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Law and medicine team up in a creative internship

I recently had the opportunity to visit and tour the Scripps Health campus in Hillcrest. As a legal recruiting manager at Exclusively Legal, I had not intended on visiting Scripps for work purposes. My interest was piqued, however, after interviewing many University of San Diego Paralegal Program graduates who spoke so highly of the unique, extensive legal internship at Scripps.

During my visit, I met with numerous medical professionals, human resources generalists and administrators who greeted me warmly and with enthusiasm, especially Juan Manuel Tovar M.D., Chief of the Medical Staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital, and Davis Cracroft M.D., Senior Director of Medical Affairs.

Jayme Hardyman, Director of Medical Staff Services Administration for Scripps Mercy Hospitals and Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla and a USD Paralegal Graduate, is the mastermind behind the Scripps paralegal internship program. Hardyman recognized that Scripps, USD, and the legal industry could benefit from such a forward-thinking, pragmatic program.

Since its creation in 2011, Scripps has had 34 interns and expects more in June for the summer program. Hardyman first approached Sue Sullivan, the USD Paralegal Program Director, to partner with this important program. Sullivan stated, "We enthusiastically supported Jayme and Scripps Hospital because it is such a unique internship. We appreciated the fact that Jayme was a graduate but also recognized that with all of the changes in healthcare law this would be a great career opportunity for future paralegals."

The rotational program provides interns with exposure to risk management, policy administration, contracts, intellectual property and federal and state health care law. It is a 125-hour internship that students recognize as being something special.

Summarizing the program in the words of one intern, "What sets it apart is that you are being exposed to contracts, medical malpractice, litigation, in addition to policy and regulations regarding the healthcare industry. You aren't being prepared for one aspect. You are being prepared to be utilized in several different ways.

"Jayme is so caring and dedicated and works to ensure what we are getting from this program is significant. She is comfortable and secure with what we are doing, she doesn't hover over us. Rather, she challenges us to find answers which prepare us for the real world, because in the real world, it will be up to us to find answers. Her dedication inspires you to perform at your highest level.

"This internship is important because you are helping people by working to improving the hospital setting. It is honorable to work for a company that is looking to improve itself, always thinking of ways to deal better with issues and problems that arise."

The students interact throughout their internship with various attorneys, in-house counsel as well as external. At the end of the internship, the legal department invites them to one of the legal staff meetings where the interns interact with all the Scripps attorneys and the support staff that make up the legal department. "This meeting is the icing on the cake for the interns, as the meetings are always very colorful, exciting and as much fun as the Comedy Club," Hardyman said.

Richard R. Sheridan, Corporate Senior Vice President, General Counsel, observed that "one of the things that strikes me as unusual about this internship is that it is teaching people with paralegal skills to work in a corporate enterprise. The interns here do detailed work, not necessarily centered in a corporate legal department.

It is a broad based program that draws people with a wider vision who don't necessarily want to specialize in one specific area. I love talking to these people and I absolutely believe other organizations can benefit from such a program."

Scripps itself has hired three of its own interns. Exclusively Legal has also placed their graduates in corporate legal departments, law firms and non-profit organizations. They are, in this recruiter's opinion, truly marketable professionals who can add value to so many organizations.

It would be beneficial if more employers would embrace and cultivate future legal professionals as Scripps has done so well in this program. A frequent, challenging aspect for students graduating from a college or paralegal program is a lack of hands-on, practical experience. Scripps has excelled at providing real world experience and exposure to both the medical and legal arenas.

*****

Written by Abigail Parente, recruiting manager at Exclusively Legal. Parente holds her master's degree and a paralegal certificate from the University of San Diego and a bachelor's degree from the University of Scranton.

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