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September 01, 2020

Health Law Connections

First Reflections—A History of Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

  • September 01, 2020
  • Kim Harvey Looney , Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP

I am honored to serve as the Chair of AHLA’s Membership, Diversity and Inclusion (MDI) Committee this year. AHLA has a long history of commitment to diversity and inclusion (D+I), which formally began in March 2006 when the AHLA Board of Directors formed the Advisory Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. The primary goal of this Council was to help AHLA increase the racial and ethnic diversity of its members and leaders.

This commitment has not waned and AHLA takes its goals seriously. After the killing of George Floyd, AHLA issued a statement on racial injustice. Part of this statement read as follows: “We reaffirm AHLA’s strong commitment to the critical importance of diversity and inclusion within our Association and the health law community. We sincerely hope that the current pain our country and the world is experiencing will serve as a catalyst for approaching racial injustice in a manner that can effect lasting change. We at AHLA welcome and pledge to help effectuate such change.” 1

AHLA has driven important initiatives through the years to advance D+I in our Association, such as consultant-led training for our leadership. Specifically, in 2016, these initiatives included combining networking receptions for diverse and new members, updating leadership guidance documents, and publicizing that the Call for Speakers proposals would focus on different perspectives and speakers from diverse backgrounds. AHLA’s Strategic Plan integrated D+I throughout the Association.

In 2017, the D+I Council proposed changes to the Association’s Diversity+Inclusion Statement of Commitment. These changes included the intent to “advance and promote” diverse and inclusive participation, in accordance with existing principles. The Council worked to develop a policy to identify underrepresented groups and to focus on greater representation of women with respect to speaking and writing opportunities and leadership in the Association. Co-chairs of the 2017 Council also recommended that: (1) the terms of service for leaders be shortened so that more leadership opportunities could be available to members, and (2) the President-Elect Designate review the composition of each Program Planning Committee and Practice Group leadership and make appointments so that each Committee/Group had at least one individual from an underrepresented group. These recommendations were adopted by the Board in 2017, implemented, and continue to be used today.

In 2019, the Membership Committee collaborated with other AHLA leadership groups to establish an Association-wide orientation and training program for all leaders. This included training on D+I to ensure accountability and strengthen leaders’ understanding of these principles. Perhaps the most significant change in AHLA’s history of promoting D+I also came in 2019 when the D+I Council was combined with the Membership Committee to make it part of a Board-level Committee, further elevating and recognizing the importance of D+I in the eyes of the Association.

The MDI Committee intends to focus this year on three strategic areas: (1) Engaged Learning Community, (2) Exceptional Content, and (3) Resilient Organization. As part of an Engaged Learning Community, we will work to: (1) retain and recruit health lawyers as well as health law professionals, monitoring our recruitment and retention plan and campaign implementation as well as providing input about possible initiatives that could positively impact AHLA’s recruitment and retention efforts, and (2) attract and retain a diverse and inclusive membership, through efforts that bring our community together to address systemic racism, injustice, and inequality and to expand on issues related to health disparities. Exceptional Content involves leadership training, including reviewing leadership orientation and training effectiveness and making revisions when necessary, as well as ensuring that members understand AHLA’s philanthropic fundraising goals. To guarantee that we are a Resilient Organization, we will closely monitor and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the new dues model for members and provide additional outreach to law schools and law students, so they can see the value of AHLA membership early in their careers.

The editorial board for AHLA’s Journal of Health and Life Sciences Law is developing a special symposium issue that will focus on the topic of institutionalized racial bias in health care laws and regulations. This topic is especially timely given COVID-19 and its devastating impact on communities of color. The Journal’s editorial board plans to publish this special symposium issue in early 2021. Stay tuned for more information.

Endnotes

  1. Access the full statement here: https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/about-ahla/latest-association-news/press-release/069f6133-e4ab-472d-8c9c-d413883c1af6/AHLA-Issues-Statement-on-Racial-Injustice

Kim Looney is the current Chair of AHLA's Membership, Diversity+Inclusion Committee.