Sixteen civil legal aid leaders selected for health care fellowship

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thanks to generous support from the Public Welfare Foundation, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University (NCMLP) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) kicked off the second year of their Where Health Meets Justice fellowship yesterday, designed to build health care expertise in the civil legal aid community. Sixteen senior level staff from civil legal aid agencies in 13 states and the District of Columbia met in Washington, D.C. to participate in workshops with health care experts. Click here to read the Fellows’ biographies.


The AAMC’s Dr. Malika Fair (second from left) with WHMJ Fellows and staff after a tour of the GW emergency department and discussion of the health care landscape.

“Civil legal needs related to housing, domestic violence and public benefits are inextricably linked to the health and well-being of low-income communities,” said Camille Holmes, Director for Leadership and Racial Equality at NLADA. “For decades, civil legal aid offices have worked to improve housing conditions, ensure safety at home and appeal public benefit denials. But this work traditionally occurs in a silo separate from what health care does to treat the same people and the same problems. This fellowship aims to remedy that.”

During the 10-month fellowship, Fellows will be guided by a faculty of national experts in health care administration, policy, research and economics, and participate in activities designed to deepen their understanding of health care organization, financing and priorities. Fellows will learn to frame legal services in a health care context, build strong healthcare alliances, and use population health data effectively. The fellowship will culminate in a project with a local health care entity. Click here to read the report from the 2014 Fellowship.

“More and more, health care recognizes the value of working alongside other professions to deliver quality health care to their patients and communities” said Ellen Lawton, co-Principal Investigator of NCMLP. “The civil legal aid community has critical expertise and skills to contribute to patient health and policy change, but it must transform the way it collects data and delivers care in order to help more people. Working with health care partners is a critical step, and this fellowship will help build that expertise in these agencies from the top down.”

2015 Where Health Meets Justice Fellows:

  1. Wendy Ascher, Managing Attorney/Director of Intake, Southern Arizona Legal Aid Inc.
  2. Eric Avildsen, Executive Director, Vermont Legal Aid Inc.
  3. Jim Barrett, Executive Director, Pisgah Legal Services (North Carolina)
  4. Laura Berumen, Program Director, California Rural Legal Assistance, Rural Health Disparities Program
  5. Lisa Brody, Managing Attorney/Project Director, Bay Area Legal Services Inc. (Florida)
  6. Robert Bush, Senior Staff Attorney, Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.
  7. Peggy Earisman, Director, Manhattan Legal Services
  8. Annette Farnan, Interim Executive Director, Legal Aid of Nebraska
  9. Gary Housepian, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
  10. Michelle Marie Kezirian, Senior Director of Litigation, Bet Tzedek Legal Services (California)
  11. Steven McGarrity, Associate Director, Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. (Ohio)
  12. Jennifer Mezey, Supervising Attorney, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  13. Elizabeth Soulè, Executive Director, MetroWest Legal Services in Framingham (Massachusetts)
  14. Laura Tuggle, Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
  15. Monica Vigues-Pitan, Advocacy Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.
  16. Thomas Yates, Executive Director, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago