AHLA's Speaking of Health Law

Conversations with AHLA Leaders: Saralisa Brau, Assistant General Counsel, McKesson

May 06, 2022 AHLA Podcasts
Conversations with AHLA Leaders: Saralisa Brau, Assistant General Counsel, McKesson
AHLA's Speaking of Health Law
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AHLA's Speaking of Health Law
Conversations with AHLA Leaders: Saralisa Brau, Assistant General Counsel, McKesson
May 06, 2022
AHLA Podcasts

This special series highlights AHLA leaders who discuss key moments in their careers, current and future trends in health law, and AHLA’s role in their professional development. In this episode, Chip Hutzler, Director, Horne LLP, speaks with Saralisa Brau, Assistant General Counsel, McKesson. Saralisa is a member of AHLA’s Board of Directors. 

Saralisa talks about her path from pre-med to health law, the challenges and opportunities of specialization in health law, issues related to access and affordability of health care, her focus on increasing inclusion at AHLA, and what her plaque will say when she is inducted into the “Health Law Rock Star Hall of Fame.”

Sponsored by HORNE.

To learn more about AHLA and the educational resources available to the health law community, visit americanhealthlaw.org.

Show Notes Transcript

This special series highlights AHLA leaders who discuss key moments in their careers, current and future trends in health law, and AHLA’s role in their professional development. In this episode, Chip Hutzler, Director, Horne LLP, speaks with Saralisa Brau, Assistant General Counsel, McKesson. Saralisa is a member of AHLA’s Board of Directors. 

Saralisa talks about her path from pre-med to health law, the challenges and opportunities of specialization in health law, issues related to access and affordability of health care, her focus on increasing inclusion at AHLA, and what her plaque will say when she is inducted into the “Health Law Rock Star Hall of Fame.”

Sponsored by HORNE.

To learn more about AHLA and the educational resources available to the health law community, visit americanhealthlaw.org.

Speaker 1:

In this special series, ALA leaders discuss key moments in their careers, current and future trends in health law, and Ally's role in their professional development support for HLA. And this series is provided by horn, which provides proactive guidance and strategies to enhance efficiency, improve patient experience, increase market share, and position you for greater success. Horn healthcare serves over 600 clients across 31 states for more information, visit horn L p.com.

Speaker 2:

So I wanna welcome everyone today. This is chip Husler with horn, and I've got as my guest today, Sarah Lisa brow from McKesson, Sarah. Lisa's also a board member of HLA, one of the newer board members. And I'm so glad you join us, Sarah. Lisa. Welcome.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, chip. Delighted to be here and thanks for the invitation.

Speaker 2:

Well, absolutely appreciate it. And I'm gonna start out by asking to tell me, how did you get into health law? Tell us how you got yourself going into health law. It's always an interesting story.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And appreciate the question. It's, you know, it wasn't a direct path, but in retrospect, all the pieces made sense. So I was someone who in college thought I was pre-med and considered that path for, for a couple years and, and ultimately decided that my interest and talents<laugh> so lay in a different direction. Um, but always had that sort of foundational interest in, in healthcare and, um, looking to, looking to serve and, um, you know, ended up going to being interested in economics and, and going to law school and, and graduated with an interest in antitrust law, which is how I started my career and found that as I worked at my first job after law school at McDermot will and Emory the matters that I found sort of most interesting, and that really most connected with me were antitrust matters, sort of counseling and defending healthcare clients. And, you know, McDermot at the time and, and to this day has a, a very fine and nationally recognized healthcare practice that spun off really interesting work for, uh, specialties like antitrust. And so found that that, that work and the people that I worked with just really resonated and kind of brought it all together. So over time developed a specialty within a specialty, if you will, of sort of healthcare, uh, antitrust. Um, and that, that was my, you know, my focus for, for many years.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's great. Was there any particular people that inspired you along the way that kind of, um, you know, helped you or inspired you along and kind of what made them special?

Speaker 3:

There definitely were. Uh, I think we all have, you know, mentors and friends and people who influence us at various points in our career. And, and I was lucky to have that too. And, you know, I think certainly my, my first job out of law school just found and connected with a group of mentors and partners who, you know, really brought me under their wing and helped introduce me to health law. Um, and they included, uh, Christine White, who is a current board member of, of a H L a, who's a, who's been a, you know, a dear friend for, for many years. Um, and I, I worked for Chris as an associate<laugh> back in the day. Um, you know, other, other folks at McDermot that I worked with included David Marks and, and Jim Sneed. Um, and they were all also very involved in a H L a and really first got me involved in the association as well, uh, and ultimately had the opportunity to, um, publish a, a book with, um, David and, and Chris, something that David and, uh, Jim Sneed had initially sort of worked on. And then we had the opportunity to come in and work on a healthcare antitrust book, uh, for a H L a and that opportunity to work with them, be guided by them, be brought into a L HLA by them and ultimately sort of work on a, a really substantive publication together was a really formative part of my early career in particular.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's great. Was there any sort of one moment, I mean, that, that's an interesting moment working on that particular item, was that maybe one of the moments that was pivotal in your decision to kind of stay with a health law career, or were you, is there any moment where you sort of realized, Hey, I know I'm doing the right thing. I found my calling<laugh>.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I, I think it, I think it was a, you know, a gradual process, but I think a, certainly a capstone sort of moment to a point where that sort of validated that was working on a, a litigation that, um, ultimately went to trial. It was a three week jury trial, an antitrust litigation. And, and I think as, as many practitioners know, you know, you generally try to avoid antitrust litigation when you, and you try to avoid litigation generally when you can, um, especially antitrust given the, uh, the expenses and fees and length and, and distraction to the business involved. Um, but this one actually went to trial and was an incredible opportunity to, to serve the client, to, to work with my team and to really get deep, you know, in, into healthcare, we, we represented a health system and it was just, it was a fascinating process. It was a fascinating experience to, to work with the client and really try to serve, you know, best serve their interests. And, you know, you really gotta dig deep if you're, if you're gonna, you know, represent someone in litigation and all the way through. Um, and, and going through that experience really cemented for me that this is it, this is so fascinating. I love it.<laugh> I love the people I'm working with, and this is, this is where I really wanna focus. Um, and that, that really, to me, sort of solidified it going forward.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's great. I mean, those are obviously very difficult trials in many ways and, um, you know, and, uh, and so it's great to kind of cut your teeth on an area where, you know, it's gonna be tooth and nail the whole way. Um, what are some of the challenges you faced along the way, you know, kind of going through this and, and how did you tackle them?

Speaker 3:

I would say I found challenging at certain points in my career, sort of navigating that line between being a specialist who specializes<laugh>. Um, and, and what did that mean in terms of sort of career growth going forward? So I started out as, and, and still consider myself Intrust lawyer, um, who then specialized in sort of healthcare and, you know, working with healthcare clients. And I think there were, at times when I thought, am I specializing too much? Am I boxing myself in too much? Um, will this, you know, at some point sort of run its course<laugh>. Um, and so I think at, at times, I, I sort of questioned that and, and wondered, you know, whether, whether that was a smart, you know, move, um, you know, but ultimately I think I found, you know, if you really enjoy the work, if it's really engaging, if it's really intellectually substantive, if you really enjoy your colleagues and the larger community and network that you build through places like a H a, what I found is that, you know, the specialization can become your calling card in the first instance, but there's so much opportunity within health law, especially to pivot and grow and to connect the dots with sort of adjacent areas that it really isn't, you know, the limiter, you, you really can't think of it as sort of boxing yourself in, you know, really it's, you know, you bring a certain expertise to the table for your, for your clients. Um, and then there's ways to build on that and to grow on that and to sort of bring in agencies and, and connect it together, um, which really sort of opens up the aperture and opens up the lens in terms of how you can think about what you can contribute, um, and how you can connect and really sort of advance, um, you know, your client's interests and your own sort of, you know, professional satisfaction, you know, in health loss. So, so to me, that was a challenge as to my way of thinking really, you know, specializing subspecializing, but actually it can open doors rather than, you know, feel like you're, you're closing them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I think that's a great point. I've always been somebody that wants to help people solve their problems, whatever problems they have. And, um, while I may not be, have tons of experience in the problem they've put in front of me, um, I, I built my practice around helping people solve whatever problem they have and finding the people that, that can solve it or figuring out how to solve it if nobody knows. Um, yeah, so that's a great point. And one that I think comes up a lot. So as a leader, you know, what have you learned that you would recommend to future kind of would be health while leaders? What do you think, uh, you would tell that somebody who's younger, who's saying I'm interested in kind of being like you

