March 10, 2011
By Amy Saul, 3L
ATLANTA - As a law student in the HeLP Legal Services Clinic, I had the opportunity to attend medical rounds with the doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding in November 2010. I was excited to participate in these rounds, which meant accompanying the pediatricians as they saw each of their patients at the bedside, because I enjoy learning and understanding how other people and careers function. My general understanding of how a hospital functions has been learned from watching Grey’s Anatomy. Although I was excited, I was unsure exactly how going on patient rounds with the doctors would facilitate my legal education.
As we went around the hospital floor, the doctors spoke about why each child was there and what their status was. Most of the medical information was over my head, but as we passed by all the small sick children in their tiny hospital rooms, the feeling of sadness was not lost.
Besides observing the doctors in action, I still was unsure what the legal point of the experience was. As we moved through the hospital, I decided it was simply another rapport-building experience for the lawyers and doctors to work together. I understood that HeLP was trying to build collaboration with the medical community, and by sending students to the hospital they could promote the partnership.
It was not until we made it to the very last patient that I understood why I was sent to Hughes Spalding. The last patient was a 9-day-old baby who had something wrong with his eyes. The doctors believed it was a simple case of pink eye, but had to check for other reasons, such as herpes. If it was herpes that he caught during birth, it was highly likely that he would become blind. This medical condition really sparked my concern. I started to ask questions to make sure I understood what was going on with this baby, despite the complex medical terminology.
After talking with one of the doctors, I finally asked, "What causes all these children to be here?" His answer is what really sunk in and reminded me of the overall point of HeLP. He said it mostly has to do with socioeconomic status, living conditions, and ways of life. These children are around smoke, live in the city, have poor housing conditions, do not have much money, are not well educated, and experience many other disadvantages. All of these social, economic, and environmental problems together can lead to disease and poor health for these children.
I had my "ah-ha!" moment. I was able to see the bigger picture, and understand why lawyers and doctors need to be working together to provide a coordinated set of medical, social, and legal services to these children and their families.