During her time at UC Hastings, Sara Huffman '14 worked with the UCSF/UC Hastings Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors Clinic (MLPS) to provide legal assistance for older adult patients referred by their medical providers at the UCSF Center for Geriatric Care and UCSF home-bound programs.
Starting in September, she’ll begin a 2-year Equal Justice Works fellowship, funded by PG & E and Latham & Watkins, that will expand the MLPS’ work to an underserved population at San Francisco’s VA Hospital. Sara’s project has also been awarded generous wrap-around funding from Tideswell at UCSF, a program which supports innovations to advance community centered care for the aging.
“Senior veterans aren’t getting all of the legal help they need, so it’s a really exciting opportunity,” said Huffman, who explained that three out of ten medical issues are actually legal issues, or are made worse without legal intervention. “Social and legal issues are intimately tied to physical health. The goal of the MLPS is to bridge the gap between health care and related legal needs,” she said.
For instance, a patient presenting with asthma might have a mold issue in their rental property, and doctors might not recognize the underlying problem. Sorting out arrangements with the landlord could improve their health condition. Seniors often have not designated trusted agents to make health and financial decisions in case of future incapacity, so putting necessary documents in place leads to peace of mind and less legal intervention later. Huffman said she will also help veteran seniors and their family members access public benefits and stay in their homes, and she'll train doctors to recognize potential legal issues.
Huffman’s application to the fellowship was supported by the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy, which founded the MLPS in 2012. Sarah Hooper, Assistant Director of the Consortium, played an essential role in crafting the project and proposal. Hooper said she is excited to work with Huffman on the project: “Sara is a great example of the type of interdisciplinary health lawyer that we are able to nurture here at UC Hastings, and we are just thrilled that she will expand our partnership with UCSF in a way that benefits some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Huffman will be directly supervised by MLPS Legal Director Yvonne Troya, who is enthusiastic about Sara joining MLPS, “We are honored that MLPS gets to work with an exceptional young lawyer like Sara and give back to those men and women who so bravely served our country.” Professor Troya will work with Huffman to expand opportunities for MLPS students to work with elder veterans through this project.
Huffman leaves an interim position at BraunHagey & Borden, where she worked on elder law and complex business litigation.