Speaker 3:

<laugh> go for it, do it, I mean, health law is, is such a varied and interesting and rich in terms of experiences and, and satisfaction, you know, career path. Um, I would say, go for it. Um, I think that, you know, again, just sort of picking on up on that theme of, you know, specialization, I think that, you know, there, there are some paths, if there's some, you know, terrific, you know, sort of generalists who, who know a lot<laugh> and can counsel across the waterfront. And I have lots of respect for that. I think that, you know, given the complexity and the increasing, you know, ever increasing sort of regulations, uh, applying to, to clients in the, the healthcare and life sciences field, I think it can be hard to keep up with everything. Um, and there can be real satisfaction in going narrower in some areas and, and really specializing. Uh, and again, as, as I had learned over time that by doing that, you don't necessarily foreclose, you know, options going forward. Um, but it really lets you go deep and hopefully be really useful and really practical and really a solid counselor, you know, in, in a particular area. So I would say don't be, don't be afraid of specialization. There can be a lot of satisfaction and a lot of, uh, value that you can deliver in doing that, and yet still maintain flexibility for, for your career, you know, O over time.

Speaker 2:

Well, that makes great sense. And I think I, I take that to heart myself, so I, I totally agree. So as a, sort of a new leader on the board, I mean, you've been a leader at HOA for a while, but as somebody who's new to the board and, and gonna be doing that for a little while, um, where do you see HLA going health law going in the future? What's the future of health law?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So the, you know, there's the future of health law and, and then the future of ALA and they are intertwined in many ways. Right. Um, you know, I, I think, you know, one thing that, that I, you know, you know, fundamentally see is the, you know, concerns with, you know, access to care and affordability of care, and these are not new. This is something that, um, you know, the, the industry and, and, and stakeholders have been wrestling with for some time, but I think, you know, coming out of COVID hopefully, and seeing all that's impacted both the system and, you know, patients and, um, you know, providers, frankly, um, over the last few years, you know, really, to me sort of underscores the question of, um, is financing healthcare through private employers<laugh>, you know, sustainable is that, you know, really going to work and continue working, going forward. Um, you know, as we have these ruptures and these strains put on the system in various different ways, um, does that reshape our thinking for what's sustainable going forward and, you know, will a, you know, consensus emerge over time because it has to, um, about, you know, inequalities and, and access inequalities in affordability and how can we make steps to take it in that direction? And I think there's some, you know, certainly positive examples coming out of COVID, you know, including the acceleration of telehealth, you know, as, as one means of enhancing access and, you know, other ways that, you know, regulations have, you know, folks have been creative with that to try to create space for, for access, um, in, in times where that's been challenging or in places where that's been challenging. But I think there's a way to go there. And, and these sort of, you know, fundamental systemic questions, I think have only gotten more acute over the last few years. So the solution to that<laugh> and continuing to focus on that, you know, I see as being continuing questions sort of at the, at the heart of, of health, healthcare and health law in particular going forward.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. And, um, it's interesting as, uh, I track regularly, of course, what you, you see as kind of the payer mix at various health systems and other entities that provide healthcare and particularly at hospitals, it's, it kind of was running maybe 60% private payers, 40% government payers for a while, and now it's kind of creeping more towards 50 50. And, um, and I wonder as you point that out where, where the, you know, where the world's moving on that because you, you know, for a long time, those commercial payers are funding in effect some things because they pay a little higher rate than the government payers. And is it sustainable? I don't know. But, um, you ask a, a great question. So thinking now more from a personal perspective, what do you still want accomplish at HLA? You're gonna be still involved for a while, and maybe even beyond the board, as many former board members have stayed well involved, what do you want to accomplish that you haven't accomplished yet?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so I have the privilege of serving this year, um, uh, under, uh, our chair, our current chair, Joanne lacks on the membership inclusion diversity and equity committee, um, which is, which has been such an honor and, and a privilege to work with that group. Um, and, and the staff supporting it. And what I would like to do, you know, again, working with Diane, Diane, and my, my fellow committee members in particular, and the board is really to continue to advance the sort of inclusion piece of, of a H a. Um, and that goes deep in, in many different directions. I think at HLA, many of us who are longtime volunteers and long time, um, uh, members really, you know, treasure the collegiality of, of a H L a, um, and I think that's something we absolutely want and need to preserve, but I think in that umbrella of collegiality being very focused and targeted and mindful of, you know, inclusion more broadly, um, you know, including, you know, beyond lawyers, you know, to other health law professionals, um, and, and identifying ways and identifying sort of homes and, um, connection points for, you know, broad, diverse communities who feel like they have, and do indeed have, you know, equal access to opportunities, you know, equal sort of sense of inclusion.<laugh> the seat at the table. Um, and I think for, you know, H a has to their great credit has done a lot over the years to continue to, you know, advance that commitment. But I think we all recognize there is work to be done. And so it's a real privilege to, to serve on, you know, one of the committees that's, you know, dedicated to helping advance that at the board level, you know, together with, with our leadership. And I, and I think that, you know, making material progress on that front, you know, you know, inclusion and equity sort of around all issues, both within the association, both outward facing in terms of the Association's priorities. Um, and also, you know, in terms of the, you know, professional membership that join ALA, you know, is something that I would really like to, you know, continue to work on and continue to support and would like to see the organization continue to have, you know, success and growth in,

