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UCLA School of Law Receives Grant from W.M. Keck Foundation to Establish Medical-Legal Partnership Clinical Program

LOS ANGELES, CA, August 8, 2013 – UCLA School of Law has received a two-year, $225,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to establish an innovative Medical-Legal Partnership Clinical Program. The law school will collaborate with St. Francis and St. Vincent Medical Centers, members of the Daughters of Charity Health System, and Bet Tzedek Legal Services to increase legal services in health care settings for low-income community members in downtown and southeast Los Angeles.

“The multiple challenges of compromised health, unmet legal needs, poverty and a general shortage of lawyers working on behalf of the underserved highlight the crucial need for this partnership,” said UCLA School of Law Dean Rachel F. Moran. “Working in collaboration with community members, practicing attorneys and health care staff members, our students will learn the ways that attorneys can play an integral role in health care systems. The direct services provided by the partnership and by our students will make a major contribution to the wellbeing of individuals and families in our city and beyond.”

Through the partnership, the Right to Health Project, a medical-legal partnership jointly formed by St. Francis Medical Center and Bet Tzedek Legal Services in 2010, will expand from St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to St. Vincent Medical Center’s downtown campus, making it the only medical-legal partnership in the county operating from multiple large, regional medical centers.

“The medical-legal partnership advances our mission of meeting the health care needs of underserved Los Angeles communities,” said Gerald Kozai, president and CEO of St. Francis Medical Center. “Since the partnership was established at our hospital, more than 550 individuals have been assisted. Through our ongoing collaboration, we will continue to address the underlying issues that perpetuate illness and poor health, and further our efforts to achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim: improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations and reducing the per capita cost of health care.”
Cathy Fickes, CEO and president of St. Vincent Medical Center, added: “We are delighted to have the Right to Health Project expand to St. Vincent Medical Center. Our diverse patient population and surrounding community will benefit tremendously from the services provided by the attorneys and the UCLA School of Law students.”

“Bet Tzedek looks forward to significantly expanding the Right to Health Project,” said Sandor “Sandy” Samuels, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek. “This work makes it clear that access to justice can improve health—even save lives—and must be available to all.”

“Daughters of Charity Health System initiated the Right to Health Project to further its mission of serving the sick and the poor through the provision of comprehensive health care,” said attorney Courtney Powers who initiated and administers the Right to Health Project on behalf of the Daughters of Charity Health System. “The prescription for better health often requires critical legal resources and the Right to Health Project, by providing this comprehensive approach, is helping the communities we serve live safe and healthy lives.”

The new partnership project will combine traditional legal services, impact litigation and policy research to help alleviate unmet legal needs that stem from, and worsen, persistent poverty and its associated health effects. The Medical-Legal Partnership Clinical Program will engage UCLA Law students, through both classroom and onsite clinical components, in working with residents of downtown and southeast Los Angeles to address concerns—ranging from substandard housing and education, to health care access and issues of guardianship—that can have a dramatic impact on health and wellbeing. UCLA Law students participating in the clinical program will receive 30 hours of classroom training in the operation of medical-legal partnerships, as well as practice skills needed by lawyers to represent community members. Students will then be able to conduct intake interviews and support Right to Health Project attorneys at both St. Francis and St. Vincent Medical Centers.

“Bet Tzedek, along with our partners, is eager to help empower future lawyers with the tools and experience they need to change lives and serve communities,” said Michelle Kezirian, directing attorney and project lead at Bet Tzedek. “With an additional location and personnel, we look both to address individual needs and inform public policy to improve health.”

About UCLA School of Law
Founded in 1949, UCLA School of Law is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to meaningful change in society and the legal profession. For more information, please visit

About St. Francis Medical Center
St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) is the only comprehensive, non-profit health care institution serving Southeast Los Angeles. A member of the Daughters of Charity Health System, SFMC is dedicated to serving those who are sick and living in poverty. The Medical Center provides a full range of diagnostic and treatment services, as well as many community outreach programs for the 700,000 adults and 300,000 children who count on SFMC for high quality and compassionate medical care.

About St. Vincent Medical Center
Providing compassionate healthcare and serving the sick poor has been the mission of St. Vincent Medical Center for more than 155 years. Established in downtown Los Angeles in 1856 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Vincent is a world-renowned, 366-bed facility, offering comprehensive medical services, including ear surgery and neurosurgery, general orthopaedics, spine care, joint replacement, cancer treatment, cardiovascular services, thoracic surgery, electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, and multi-organ transplantation.

About Bet Tzedek
An internationally recognized force in poverty law, Bet Tzedek was founded in Los Angeles in 1974 by community leaders who sought to act upon a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue.” This doctrine decrees that it is the duty of all men and women to advocate the just cause of the poor. Consistent with this teaching, each year Bet Tzedek helps over 15,000 persons from across the county’s diverse communities achieve equal access to justice with free, high quality legal services.