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Bill Kleinman: The Exit Interview

Bill Kleinman spent most of legal career–first as an assistant attorney general, then as senior counsel for health affairs–at UConn Health, where he’s served more than 37 years. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

William Kleinman, who’s been practicing law for more than four decades, is retiring from state service April 27. Kleinman spent most of his career as an assistant attorney general embedded at UConn Health, and has been serving as senior counsel for health affairs here for the last three years. A few weeks ago he agreed to a departing interview with UConn Health Updates.

What did UConn Health look like from a legal standpoint when you, as an assistant attorney general, were assigned here in 1980?

At that time, there was only one lawyer representing Storrs, the regional campuses and UConn Health. Today, the number of lawyers between the two campuses is easily in double digits. But it was a less complicated legal world then. The nature and scope of state and federal regulations in the health care and educational arenas was much less pervasive and complex than it is now. In addition, I see legal counselling now having much more of a business aspect to it than it did when I first started practicing.

In 1980, John McKenna was the assistant attorney general assigned to represent both the Storrs and Health Center campuses. On average, he spent one day a week in Farmington. The hospital was about five years old. John and I discussed the possibility of my representing the Health Center. At that time, I was representing the state constitutional officers as well as a variety of state administrative agencies. We brought the idea to Carl Ajello, who was the attorney general at the time, and he said yes.

In retrospect it was an interesting decision because I had no education law experience, I had no health law experience, and I had very little litigation experience. So I was a very well balanced three-legged stool. It was really quite remarkable. But the Health Center was very supportive by proving me with multiple educational opportunities to get me up to speed very quickly. For the first 17 years that I was here, I was the only assistant attorney general at UConn Health.

How did your role evolve over the years?

I dealt with a broad array of legal issues. I represented UConn Health in state and federal court, the Commission on Hospitals and Health Care (now OHCA), the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and the Office of the Claims Commissioner. I drafted documents when necessary, gave legal advice on a daily basis on the legal issues of the day, handled commitment hearings on the first and third floors, as well as any legal issues that emanated from the operation of the hospital, the faculty practice, the medical school, the dental school, the graduate school, and administrative operations. And if it was a matter outside of my expertise or experience, I had to find outside counsel or someone else in the attorney general’s office who could help me with it.

In 1997, when Les Cutler was the vice president and provost for health affairs, he recognized the need for more legal representation. A second assistant attorney general, Jane Comerford, joined me. She was an outstanding lawyer, and greatly enhanced the services provided by our office. Jane was then followed by assistant attorney general Don Green, who continued Jane’s good work.

Describe the dynamic of the relationship between an assistant attorney general and the agency in which he or she is assigned?

That always created a challenge. I always recognized and understood that my employer was the attorney general. But I always had a very strong allegiance to UConn Health and my goal always was to find a way to navigate a legal path that was comfortable to the attorney general and beneficial to the Health Center. And in my personal view, that really should be a goal of any assistant attorney general representing a state agency, namely, to allow that agency to perform its mission to the fullest extent possible without any or minimal legal exposure.

That was always my goal, and I think that we were pretty successful in achieving this, to find a way to navigate where we could hold faith with the attorney general’s responsibilities while finding a way to either get the Health Center to where it wanted to go or clearly to explain why there was no legal way to go down that path. I’m not a prideful person, but if I’m proud of anything, it was the ability to help marry those two different entities in a way that didn’t make the legal department a roadblock to getting things done.

In that same regard, I never dealt with a senior administrator here who was not willing to accept straight, respectful advice given on a legal issue.

What are some of the things you observed over the course of your tenure here?

Bill Kleinman started working at UConn Health in 1980.

There’s been an interesting ebb and flow within the Health Center relative to its relationship to the campus at Storrs. It has, literally like the tides, either been more and less integrated with departments and functions at Storrs. We are currently in a “high gravitational pull phase.” I would be surprised going forward if that doesn’t remain the norm.

