The Olympic Games captivated our country’s attention for a full two weeks in August as we cheered our American athletes “going for gold.” By the medal count, our late-night cheering sessions paid off. The stories of athletes’ overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to compete in the games warmed our hearts. The familiar faces of those who competed in prior Olympics reminded us that age is just a number. The Olympic spirit never disappointed as we saw athletes from different countries congratulate one another at the end of an event, teammates cheering each other on to victory, and pride of country when national anthems played.
The story that made a lasting impression on this athlete-wanna-be was the story of the women competing in the 5,000-meter race. There was a “slight” collision that ended with two runners down. Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand found themselves prone on the track instead of running with the pack a little over halfway through the race. Abbey managed to stand first, and instead of running she turned to help Nikki to her feet. They both started “running” as best they could after the fall. Abbey’s knees buckled; Nikki helped her. They both managed to finish the race to a cheering crowd. In an interview after the race, Nikki said “I went down, and I was like, ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?'” “Then suddenly, there’s this hand on my shoulder [and D’Agostino saying], ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this.’ And I’m like, ‘Yup, yup, you’re right. This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.'” 1
I am told that training for the Olympics in any sport is a marathon – not a sprint. The hours of building strength and endurance, added to the hours of training in the respective sport can be overwhelming. But the strength of character displayed by many of the athletes, and especially the two Olympians mentioned above is the key to the success of any athlete. Nikki and Abbey truly embodied the Olympic spirit.
I am honored and humbled to take the stand (and the gavel) to become the Chair of the ABA Health Law Section. Twelve years ago when I started in Section leadership, I never dreamed that this day would come. The same spirit of comradery and desire to serve others found in Olympians D’Agostino and Hamblin permeates the Health Law Section. When I welcomed the two hundred and fifty leaders to the Leadership Training session in Milwaukee in July I said, “Welcome to the family.” Without a doubt that spirit of helping each other and serving our members lies at the foundation of everything that we do, and I am proud to be a part of such an organization and walk in the path paved before me by past Section leaders. (A personal note of thanks to Bill Horton, Michael Clark, Kathye Scully-Hayes, David Douglass, David Johnson, Linda Baumann, David Hilgers, Vickie Yates Brown, Andy Demetriou, Paul DeMuro, Greg Pemberton, Tony Patterson and Bonnie Brier who served as Chairs of the Section during my years of leadership in the Section, as well as Howard Wall and E. Paul Herrington who have been constant encouragers.)
Our role as health lawyers is vital to the provision of health services by our clients. The health of our nation’s citizens is in the hands of our clients whether we represent the healthcare providers, the facilities, the payors, the government regulators or public health officials. The Section’s mission of enhancing the practice of health lawyers and improving the understanding and development of health laws guides our work. We take our role in the healthcare industry very seriously. One of our primary goals of the Section is to provide education and information to our members. We accomplish that goal through live programs, webinars, and publications, as well as “Tweet Chats,” Interest Group listserves and informal communications among members. There are also places to serve in the Section, such as providing comments on pending regulations. We have Interest Groups that focus on each discrete area of the health law field. You can find a Health Law Section member expert in any area of health law. What a comforting feeling it is to know that you have access to the best and the brightest in the health law field right here in the Section.
Our Section also provides outreach to the health law community in the areas of legal advocacy workshops for lawyers representing cancer patients, military and veterans’ health issues, substance use disorders and mental health issues, alternative dispute resolution and conflict management, medical-legal partnerships and more. I invite you to browse at the Section’s webpage: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/health_law.html. You may find ways to get involved in the Section or information that you find helpful to your practice. Over the course of the next year, I will focus on particular areas of work by the Section. We have many hard-working volunteers who are committed to providing the best product for our members. We have the best Section staff in the ABA committed to helping us achieve our goals.
As the new bar year begins, I welcome your input as we “Go for Gold” in our mission to serve our members. As the first Mississippian to serve as chair of the Section, I plan to end my column each month with either a quote by a famous Mississippian or a little known fact about Mississippi. Enjoy.
Quote by a famous Mississippian: When Tori Bowie, winner of gold, silver and bronze medals at the Rio Olympics, returned to Sandhill, MS after the Olympics, she responded most appropriately upon hearing a comment from a fan: "I'm glad that Tori's here on her birthday and that she's a very famous runner," said one young admirer. "And when I get older, I want to be an Olympian just like her."
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