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October 31, 2021

Chair's Column: ABA Health Law Section – “It Takes a Village…”

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

This is my second column after assuming the role of Chair of the ABA Health Law Section and succeeding Hal Katz, who provided steady leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.   The Section’s leadership is very excited and looking forward to the 19th Annual Washington Health Law Summit (WHS) on December 6 and 7, 2021 in Washington, D.C.   WHS is the Section’s first in-person conference since the last WHS in December 2019.

It has been a long time since the Section has had an in-person meeting or conference, and I look forward to catching up with many of our leaders and members at this great healthcare policy conference in D.C. in early December.

I am very appreciative and proud of the Health Law Section staff, leadership, and members for steering us through one of the most challenging periods from the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 / 2021 bar year.   The Section was able to stay connected with our leadership and members, and provide value to our members and the health law community.  Hopefully we will continue to evolve into this new post-pandemic world.

The challenges of the Health Law Section at this point, in part, include maintaining and growing the Section’s membership, and utilizing existing and new innovative ways to provide value and thought leadership to health law professionals and the healthcare industry.  We are also in a position to make an impact on diversity, equity, inclusion, and health access issues in the healthcare industry.

The planning of WHS and the work of the Health Law Section staff and volunteer leaders made me think of the beginning of an old African proverb - “It takes a village ...”  And it is so true for the Health Law Section, that “It takes a village …” of the Health Law Section staff, leadership, members, and other volunteer organizations to provide all of the educational programs (conferences, webinars, member benefit programs, …), publications (The Health Lawyer, The ABA Health eSource, HLBytes, articles, books, …), Interest Group activities (member benefit webinars, articles, publications, …), collaborations with other ABA sections and entities, as well as other organizations, and especially the folks waiting to edit this column.

As a volunteer organization, the Health Law Section relies greatly on the contributions of our members to the activities of the Health Law Section.  We are thankful to have volunteers who give countless hours and consistently step up to support the activities of the Health Law Section, as well as recruit other volunteers and leaders for Section activities.  Our teams of innovation and collaboration are shown in many of the activities that have already occurred in this bar year.

Health Law Section Innovation and Collaboration ‘Success Stories’

Our goals for the Health Law Section this bar year include motivating our members to create new ‘innovative and collaborative’ projects both within the Health Law Section, and with other ABA sections and other organizations.  I would like to highlight two recent successful events that included examples of innovation and collaboration by the Health Law Section staff and members.

One example is the “What is Health Law?” member benefit webinar series put together by the Section’s membership committee.  The What Is Health Law? is a free one-hour webinar series each week during the month of October that introduces health law topics to law students, young lawyers, and other interested members of the Section on the fundamental areas of certain health law topics.   I would like to recognize Carol Simmons, the Associate Director of the Health Law Section, for her efforts and initiatives in developing and marketing the “What is Health Law?” series, which included marketing this webinar series to law schools with health law programs across the country.

The planning committee for the What is Health Law? series also contributed to the success of this series.  The Section’s Membership Committee is co-chaired by Jason Lacey of Foulston Siefkin LLP in Wichita, KS and Jesse Hale of Sutin Thayer Browne, in Albuquerque, NM. Mr. Hale also served as the webinar series co-chair with Emely Sanchez, from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Washington, DC.  Planning Committee members also included Anna DuBois, of Husch Blackwell in Austin, TX, James Junger, with Hall, Render in Milwaukee, WI and James Kiai, Law Student Division Representative to the Health Law Section Council and a 3L at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in South Bend, IN.

Another recent successful Health Law Section event was the Physicians Legal Issues: Health Care Delivery & Innovation Virtual Conference (also known as “PLI” or “DocLaw”) that was recently held on September 21-24, 2021.  PLI was co-sponsored by the Chicago Medical Society and the American College of Legal Medicine.

The PLI Planning Committee put together a weeklong offering of 15 impressive CLE and CME programs.  Some of the highlights of PLI included keynote addresses from Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, Chief Health Equity Officer and Senior Vice President of the American Medical Association, a keynote presentation by Dr. Stephen L. Ondra with North Star Healthcare Consulting, Corey Feist, JD, MBA, Co-Founder of Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, and The Honorable Kwame Raoul, Attorney General for the State of Illinois.

I would like to give a huge and special thank you to the Co-Chairs, Kathleen DeBruhl of Kathleen L. DeBruhl & Associates in New Orleans, LA and Elizabeth L. Greene of Mirick O’Connell in Worcester, MA.  I cannot express my appreciation enough to Kathleen and Elizabeth for their passion, countless hours, and efforts in making the PLI conference successful this year.

One of the innovative aspects of PLI this year was the virtual reception on Tuesday evening, which included volunteer cocktail drink masters to discuss their favorite cocktail.  Hats off to Elizabeth Greene is hosting this virtual reception.

I would also like to recognize members of the PLI Planning Committee who also gave countless hours and effort to make this a successful PLI Conference.  The members of the PLI Planning Committee included:  Monique Anawis, MD, JD, of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, in Chicago, IL, Wes Cleveland, of the American Medical Association in Chicago, IL, Adrienne Dresevic, of The Health Law Partners, in Farmington Hills, MI, David Ellenbogen, of Medica, in Austin, TX, Jena M. Grady, of Nixon Peabody, in New York, NY, Shannon Hartsfield, of Holland & Knight, in Tallahassee, FL, Tripti C. Kataria, MD, MPH, FASA, BCMAS, with the Chicago Medical Society, Chicago, IL and Edward Linn, MD, with the Chicago Medical Society, in Chicago, IL. I would also like to recognize Section staff, Daryl Taylor, CMP, Senior Meeting Planner and Paige Rodenberg, Program Specialist, for their efforts to ensure a great conference!

See you in December at the Washington Health Law Summit in D.C.!