I think some of the interesting things that I have seen over the years include multiple attempts by the Health Center to integrate clinically with other area providers, only to have those efforts fall short for multiple political reasons. Despite that, the Health Center has regularly attempted to reach out and advance itself and partner with other health care and research entities, as evidenced by collaborations with Connecticut Children’s, Jackson Labs, Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, and others. At the same time, it has successfully developed its own centers of excellence.

Correctional Managed Health Care has evolved in an interesting fashion. It was originally contemplated to be a teaching laboratory for the medical school on how to deal with a pure managed care model. But it certainly was and continues to be an interesting experiment in how the state can provide medical care to its incarcerated population. It’s particularly interesting when you read articles across the country about the challenges that private entities have had in providing quality medical care within prison systems in other states. Many of those articles have not reflected favorably on those efforts

You retired from the Office of the State Attorney General at the end of 2013, but we still have been seeing you here since. How has your role changed?

I was ready to retire from working full time and I said to the leadership here, if it would be helpful to you, and you want me to work a couple days a week, I’m happy to do that. They said that would be great.

Upon retirement I immediately transitioned from the assistant attorney general position to my current role, as senior counsel for health affairs. One of the purposes was to help transition into the creation of the Office of the General Counsel at UConn Health. This would then allow a university-employed cadre of lawyers that does the heavy lifting legally for the university, in conjunction and cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General.

The attorney general’s office is charged with providing certain types of legal advice that only it can provide, such as formal legal opinions of the attorney general, representation in and settlement of lawsuits, contract approvals and the like. But other than that, there’s nothing that prevents the university from engaging its own counsel to provide legal advice on a whole universe of legal matters. And, throughout my 37 years of representing UConn Health, there’s always been excellent cooperation between the university and the attorney general’s office.

About a year and a half before I was going to retire, I advised the attorney general’s office of my plans, because my feeling was, unlike many other slots in the attorney general’s office, this position was going to require someone with a somewhat unique skill set. I wanted to afford the attorney general’s office enough time to find a strong candidate to fill this position. And fortunately for UConn Health, Jeff Blumenthal applied for the job.

From 2012 through the end of 2013, Jeff and I worked together in the attorney general’s office, which afforded us an opportunity to transition the functional role of an assistant attorney general here to Jeff. He has a deep and varied legal background in multiple areas related to health care. He is a lawyer of the first rank. Effective January 2014, Jeff became lead attorney. And now, with the addition of two new outstanding lawyers, Scott Simpson and Brian White, UConn Health’s new chief legal officer, combined with our highly respected resident Assistant Attorney General Lynn Wittenbrink, a highly accomplished litigator and counsellor, this institution is well positioned to navigate through treacherous legal waters safely.

What’s next for you?

I’m fortunate that my wife (Dr. Myra Rosenstein, who retired from UConn Health Partners at the end of 2013) and I have a place in the Berkshires. I think that on May 1, we’ll pack up our car and go up to the Berkshires for May, June, July, and August, and head back to West Hartford in September. We also look forward to continue our recent travelling adventures (Israel and China last year), with an African safari scheduled for October.

We have five adult children living all over the country including two grandchildren in Oakland so that keeps us pretty busy as well.

I currently sit on a Health Center IRB and intend to continue to sit as a nonaffiliated volunteer member. I’m also going to look at a couple of other substantive volunteer opportunities. But I’ve been advised, I think wisely, by a number of friends, that in the first year of retirement, be measured in the commitments that you make. I do intend to do a lot of reading, exercising, taking some courses, and just trying to enjoy life.

As you prepare to leave UConn Health, what is your outlook on the future of this institution?

The faculty, staff, administration and infrastructure have been put in place to make this place succeed. The Outpatient Pavilion is a Class A facility. The new University Tower, first class. The collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory, five star. The key is to find the chemistry, through affiliation or otherwise, that will draw patients here and build on the research collaboration with Jackson and other entities that will allow UConn Health to flourish. That’s the challenge.

And to the extent that the Office of General Counsel at UConn Health can help make that happen—through affiliation agreements, joint ventures, accountable care organization affiliations—then this office will have done its part in a great success story.

