Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: Working Alongside Medical Students

By: Rebecca Dickinson, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

The first time I looked through a client’s medical records I came across the word “otorrhea.” Curious, I googled the term and clicked on the first link. I immediately regretted my decision when four large pictures of ear discharge popped up on my computer screen. I quickly exited out of the browser and resumed looking through the records trying to forget the images I had just viewed. Later, I realized I could have just asked one of the medical students sitting in the workroom across the hall.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the HeLP Clinic is the collaborative partnership we have with Morehouse School of Medicine. Having clients with a wide variety of medical conditions can make combing through medical records complicated and time consuming. Luckily, medical students working in the clinic alongside the law students makes this process much easier. Instead of constantly looking up terms, we have people who can answer any questions we have, explain complex medical terminology, and help relate medical conditions to legal aspects of our cases. By collaborating with the medical students, we are able to provide the best legal advice and service to our clients and their children. We waste less time trying to teach ourselves the medical side of the case, and more time learning from the medical students. We are then able to focus more on helping our clients’ children receive Supplemental Security Income benefits, effective Individualized Education Plans, and better housing situations. I feel more confident in my legal analysis on certain cases after consulting with a medical student to ensure every aspect of a client’s situation is included in the argument.

Furthermore, throughout the course of the clinic, law students are able to observe the medical side of the Health Law Partnership during patient rounds at Hughes Spalding and classes on the Morehouse School of Medicine campus. Patient rounds are eye-opening into the lives of the children we are trying to help and make the time we spend in the clinic feel much more valuable and worthwhile. Attending classes at Morehouse assists in building professional relationships within the medical field and allows us to learn more about the reasons the medical students wish to enter pediatrics, which inspires us to do the best work we can during our time with the HeLP clinic. Having doctors and residents attend the biweekly case rounds challenges the law students to approach issues in their cases from different perspectives and determine which parts of their legal arguments need improvement or further research.

After my traumatic first time reviewing medical records, I never again forgot about the medical students sitting in the next room. Each student I have approached with questions is more than willing to assist with the review of medical records, or even just explain a medical term that I am curious to know more about. This collaborative partnership ensures that our clients and their children receive the best legal services we have to offer.