I guess you could say that health care is in my blood. My dad and grandfather were both physicians, and my mom was a nurse (I even married a future doctor). For as long as I can remember, it seemed obvious to me that nothing could be better than to make a difference in my community through health care. So, that’s what I set out to do.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Vermont in 1978, put on my white shoes, and walked into a rewarding and exhausting tour of patient care in the Neuro/Neurosurgery Department at Mass General Hospital. But I didn’t love it…at least not all of it. What I loved about nursing was the advocacy, taking care of patients and representing their interests. Working in patient care, however, was too much about keeping several balls in the air; it didn’t give me enough time, or space, to make the kind of difference that I wanted to see. After four years as a nurse, I went from bedside care to becoming the nursing educator for seven units at a major city hospital. I discovered that I loved teaching, but—over time—I increasingly yearned for a chance to impact the wider community.
So, I did the obvious thing: I left nursing and went to law school.
Two sons, a move to Connecticut and years of balancing family and study later, I graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1990 and started as an associate in a law firm involved with medical malpractice defense. It soon became apparent to me that working as an attorney had many of the same limitations that I thought I had left behind with nursing. I wanted to move big issues and populations- and law, like bedside nursing, is focused on the details (albeit extremely important details) yet details nonetheless.
Simultaneously, and fortuitously, I was given an opportunity to teach again. This ultimately led to my teaching two courses in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale from 1992 to 1994, when my husband (now a pediatrician) and I fulfilled a fantasy: living in small town America. We grabbed an opportunity and moved our young family from New Haven to the heart of the Texas Hill Country (Fredericksburg).
By 1997, I was teaching Health Law to students earning their MHA at Trinity University in San Antonio, which I continue to do today. I also took on work as a professional speaker, helping hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and other providers understand how the legal system impacts health care. Along the way, I was awarded the coveted Certified Speaking Professional® designation from the National Speakers Association, an honor held by fewer than 10 percent of the organization’s 5,000 members.
Today, my work has evolved to combine three things I love: health care, advocacy and teaching. As I travel around the country speaking I help people better understand what is happening to American medicine, and why, and where our health system is headed. As a result, my audiences come to better understand how health care works and, as informed consumers, are able to more efficiently use the system.