As director of Creighton’s health law program, Kelly Dineen, RN, JD, PhD, is reaching out to alumni to share ideas about health care policy. Dineen, an assistant professor of law, has been at Creighton since July 2017 and teaches bioethics, health care law and food and drug law. She recently started networking with Jon Bailey, JD’83, who works at the state level with health care policy. Bailey’s son, Michael, who will graduate from the law school in May with his JD and health law certificate, has taken courses with Dineen.
The Baileys recently spoke with us about their experience with health law.
What is your current role in health law?
JB: I am the executive director of the Northeast Nebraska Behavioral Health Network. It is a new nonprofit organization working with communities, health care providers and other stakeholders to enhance mental health and behavioral health services in a 24-county region of northeast and north-central Nebraska. The region is very large (about the size of West Virginia), sparsely populated (about 11 people per square mile) and very rural. It has many of the typical characteristics of rural areas—low incomes, low educational attainment levels, an increasingly older population and significant health care needs with few resources. One of my long-term goals is to encourage behavioral health students and working professionals to find practice opportunities in the region and to stay in these communities.
While I am not practicing law, having a JD has been helpful with organizing our incorporation, understanding the by-laws and filling out the 501(c)(3) application. It saved time and grant funds by not having to retain an attorney and an accountant to do this work. Plus, having a JD is useful in navigating state and federal legislation and policy initiatives that affect our efforts and in working with legislators.
MB: During the fall semester, I took health law survey with Professor Dineen and helped her with a few projects. In class, we discussed the social determinants of health, including rural Americans’ access to health care. Since that’s what my dad does, I put the two of them in touch to see if there were any projects they could work on together. Since I am pursuing the JD/health law certificate, I ultimately hope to work for a nonprofit or legal advocacy group in Nebraska or Iowa after graduation and the bar exam.
Have you practiced as a health law attorney in the past?
JB: No, the health law program didn’t exist when I was at Creighton, but I received my JD from the law school in 1983. After passing the Colorado bar exam, I went to work for a small firm in my hometown of Sterling, Colorado, a town of 12,000 on the Eastern Plains about 120 miles northeast of Denver. I started my own practice in 1986; in 1988, I became the youngest person ever elected district attorney in Colorado. After serving one four-year term, my family and I moved to Virginia, and I received a master’s degree in public policy from the College of William and Mary. I spent two years in Washington, D.C., at the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Senate. In 1998, my family and I moved to Nebraska, where I began a 17-year run as the director of public policy and research and analysis programs at the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Nebraska, and now Lyons, Nebraska, my initial nonprofit experience.
Despite no longer being a practicing attorney, my JD and legal experience have been invaluable in my policy and nonprofit work. I have told many law students and those thinking of law school that I believe I have experienced an excellent mixture of the traditional practice of law and a nontraditional use of my JD. What I have done is a good example of how to use a JD outside a traditional practice of law.