Q&A with Professor Michelle Frankel
Professor Michelle A. Frankel ’15 is the Director, Legal Affairs & Counsel at National Health Care Associates, Inc, a provider of short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing, and post-hospital care. She assists about 40 facilities throughout the northeast with legal and compliance issues.
That experience directly serves her Albany Law School students. She teaches Medical Malpractice as part of the Online Graduate Program in Health Law and Healthcare Compliance.
Tell us about your new role at National Health Care Associates. What are you enjoying so far? How is it different from private legal practice?
It's very different than practicing at a law firm where my work was focused on medical malpractice defense and helped deal with issues in a litigation context, which was after the fact. In this role, I actively work with people throughout the corporate company and staff at about 40 nursing and rehabilitation facilities. I oversee all the litigation matters, help address compliance and regulatory issues, review contracts, and help with pretty much anything that comes up day to day. I love working so closely with everyone and helping with issues as they arise.
Healthcare, medical needs, and treatment is a part of all of our lives, and it can make a huge impact on quality of life or life itself. What got you interested in this area of law and what keeps you interested?
Healthcare has always fascinated me because it impacts everyone. Going back to when I applied for college, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I ended up joining an accelerated law program during undergraduate college instead and once I started law school, I discovered tort law which was the perfect combination of my health and legal interests. I explored medical malpractice, which is a subset of tort law, and other careers in health law as well. My love for healthcare continues to guide my career.
How does being an instructor help you in your career?
Being an instructor further solidifies my passion for healthcare and working in a role where I get to explain medical and legal considerations, which I enjoy doing in my in-house role and as an instructor. Since the class includes some students with a legal background, some with a medical background, and some with both or neither, I have to teach a very legal topic in a less traditional and less legal way.
I don’t expect the students to develop a perfect legal understanding since they are not lawyers (and it’s a single class). Rather my goal is to help everyone gain a basic understanding of medical malpractice and the ability to think critically about healthcare issues using the main medical malpractice concepts as a guide. Since most or none of the students will walk away from this class and work in a traditional medical malpractice setting but many work in healthcare in another capacity or want to, I try to help my students think practically about different healthcare situations from multiple perspectives. I encourage the students to consider how medical providers can act in ways that are consistent with the standard of care (as to avoid committing medical malpractice). Then I ask the students to think a few steps further and consider how medical providers may provide better care and treatment without delving beyond their means or role and without increasing liability risk. I strive to approach my current in-house role with a similar mindset to ensure we are doing everything right but also consider how we may be able to improve or may have risk. Having these types of discussions with my students hones my own approach and thought processes and influences my career. It’s really enjoyable to engage with the students. The combination of everyone’s different experiences -- some legal, some clinical, and many other fields -- has been very helpful in the discussion boards in terms of all the different perspectives.
Who would you recommend your course (and the Health Law and Compliance program) to? What kind of occupations need education on malpractice?
I think this class can be taken by anyone who has an interest in healthcare, even if you just think healthcare is cool (like me) and you are intellectually curious about medical malpractice and related healthcare issues.
Of course, it can be particularly useful for anyone that works in healthcare who wants to have some basic legal understanding. Taking this class is a great way to gain resources through the materials and have a base of information to refer to if an issue arises in a student’s healthcare career.
We focus mostly on issues, rather than very technical things, so anyone who is interested can really gain a lot from the program.
As an alumna of Albany Law School, how does it feel to be back as an instructor?
It's been a little surreal to be an instructor. I think of the professors that I had and how great they were. It is crazy to think about how each professor and class helped me develop into the lawyer and instructor that I am today. Professor Evelyn Tenenbaum was a particularly wonderful mentor who I remain in contact with and who gave me this amazing opportunity. It’s nice to be a part of the close knit Online Graduate Program community.
It is pretty amazing that I can feel the enthusiasm of the students despite the online forum. The students and I often joke to each other about having a “nerdy moment” when discussing certain topics and it’s exciting to know it’s not just me who thinks that this topic is interesting since I can go on and on about it.
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