health Law Section, and I look forward to continuing this priority and supporting new initiatives of the Section’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Stop here – and read this a couple of times:  This bar year, as always, all Section leaders and members are encouraged to “think outside of the box” and come up with new and creative ways we can be thought leaders in the healthcare industry and provide value to our members.

Now, for some more meat on the bones for achieving our goals and priorities for this bar year.  The following are some of the specific goals and plans for this year:

Collaboration with Healthcare Organizations and Other ABA Entities.  The Health Law Section has previously had successful collaborative projects with healthcare organizations, such as the Chicago Medical Society, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), and the American Medical Association (AMA).  My goal is to continue these collaborations and create new ones, which will offer networking, speaking, writing, and other opportunities for our Section members.

Creation of a Medical-Legal Partnership Collaborative Project and Related Initiatives.
  One of my goals this year is to create a Medical-Legal Partnership project in collaboration with other healthcare organizations and providers. I first learned of Medical-Legal Partnerships when exploring different ways that attorneys and physicians could work together to help individuals through using our respective professions.  A local healthcare executive in Baton Rouge told me, “surely you have heard of “Medical-Legal Partnerships” that were the focus of resolutions in 2008 by the American Medical Association and ABA Health Law Section.”  My learning curve began that day on MLPs.

In short, Medical-Legal Partnerships are flexible, collaborative arrangements in which legal professionals work with members of a healthcare provider’s medical staff to address civil legal issues and other social determinants of health that affect the health conditions of individuals.    My goal this year is that the ABA Health Law Section collaborates with other organizations, such as the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (, to create new and support existing Medical-Legal Partnerships that address in part certain social determinants of health such as homelessness, housing stability, and health equity.

Health Law Section Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.
  As part of our diversity and inclusion initiatives for the bar year, I hope the Section can enter into collaborative projects with diversity bar associations, such as the National Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association.  We are also planning several initiatives to support and recruit diverse leaders and members for the Health Law Section.

Health Law Section Member Engagement.
   As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, it is critically important that we create opportunities for our members to network and get together in person in a safe environment as much as possible.  I hope this year we are able to have some regional meetings of Health Law Section members in different cities and create other new in-person events.

In summary, I appreciate the opportunity to be the Chair of the ABA Health Law Section this year, and let the fun begin - Laissez Les Bon Temp Rouler!”

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Clay Countryman


Clay Countryman is a partner in the healthcare group in the Baton Rouge office of Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. Mr. Countryman represents clients in all areas of the healthcare industry, with a focus on healthcare corporate transactions, fraud and abuse compliance, development of healthcare provider networks and alternative healthcare payment approaches.

Clay has primarily served as legal counsel to several different types of healthcare providers and provider organizations, ranging from national and regional hospital systems, physician organizations, specialty physician groups, clinically integrated networks, physician-owned hospitals, diagnostic imaging facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, pharmacies, healthcare management companies, and healthcare trade associations.

Clay is an active member of several healthcare associations and other organizations. Clay has been an active member of the American Bar Association for over 20 years, including vice chair in the Health Law Section, the ABA Veterans Legal Services Commission, Medical-Legal Partnerships and the ABA Young Lawyers Division.