Bethany Hamilton named new Director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

Monday, September 14, 2020

We at the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) are thrilled to announce that Bethany Hamilton, JD has been selected as our new Director. She started work on August 31, and will serve alongside current co-Director Joel Teitelbaum.

Bethany Hamilton, co-Director, National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

Bethany brings more than a decade’s worth of experience working at the intersection of health equity and social justice to the position. When we began the search for our new Director, we knew that the next phase of medical-legal partnership (MLP) growth and impact hinges on policy changes—both to create new pathways for MLP services and to leverage our collective strengths upstream to build more equitable systems. Bethany was selected with this vision in mind.

She most recently served as Deputy Director, State Affairs at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), where she led projects to expand Medicaid, defend the Affordable Care Act, and strengthen health center enabling services. Bethany has worked in every policy environment across the country—from local to federal, red to blue, rural to urban. Her policy leadership and savvy—grounded in community, equity, and social justice—will accelerate our opportunities to improve the systems and policies that most affect health and well-being.

In our search, we also thought a lot about the extensive, diverse, and growing medical-legal partnership field and who could lead training and technical assistance activities in both the health care and legal worlds. Bethany has a unique understanding of health care and legal services operations, and the challenges and opportunities inherent in each. She advanced health care workforce development as part of NACHC’s Community HealthCorps Program, and began her career as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at Legal Assistance of Western NY, where she built a re-entry clinic focused primarily on employment law issues. She is fluent in, connected to, and rooted in both worlds, something that is core to advancing medical-legal partnership.

Many people in the MLP world have already gotten to know Bethany through the Medical-Legal Partnership Summit, and through her role on NCMLP’s Advisory Council from 2014-2019. On our Council, she served as a bridge between the health care, legal, and public health sectors and was part of the team that oversaw NCMLP’s transition to become a federally-funded technical assistance hub for health centers.

Bethany steps in to lead NCMLP in the middle of two pandemics—one new and one as old as our country—that both define this moment and dramatically shape our work moving forward. COVID-19 and its social and economic fallout have underscored and exacerbated existing disparities, while the pandemic of racism and white supremacy continues to take lives, diminish health, and steal potential in our communities every single day. Bethany sees medical-legal partnership and NCMLP, as do we, as a vehicle to help dismantle racist policies that shape our health and justice systems. Her experience fighting for equity and social justice at a systems level, coupled with her lived experiences as a Black woman and the daughter of immigrants, make her the person to meet this moment and lead our next chapter.

For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to meet Bethany yet, we are excited to introduce her to you more over the next few weeks and to share some of the projects NCMLP is currently working on. In the meantime, technical assistance continues as normal. If you have questions about medical-legal partnership, resources, or the MLP field, please contact our Project Lead, Danielle Rahajason. You can also find Bethany’s contact information here.

As we celebrate our next chapter, we are grateful beyond words to our outgoing Director Ellen Lawton. She has been there from the beginning and has led our organization since its founding in 2006 when there were roughly two dozen MLP programs and this movement was still an ember waiting to catch fire. She oversaw not only the growth of the field, but also federal investment in the model. A house is only as strong as its foundation, and her work will continue to ripple out and ripple onward. Ellen is staying on as an advisor at NCMLP until September 30 to help with the transition.