In-House at the UVA Hospital Helen Gray Dunnavant '20L shares experiences from her internship last summer.
After graduation, Helen Gray Dunnavant will clerk at the Henrico County Circuit Court in Virginia. She will be working for all of the judges, alongside fellow 3L classmate Natey Kinzouna.
Helen Gray Dunnavant ’20L interned with the legal team that works in house at the UVA hospital last summer. In doing so, she combined a pre-existing interest in medicine with her ongoing legal education.
“My mom’s a doctor, and when I was growing up I used to go to work with her sometimes and watch surgeries,” she explained. “And I volunteered at a hospital throughout high school.”
Her legal work brought her back to the hospital in a different capacity, though her duties were vast.
“They were building their new ER walls there, so we got to do tours of the building before it was done, there was employment stuff—contracts and by-laws stuff, going to board meetings, so many different experiences I was able to have.”
She recalled working on regulations in anticipation of a new bill that would allow nurse practitioners to work semi-autonomously. Normally, nurse practitioners work under a doctor, but this bill allowed them to work remotely in a group network with doctors and other health professionals.
“But there were questions: ‘How do we regulate this, what are they trained for, how much of the work do they actually do? And how does that affect UVA?’ Then there are billing issues with Medicaid and Medicare, because nurse practitioners bill at a lower rate,” Dunnavant said.
She was also able to help at a government public hearing during a “Certificate of Public Need” process.
“So every time a hospital wants to add either another emergency room, or a big piece of equipment, they have to go through the state and request it, to regulate the hospitals and try to prevent them from overbuilding.”
Dunnavant said that she came away from the summer particularly interested in issues of compliance and violations of the HIPPA oath—what happens when doctors fail to protect their patients’ privacy.
“It can be like a doctor going and talking about private information with someone who shouldn’t have that information,” she explained. “Or something as simple as accidentally dropping a piece of paper in the hospital parking lot.”
Dunnavant’s legal work at the UVA hospital led to many different interactions with medical students, doctors and nurse practitioners; once, she got to shadow in the surgical trauma and burn intensive care unit in order to make comments on regulations.
“I think that the problems in a hospital are always different,” Dunnavant said. “They kind of run along the same themes, but it’s always something different and interesting.”
While she will be clerking in Virginia next year, Dunnavant hopes to work in-house in a hospital one day.