"Justice" and "health care" are terms seldom heard together.
But ensuring quality health care for everyone is the goal of the new Gitenstein Institute for Health Law and Policy at Hofstra University's law school in Hempstead.
"We see health care and access to the health system as a civil right," said law school dean Eric Lane. "As an institution . . . we look for ways to get people access to justice."
The Maurice A. Deane School of Law has received a $1 million grant from Garden City-based Kermit Gitenstein Foundation, which has given to other institutions to promote health law and policy.
The institute's ribbon-cutting will take place Thursday at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where for the past two years Hofstra law students have been making rounds with doctors and medical students in pediatrics, and discussing ethical and legal issues, such as child abuse or custody questions.
The new institute will allow that kind of hands-on involvement in community health to expand, said Janet Dolgin, a health care law professor and the institute's director. "The Gitenstein Foundation gift has facilitated moving forward on so many fronts," she said.
With implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in the next few years, Dolgin said, "There is going to be a real increase in the number of people needed who are trained in health care law."
Like Lane, she also envisions the institute as a tool for change. Citing a project on what social impediments could lead to women having low-birth-weight babies, Dolgin said that she could see law students going to Albany to advocate for change.
The law school intends to expand its relationship with NUMC. Next semester, law students will make rounds with doctors, not just in pediatrics, but also in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
This will give them a look at issues arising from disabilities, said NUMC's medical director, Dr. Steven Walerstein. "There are significant challenges in the health care delivery system: challenges in quality and disparities in health care," Walerstein said. "This partnership . . . can go a long way to help facilitate that."