USD Legal Clinics and UCSD Join Forces for Legal-Medical Collaboration
The USD Legal Clinics recently collaborated with UCSD’s Department of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and the USD Education and Disability Law Clinic to help families of children with special needs understand the legal avenues families can take to advocate for their children. Scott Brown, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician and developmental-behavioral pediatric fellow in the UCSD program was the first physician to participate in the joint effort.
Margaret Dalton, supervising attorney for the law clinic, said, “We are so pleased to have the benefit of Dr. Brown’s advice during our weekly case reviews. The value of expert advice relating to disabilities and the characteristics and impact on children and their needs is critical, so Dr. Brown’s participation takes us to a whole new level.”
“We see a lot of patients in our clinic at UCSD that are experiencing poor academic performance and their parents have concerns about special education; often they are having difficulty accessing these services,” explains Dr. Brown. “In addition to diagnosing and treating children with these types of problems, pediatricians often play a big role in helping families navigate the school system.”
Dr. Brown is a second year fellow in the three-year fellowship program offered by UCSD that includes one intensive clinical fellowship-training year and two years focused on research or another area of academic scholarship. “The fellowship focuses on providing care to children who have a wide variety of developmental delays and behavioral problems,” states Dr. Brown. “This includes a lot of issues related to school and learning disabilities that interfere with learning.”
“One big challenge we face as pediatricians is trying to understand the rights, laws and avenues that families have to advocate for their kids,” continues Dr. Brown. “So this collaboration with the Education and Disability Clinic at USD helps me obtain a better understanding of the laws and what avenues families have to access special education.”
Dr. Sheila Gahagan, the program director at UCSD’s Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program, contacted Dalton to discuss a joint effort, believing her fellows would benefit from hearing about the legal side of the equation. A long-time advocate of children with special needs, Dr. Gahagan saw the benefit for learning on both sides of the table if Dr. Brown attended the Education and Disability Clinic program as part of his fellowship. “The Education and Disability Clinic is a unique service learning opportunity for law students. That a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatric Fellow could learn educational advocacy side-by-side with law students is absolutely ground breaking,” comments Dr. Gahagan. “I expect that this collaboration will lead to innovative ways to promote optimal learning for children with special education needs. I hope to see ongoing collaborations between health care and law to advocate at the individual, local and state level.”
Dr. Brown attends the Education and Disability Clinic’s Thursday morning case review meeting as well as the classroom, instructional portion. Additionally, Dr. Brown is able to refer cases to the clinic, which provides him with another important community resource for his patients and their parents.
“It’s exciting for us to have a board certified pediatrician participating in our clinic,” states Dalton. “Now, when issues come up surrounding the diagnosis, we can discuss them with him. We also, in turn, explain the special education legal process to him, so it creates a great all-around learning opportunity.”
“I am so grateful to be collaborating with the Education and Disability Clinic,” adds Dr. Brown. “It’s both a great opportunity for me personally and for the fellowship. For a lot of children with developmental and behavioral disabilities, their pediatrician is the first point of contact into the system. This collaboration serves as an additional avenue in educating pediatricians at large in understanding the school system, and how to link and collaborate with community resources like USD’s Legal Clinics.”
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