Medical-Legal Alliance for Children

For the past 15 years, the UNM School of Law and School of Medicine have collaborated informally to address the non-medical needs of children who are seen at the Pediatrics Department or UNM Children’s Hospital.

With the support of the McCune Charitable Foundation, this effort will now become formalized as the Medical-Legal Alliance for Children and receive funding for a part-time coordinator. Mike Norwood, associate dean for academic affairs and Andrew Hsi, with the Department of Pediatrics, have long recognized that the health of a child goes beyond biological needs; a safe environment free of conflict, appropriate housing and nourishment are just as important. The alliance will provide up to 16 students a semester in the Community Lawyering Clinic to work with patients and their families.

“This is a great educational program for our students,” says Norwood. “It’s exciting for them to directly represent clients and provide a service to the state at the same time. And by working with medical residents and pediatricians, they will learn through the eyes of another discipline how they do what they do, and vice versa.”

Until now, the medical school collaboration provided law students with mostly family law issues. Through the alliance, Norwood anticipates more legal areas will open up, requiring law students to tackle issues such as housing, landlord-tenant disputes, education, tax and immigration matters.

“We are interested in building bridges among students in professional disciplines through opportunities in which they can learn how concerns or problems they face with clients or patients may have overlaying causes that affect their situations,” says Norty Kalishman, director of programs with the McCune Charitable Foundation. “Often people come in for health care who might have an underlying legal problem and vice versa and we want to support a collaboration to address both needs.”

The McCune funding will pay a $25,000 part-time administrative salary for two years. Norwood hopes that position can be sustained and welcomes additional support.

From the Spring 2007 issue of UNM LAW