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December Graduate Named Winner of ABA Health Law Student Writing Competition

by Maria Tsikalas on 03/19/2021

SLU LAW’s Nathan Gardner, who graduated in December 2020 with a dual degree in law and health administration, has been announced the winner of the 2020 American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Student Writing Competition.

The award includes a $500 prize and attendance at the ABA’s Emerging Issues in Healthcare conference, this year held virtually.

Nathan Gardner
Nathan Gardner, J.D., M.H.A., graduated in December 2020

Gardner’s article, “Medicare’s Expanded Telemedicine Horizon,” will be considered for publication in The Health Lawyer, the journal of the ABA Health Law section.

In his article – one of the first legal papers in the country on this topic – Gardner maps out the dramatic changes that telemedicine has seen with the pandemic, both in its practice and the surrounding legal landscape. This in itself is a substantial contribution, says Prof. Ana Santos Rutschman, his advisor on the paper.

“But even more important is the fact that he tied this description to the pre-pandemic and pandemic-induced changes Medicare is going through, arguing that there is a legal and policy pathway for these changes to be made permanent after the pandemic is over,” Santos Rutschman said.

Gardner notes that Medicare coverage for telemedicine before the pandemic was extremely limited, "in terms of where you could live – you had to live in a rural area to get telemedicine before they would cover it; what kind of providers could give it; the payment rate was a lot lower than the normal rate,” he said. “I talk about all the waivers that changed these limitations during the pandemic, statutory and regulatory waivers. The paper recommends making a lot of those changes permanent.”

Santos Rutschman notes that Gardner’s vision for a much more robust telemedicine infrastructure offers a rare opportunity for an alignment of stakeholder interests, in that these are highly monetizable services that can be provided by qualified professionals to those in need. As such, she believes his recommendations will resonate with both policymakers and providers in the medical profession now more than ever.

“This is an extremely prestigious award, coming from the ABA and recognizing Nathan’s analytical work and writing skills,” she said. “It is a deserved recognition for Nathan, but also an honor for SLU LAW as a whole and the health law program in particular.  Our law school consistently attracts students from all over the country — like Nathan, who is not from Missouri — and although the merit of the award is 100 percent Nathan’s, I’m happy that we were able to provide him with a supporting environment to think and write about a topic he visibly cares a lot about, and to make this important contribution to the debate around the regulation of telemedicine.”

Learn more about the health law program

Gardner has been an active SLU LAW student, serving as an admissions ambassador, treasurer for the Health Law Association and fall managing editor for the Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy.

Gardner came to SLU LAW from Louisiana to pursue a health law concentration, and he said it was as a student in Professor Ruqaiijah Yearby’s Health Care Regulation course that he realized his passion within the sphere of health law.

“In other classes, I saw I enjoyed regulatory research, but in that class we did a real-world project, and I was good at it and enjoyed it, and that really showed me that this is what I want to do,” he said.

After graduating in December, Gardner embarked on a whirlwind journey of moving to Tampa, Florida, taking the Florida bar exam, and beginning a job as a law clerk for the firm Carlton Fields. Once he passes the bar, he will transition to an associate role, where he will continue working in the regulatory and transactional space.