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Meet the 2024 Class of AHLA Fellows

  • May, 29, 2024

Washington, DC –  AHLA is pleased to announce the appointment of four distinguished individuals as AHLA Fellows.  

The AHLA Fellows Program has grown to be a collection of the Association’s most talented and illustrious members. Fellows have distinguished themselves in their health law practice or work in the health law community; health law expertise, knowledge, and skills; and through their service and contributions to AHLA. The number of AHLA Fellows selected each year varies; selection by the AHLA Board of Directors is an honor and recognition of outstanding service and commitment.   

“With extensive experience spanning over 15 years in the health law field, these individuals have showcased exemplary leadership and made significant contributions to AHLA's mission,” said David S. Cade, Chief Executive Officer of AHLA. “Their expertise and commitment to excellence make them invaluable additions to the AHLA Fellows program. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the 2024 Class of AHLA Fellows and look forward to their continued contributions to the advancement of health law.” 

The 2024 Class of AHLA Fellows comprises the following individuals who have demonstrated remarkable dedication to the Association and the health law community:  

S. Craig Holden 

S. Craig Holden, senior counsel at Baker Donelson, brings extensive expertise in health law, previously serving as co-chair of the firm's Health Law Group. With a career spanning over three decades, Craig has successfully represented numerous health care providers in high-profile resolutions of False Claims Act investigations, Stark, and Anti-kickback violations. A dedicated member of AHLA since 1987, Craig served as AHLA President from 2020-2021, navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and advocated for addressing racial and other inequities in health care. His contributions to AHLA include chairing the Governance Committee and supporting initiatives for governance structure enhancements and inclusion efforts. 

Joanne R. Lax 

Joanne R. Lax, retired member of Dykema, specialized in regulatory compliance for various health care facilities. Known across the health law community for her advocacy for underserved communities, Joanne champions inclusion and equity, earning her accolades including Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer. Her impactful contributions to AHLA, including leading the Membership-IDEA Committee, serving on the AHLA Board of Directors from 2016-2022, and receiving the AHLA’s inaugural IDEA Champion Award, reflect her dedication to advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility within the legal profession. 

Robert A. Pelaia 

Robert A. Pelaia, Deputy General Counsel at the University of South Florida, brings over two decades of experience in health law, previously serving as Senior University Counsel for Health Affairs at the University of Florida. Certified in Health Care Law and Professional Coding, Robert's extensive legal career encompasses advising on federal and state regulatory matters, including compliance, fraud, and abuse issues. Since joining AHLA in 1995, Robert has contributed significantly to the organization, serving as chair of the Fundamentals of Health Law program planning committee, demonstrating his commitment to advancing knowledge and best practices in health law. He has authored several editions of the AHLA publication titled, What is a Compliance Program, and spoken frequently at the Association’s in-person programs. 

Lawrence W. Vernaglia 

Lawrence W. Vernaglia, equity partner at Foley & Lardner, brings over 30 years of experience representing a wide array of health care providers, including hospitals, health systems, and academic medical centers. As department chair for the firm’s Industry Teams Department and former chair of the Health Care Industry Team, Larry oversees strategy and leadership initiatives while providing outside policy counsel for organizations like the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association. Since joining AHLA in 1992, Larry has been a member of the Institute on Medicare and Medicaid Issues program planning committee, is a frequent educator and speaker at AHLA’s in-person programs, is a contributor to the Association’s publications, and is a member of the AHLA Dispute Resolution Service.  

On behalf of AHLA leaders, members, and staff, we honor the dedicated support these individuals have offered the health law community over their extensive careers. To see a full list of current and past AHLA Fellows, please see AHLA’s website.  

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