Speaker 2:

Uh, perfect. I mean, it's something I've been a little bit involved in myself over the years, and I think it is an area that AA has had a lot of success, um, but they are not gonna rest on their laurels. And I think you've got the perfect attitude towards how to make sure that we continue that, um, initiative and make sure it's as successful as it can be going forward, because it's gonna pay dividends for the association down the road. No doubt in my mind. Uh, so it's great to have you on that front with those of us that are in favor of that. So now let's talk about some fun stuff. You get to go to some fun places. When you go to ELA events, you get to travel probably even in your work too, as I do. Um, what are your favorite places to visit along the way when you're working in your health law capacity, or maybe even in your own personal life, what do you like to go?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, well, certainly, uh, sort of in my health law capacity and, and, you know, ALA capacity always, always love going back to New York. Uh, I lived in New York for a number of years, um, before, before moving back to Washington DC, where I'm from actually originally, um, so always loved going to going to New York, um, and you know, the energy and, you know, reliving my salad days too.<laugh>, you know, where I was younger and single I'm single.

Speaker 2:

Um, no one was more unhappy than me that we couldn't go to New York last year.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, exactly. I know that was a, that was a disappointment for, for, for many, for many, um, but always, always love going back to New York. Um, and, and, uh, and Boston, too many fond memories of some great L H a annual meeting events in particular, in, in Boston, you know, and then, you know, in my, in my, you know, personal life, obviously haven't traveled as much the last couple years, but it seems to be coming back with Aurora now,<laugh>, which I suppose is good news, but I, um, you know, I went to law school at the university of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and that's only about a two and a half hour drive from, from the DC area where I am. And I, I just love going back to Charlottesville too. It's just such a beautiful, um, town. Um, and, um, so the wide open spaces and, um, you know, just, just love, love, getting back, love, getting back there too, when I, when I can get down the road for a, for a game or, uh, just to spend some time, you know, hiking in the blue Ridge or, you know, doing other fun activities. So, so those are, those are some of my favorite, some of my favorite spots.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Love, love, love that town too. It's a great town. And I think up too far from you. So we spent our time in Virginia from time to time. Do you have any, uh, sort of walk up music that you, you know, when sorry, Lisa walks in the room, what song should be on everyone's mind?<laugh>,

Speaker 3:

You know, I, this

Speaker 2:

Question came from somebody else. I can't take place.

