Medical-Legal partnership helping those in need

Victoria Ronderos/ Contributing Writer

The Health, Ethics, Law, and Policy Clinic is a program run by both the University’s College of Law and College of Medicine. Consisting of six medical students and eight law students, both colleges partner up, represent and aid those who are in need of, but can’t afford, medical and legal aid.

The Green Family Foundation’s NeighborhoodHELP Program is what gives the clinic its clients. The clinic is provided with clients from about 200 households, most of which considered to be low-income families or the elderly. Medical students assist families who are in need of medical aid throughout Miami, and if some families need legal aid regarding their medical help, they refer the households to the law students.

Most of the clinic’s work involves disability rights, medical debt, Medicare and Medicaid, drafting legal documents, such as wills for the elderly, immigrant access to affordable health care and public benefits.

They also advocate health policy around Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida. They teach low-income families about the healthcare system in America and in the state of Florida, as well as meet with government officials about the benefit of Medicare expansion in Florida.

“I really like how personable it is,” said Leonor Ayerdis, a member of the HELP clinic and law student. “You actually go out to the client’s home, meet their families, and you deal with them on a consistent basis.”

Ayderis was also one of the six law students and seven medical students who had the opportunity to meet with Florida State Senator Rene Garcia about Medicare expansion in Florida this past week. The clinic was advocating the importance and benefit Medicare will bring to the state.

“[Garcia] was saying that that is [the government’s] concern, that its people, and a lot of people have this idea, where people haven’t invested in their healthcare,” said Ayerdis.

“He understood why we needed it, why we needed to get [Medicare], but it’s a money issue. Do we put the money up front now, or do we put it later?” said
Peggy Maisel, the director of the Clinical Program and the head of the HELP Clinic. “I thought it would be terrific to develop a law clinic in relationship to the medical school, so that we can work together.”

The clinic not only helps the community, but the law students as well. It allows them to practice and develop skills to legal issues that they will be facing after graduation. Some students even find the specialty they want to pursue after graduation. According to Ayerdis, she initially wanted to become a criminal justice lawyer. After working with the clinic, she now aspires to work for Social Security one day, and practice SSI law.