Break the Glass and Embrace Change

Vol. 10 No. 11

AuthorIn his book, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger said, “Certain things, they should stay the way they are.  You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”

As healthcare attorneys, we understand that while we may wish for the simplicity of life that Salinger expressed in his glass case metaphor, it just isn’t feasible in our complex and competitive society.  We have come to expect the seemingly breakneck pace in which the law is evolving in response to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in early 2010.  If our national healthcare policies were in one of those glass cases before, the case certainly has been shattered by the momentum of change now.

As a pharmacist and pharmacy law educator at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, I spend much of my time focused almost exclusively on laws and policies involving prescription drugs.  It is an exciting time to be involved in the legal and regulatory side of pharmacy.  I have been downright dizzied by the number of recent changes to laws and policies involving medicinal drug products.  Within the past year alone, the Drug Quality and Security Act (involving the tracking and tracing of drug products, as well as compounded medications) was enacted, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated The Health Resources and Services Administration’s  regulation exempting orphan drugs from the ceiling price limitations of the 340B program for certain covered entities, and New York became the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana – despite the fact that it still has no legitimate medical purpose under federal law.  Even though my course materials are in constant need of updating, I thoroughly enjoy the intellectual challenges and discussions presented by these changes.

But healthcare laws aren’t the only things changing around here.  The transformations to the Health Law Section of the ABA may be outpacing those spurred by our courts and legislative bodies.  I have been actively involved in the Section for about ten years and have witnessed its growth and development firsthand.  Section leaders are constantly engaged in continuous quality improvement activities – always looking for ways to benefit Section members.  Section membership is at an all-time high – nearly 11,000 members strong – thanks in large part to the efforts of the Membership Committee, led by Hal Katz and Jeff Calk.  Hal’s team, including Philip Brewster and Simeon Carson, developed a genius campaign to recognize those firms that are most actively involved in the Section.  This campaign has created quite a buzz, and more and more firms are urging their personnel to get involved in the Section.

Also, our three annual in-person programs – Physicians Legal Issues Conference, Washington Health Law Summit, and the Conference on Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law (EMI) – continue to provide educational programming that is second-to-none.  They get better every year!  These live programs afford Section members the opportunity to interact with a diverse mix of attorneys practicing in a number of settings.  These opportunities to interact with professionals to share ideas is invaluable.  I attended my first EMI nearly ten years ago, and haven’t missed one since.  Over the years, I have developed personal and professional relationships with so many delightful and brilliant individuals whom I have met at these meetings; this has been a wonderfully unexpected benefit of being involved in the Section.

Beginning this year, all Section members were “assigned” to one of our interest groups (IGs) or task forces based upon areas of interest in order to inspire member involvement in the Section.  The IGs and task forces, in my opinion, are the driving force of the Section.  These groups advise the Section of important new issues and events in their area of interest and assist the Section on policy positions and in providing comments on regulations and proposed legislation.  The IGs and task forces also provide opportunities for members of the Section to get involved by regularly offering high-quality programming (webinars, member-benefit phone calls), providing opportunities to write for any one of a number of nationally-recognized publications produced by the Section, and creating forums for collaborating and networking by IG and task force members in the area of shared interests.  The quality of work being performed by these groups is remarkable.  In any given month, there are a half-dozen or more cutting-edge CLE programs on the calendar and new health law publications are hitting the shelves.  There really is something for everyone.

If you haven’t taken advantage of all the Section has to offer, now’s the time.  In this dynamic “breaking glass” era health lawyers are living in, I urge you to embrace the change and put the Health Law Section resources to good use.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our programs!


*W. Thomas Smith serves as a member of the Health Law Section's Governing Council and is currently the chair of the Interest Group Leadership Team, a vice chair of the Diversity Committee and liaison to the ABA's Commision on Disability Rights.


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