Speaker 3:

It's, that's a great, that's a great question. I, I would, I'm gonna shamelessly steal from, um, Herardo para the, um, Washington nationals baseball player who, you know, back in 2019 when, when the NATS won the world series and, and we were, were big NAS fan, and my family, you know, his walkup song was baby shark and big

Speaker 2:

Shark, right? The

Speaker 3:

Baby baby shark, you know, duh, da, da, da, da,<laugh>, you know, that we'll have an ear worm the rest of the day, thinking of baby shark, but, you know, that was, I, I, you know, have, have some, have, you know, three younger children. And so we know that song very well, but, but what I loved about that is when you, you know, were in the stands, you know, at NAS, at NA stadium or, or watching the game when he came up and his walk on music played, everybody got up and started dancing and wore their shark hat or had their t-shirts with the star shark music. And so the walk up song, wasn't so much about him, but it was his music, you know, connecting with the fans, his music, connecting with the team, his mu music sort of creating this sort of cultural moment that, you know, some would argue, I dunno if it's causation or correlation, but, you know, the NATS won the world series that year.<laugh>, I don't know that it was causation, but, you know, his batting average certainly went up. Um, so, so I would, I would pick baby shark in the, in the hopes that, you know, that that music would, you know, not only inspire me, but, you know, connect, connect with, you know, you know, my team and others to, to, to make it a fun moment and make it one that, you know, can carry us beyond just, just me at the plate<laugh> to, um, to be, you know, a, a, a broader sort

Speaker 2:

Of, it was like, moment. It was like a must be in the stands moment when

Speaker 3:

He, it really was, it was so just the delight and the fun, you know, from this little song, from this little YouTube song, you know, but it, it's, it's amazing how you find those, those touchstones and, and whatever it may be. Um, if it can, if it can, you know, connect in a broader way, it can be so powerful, right. Even these, even these little things, and it's just the fun and delight of it, you know, was, was really, was really great. So again, I, I would, you know, shamelessly steal from still from him.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. So for of the eight or nine of these I've done, that's gotta be the best one.<laugh> the best one so far. I love that one. Although we, somebody did the Darth Vader theme, but that still, you know,

Speaker 3:

Oh, that is a good one.

Speaker 2:

Toos, pretty good. It's pretty good. So, um, when they induct you into the health law rockstar hall of fame, which they will, because everybody on Thea, board's gonna be inducted into that at some point. Um, what's your plaque on the wall gonna say,

Speaker 3:

I hope my plaque says I aspire to have my plaque say<laugh> teamwork makes the dream work.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Because I, I really think that, you know, that the, you know, to get to that, you know, at this point in our career is we all are great. Counselors are, are great. Hopefully, you know, very good at lawyering. Um, you know, but to, to really do that, I think at a next level, in a way that, that has impact for our communities and, and who we work with, it's, you know, it's about, you know, connecting with your team, it's know the three CS it's, it's, it's caring, it's connecting it's culture and you do those things, right. You get that right. And together you can achieve so much more. And, and that's something that I aspire to do in my career with, with my teams. Um, and, and I would hope that that's, that would be, you know, a, a legacy or, or on my plaque that, you know, teamwork makes the dream work.

Speaker 2:

Perfect. I think, uh, couldn't be a better legacy to be known for than, than that. And I imagine you will be, um, well, Sarah, Lisa, thanks so much for taking this time to be with me, really appreciate it. It was fun to get to talk to you and hear some of your story. And I really enjoyed it. I appreciated your being here. Thanks for being with me.

Speaker 3:

Thanks, chip. Really appreciate the opportunity.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to a L a speaking of health law, wherever you get your podcasts to learn more about a a, and the educational resources available to the health law community, visit American health law.org.