Stories can be powerful tools. Stories can create a sense of connection and have the power to shape the lives of both the storyteller and the listener. Stories also make ideas and experiences relatable and can encourage exploration or action. And it was the stories I heard from members of AHLA’s Women’s Leadership Council that inspired me to write this column as a reminder of the incredible impact of AHLA’s educational mission supported by AHLA’s philanthropic initiatives.
My career trajectory paralleled the growth of AHLA. Around the time I started practicing, the American Academy of Hospital Attorneys (AAHA) merged with the National Health Lawyers Association (NHLA) to create AHLA, and we both began a new chapter in our journey. Mid-career, I decided to take a sabbatical to spend time with and take care of my children. When the time was right for me to re-engage in health law, I rejoined AHLA and was paired with an incredible mentor. My AHLA mentor took the time to counsel me with respect to my job search and helped me refine my resume in ways and from a perspective I had not even thought of. I truly believe my mentor’s guidance and resume refinements were instrumental in me obtaining my first job when I reentered the legal profession.
I truly credit AHLA with helping me get to where I am today. I now serve as a mentor for women and men interested in health law through AHLA and other organizations—a role that I take very seriously. One of these organizations is Bridge Builders Foundation, which seeks to remove the barriers of race, poverty, ignorance, and despair through mentoring, educational support, health care awareness, and community uplift for African Americans and people of color. AHLA provided me with the personal experience and appreciation for the role of mentors, thus allowing me to give back to my community and the legal profession in a meaningful way.
Vice President and General Counsel
Valley Presbyterian Hospital
As a new health lawyer, I saw from my very first AHLA conference in 1997 that the contributions of women were encouraged and valued by AHLA and its members. That conference was an annual meeting in Dallas that celebrated the merging of the NHLA and the AAHA, and it was memorable to me because the General Counsel for the hospital system I was working for, Nancy Wynstra, was being sworn in as the first president of AHLA. I don’t recall being surprised that a woman was the new president of AHLA; I think I just assumed women had made it and of course the health law world was our oyster! In hindsight, however, I realize that AHLA was more inclusive than other organizations at the time, and I certainly benefited from that.
In addition to welcoming me as a new health lawyer, AHLA has given me valuable speaking and leadership opportunities that advanced my career as a government lawyer. Those same opportunities allow me to interact with private practice attorneys who are advising providers that my client, CMS, regulates. These interactions give me a “real world” perspective that is invaluable in counseling my client.
HHS Office of the General Counsel
Joan and Tamala’s stories focus on themes of supporting young health law professionals, creating opportunities for professional development and career advancement, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within and outside of AHLA. The amazing thing is that these themes align almost perfectly with AHLA’s areas of philanthropic investment:
- Talent pipeline support: Ensuring a well-qualified next generation of health law professionals.
- Innovative professional development: Improving skills and building credentials within the profession.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Providing resources and training towards a more equitable and diverse industry.
AHLA is truly delivering on its mission and its philanthropic initiatives are both present and impactful. Through AHLA’s Women’s Leadership Council and Early Career Professionals Council, AHLA provides events and content, facilitated by dynamic contributors, that center around relevant issues impacting women and early career professionals. Discussions are fun and engaging, networking relationships are genuine and strong, and content is beneficial and applicable to a health law professional’s personal and professional life.
In addition, AHLA has recently developed a Health Law Hub on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Health Care and sponsored the National Bar Association’s 2022 Black History Healthy Lifestyle Webinar Series. AHLA has also partnered with dBase Media to produce various docuseries, including ones addressing Health Law Disruption and Conversations with Health Law Leaders. There are many more examples of AHLA’s educational mission and philanthropic initiatives in AHLA’s Donor Impact Reports, which can be accessed here: www.americanhealthlaw.org/impactstories.
I am incredibly proud and honored to be a long-time member of and volunteer with AHLA. My time as a member and then Chair of both the Young Professionals Council and the Women’s Leadership Council are some of the highlights of my career. Both of these councils are non-revenue generating and supported through AHLA’s educational mission. I have gained knowledge, developed relationships, and successfully navigated personal and professional challenges in no small part due to the benefits and opportunities given to me through AHLA.
I will continue to invest in AHLA’s mission through philanthropic support so that AHLA can continue impacting the lives and careers of health law professionals today and in the future. I invite you to do the same by visiting www.americanhealthlaw.org/donate.
Copyright 2022, American Health Law Association, Washington, DC. Reprint permission granted.