Over the course of my life thus far, I have experienced multiple identities. Not in the split personality way or dual identity as a spy, but in the roles that I have assumed over time.
When I graduated from Berkeley Law in 1974, my strong identity became that of my new-found profession, a lawyer. After 9 years of general practice, in 1983 I joined a law firm in Los Angeles that focused on the representation of health care providers. In the early years, it was all about perception in my chosen profession. For me, my biggest fear was being considered a health care lawyer before I had even developed specialized skills in that area.
With my marriage in 1975, I identified myself then as now as ‘Husband’ (this year we will celebrate our 47th anniversary). I became ‘Dad’ starting in 1982, welcoming our son and then in 1984, our daughter.
Returning to the "Lawyer" I.D., my practice in health care primarily involved the representation of nonprofit hospitals, involving corporate and business law matters, finance, real estate, and regulatory work involving Medicare, Medicaid, and state licensing and regulatory matters.
While my professional practice involved representing clients who were health care providers, my personal experience was as a "Patient" due to diagnoses in 1972 with psoriasis and in 1976 with psoriatic arthritis. As a result, I had the advantage of seeing two sides of the health care system, both at the institutional and individual levels.
Internal to my law firm, over time my identity changed from Of Counsel to Partner, then to Office Practice Group Chair, firmwide Business Department Chair, Board Member, Board Chair, and Managing Partner. After a merger, I became a member of the Management Committee of a much larger firm. After 15 years of administrative activities, I returned to the full-time practice of law in 2003.
In 2003, no longer a manager in my law firm, I saw in the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) newsletter a notice of an opening on the NPF Board. That seemed ideal for me, so I applied and was elected to the Board – a new identity, once again. I served 11 years, eventually as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board, and then Immediate Past Chair. After a short 3-year leave, I returned to the Board where I now serve as Secretary.
Given my legal training and experience, my principal interest at NPF centered on Patient Advocacy, so I joined its Advocacy Committee, participated in a few Capitol Hill Days in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, and visited local congressional offices. During these years, I assumed a split identity, between law firm partner and patient advocate.
The NPF asked me to be a patient representative at (a) a meeting of five institutes of the National Institutes of Health, speaking about the comorbidities of psoriasis, and (b) a luncheon NPF sponsored for the health care analysts for each of the members of the health care committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, speaking as well about psoriasis and comorbidities. These presentations were delivered to two audiences with the ability to make the greatest and most positive impacts on the psoriatic community. I must admit to being somewhat intimidated by the setting, but once I rose to speak, I gathered courage, recognizing that because I knew far more about my topic than anyone else in the room based upon my "lived experience," I could speak with knowledge and sincerity, from the heart.
In 2019, I retired from the practice of law after 45 years. In retirement, I have expanded my volunteering to include board or panel positions with the American Joint Replacement Registry, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Research, the NIAMS AMSC review panel, the Barlow Respiratory Hospital, and the Innovation and Value Initiative.
I now fully identify myself as a patient advocate for the psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis community. My chronic disease is always there and has its self-imposed restrictions, but I do not allow it to prevent me from living as full a life as possible. The COVID pandemic has imposed restrictions on all of us, but particularly for those of us with chronic conditions. My disease does not define who I am, but on the positive side, it has enabled me to use my advocacy skills to advance the needs of our community.
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