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UHLC student testifies before state House panel on medical licensure bill

Bradley Cook

March 25, 2015 –Bradley Cook, a University of Houston Law Center LL.M. student, recently testified before a Texas House committee in favor of a bill that would make Texas part of an interstate medical licensure compact.

As part of the class work for a “Health Legislation & Advocacy” course taught by UHLC research Professors Allison Winnike and Patricia Gray, Cook researched the bill’s model language on behalf of the class’ “client,” the world-renowned Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann in Houston’s Texas Medical Center.  The students have worked closely with Dr. Lex Frieden, director of TIRR’s Independent Living Research Utilization program, to expand access to telemedicine technology for patients.

The bill, HB 661, introduced by Rep. John Zerwas, M.D., R-Simonton, would allow Texas to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, meant to allow streamlined licensure of physicians in all of the compact’s member states.

Cook, who works as a legal intern at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said he believes joining the compact would ease the state’s much-publicized shortage of physicians by allowing for increased use of telemedicine, which is the broader focus of the class’ work with TIRR.

“I’m a big believer in simplifying things,” Cook said. By reducing bureaucratic barriers to interstate licensing for physicians, he said, the use of telemedicine will be made much more widely available.

Cook testified on behalf of the bill on March 10 before the House Public Health Committee, of which Zerwas is a member.

Cook, who received his J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law, became interested in health care law primarily because of his wife, who worked for several years as a surgical technologist. With Baby Boomers entering their elderly years in massive numbers, there will be an ever-increasing growth in the demand for lawyers who practice health-related law.

Cook said he’s more interested in “forward-looking” transactional law than in litigation, which he called “backward-looking.” Partly, he said, is that “I’m not really a performer.”

“I was really nervous” prior to testifying before the House committee, Cook said, having only learned about the hearing from Winnike a few days earlier. But he got through it, he said, adding, “It gets easier the longer you’re up there and answer more questions (from committee members).”

Cook said lawmakers were concerned with language in the bill suggesting that any judicial challenges to the compact would have to be heard at the traditionally “liberal” federal district court in Washington, D.C. But he assured them the bill explicitly states that once an interstate commission is set up to oversee the compact, challenges could also be heard in the federal district of the interstate commission’s principal office.

On March 17, the Public Health Committee reported the bill favorably without amendments and sent it March 19 to the Calendar Committee. It is unknown when it might be sent to the House floor for a vote.

Cook said his studies in UHLC’s “Health Legislation & Advocacy” class have been very valuable in teaching him skills, such as dealing with legislators and their staffs, that will help him craft policies and laws in his future career.

To watch a video of the House Public Health Committee hearing, click here. Cook's testimony begins at 32:00.

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