It’s National Doctors’ Day!

We want to give a heartfelt “thank you” on this National Doctors’ Day to all of our approximately 400 doctors who have dedicated their life’s work to caring for others. In honor of the day, clinicians were invited to share in refreshments and UConn John Dempsey Hospital CEO Anne Diamond and other hospital administrators were on hand to say a personal thank you and give out special mementos.

The first Doctors’ Day observance was held on March 30, 1933, by the Barrow County Alliance in Winder, Georgia. The Alliance picked that day because it was the anniversary of the first administration of anesthesia by Georgia native Dr. Crawford W. Long in 1842. The first observance included the mailing of cards to physicians and their wives, flowers placed on graves of deceased doctors – including Dr. Long, and a formal dinner.

You may have noticed some of our doctors wearing red carnations today. Through the years, the red carnation has been used as the symbol of Doctors’ Day. Because of the flower’s spicy fragrance, it was often used in seasoning dishes “to preserve the body, both in mind and spirit.”

Congress designated March 30, 1991, as National Doctors’ Day. The enactment of this resolution enables the citizens of the United States to publicly show appreciation for the role of physicians in caring for the sick, advancing medical knowledge, and promoting good health.

Looking at Us: Alexis Crean, Human Resources

Alexis Crean brings a positive attitude to her role as HR organization and staff development specialist. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

Alexis Crean brings versatility and a positive attitude to her role as HR organization and staff development specialist. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

If you’ve attended an employee recognition event, employee orientation, or a professional development course, chances are you’ve met Alexis Crean, organization and staff development specialist in the UConn Health Department of Human Resources. And, chances are her role runs counter to your preconceived notions about HR. Alexis has been with UConn Health for 23 years, the last 19 in HR. She lives in East Hampton with her husband and two teen daughters.

Q: What are some of your responsibilities in UConn Health HR that perhaps historically are not associated with human resources in general?

I know that this might sound cliché but I really do believe that Human Resources is about what we can do to help the organization, and its people, become more successful. I have been the lucky recipient of working for some great individuals who have helped me shape my career and that is why I choose to give back every chance I get. I have found in my 23 years with the organization that one of the best ways to do that is to build strong relationships. It’s about having a one-on-one conversation with the new manager who isn’t getting the most out of her team, and then helping her to get more out of that team. It’s about helping employees understand their role in the future and why “our” organization values them. Yes, we all have to make sure that we are abiding by the rules and regulations but as an HR professional I always keep the person I am serving front and center, giving him or her the best I can offer.

Favorite movie:
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Favorite musician:
Mozart

Favorite place to visit:
I love going to NYC any chance I get

Famous person you’d most like to meet:
Coco Channel

Favorite delicacy:
Colombian Empanadas

Q: How do you make your unique role in HR your own?

My mom always told me, “Bien predica quien bien vive”—“Lead by example.” That’s why I always keep a look out for ways that we can show employees that Human Resources really does care and that it’s not just talk. So if I can make an employees’ experience that much the better by offering a meaningful recognition event, or providing compassion during a difficult time, I am your person. People often say, “I wish I had your job because it looks like so much fun,” and I respond, “Thanks so much for saying so, and know that it is done with much thoughtfulness and attention to detail,” because I enjoy giving back to a community that I respect so much.

Q: What is something about UConn Health HR that you think is generally misunderstood?

To employees, HR could be the person they see only when something goes wrong. Yes, we‘re there when someone gets fired, during exit interviews or disputes, so it’s easy to see why Human Resources is commonly misunderstood. In my experience, being an HR professional is a constant balancing act of being an employee advocate, maintaining compliance, and acting in the best interest of the organization, ensuring that employees get recognized and offering resources to assist in developing their work and life balance.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your role?

I am especially proud of the gift I have of visual storytelling. From the age of 5 years old I have been telling stories through pictures. I never thought that my passion would transcend into my daily work. It is so rewarding for me to take people’s messages and create a presentation or a visual that inspires understanding, action and change.

Q: Anyone who’s worked with you knows you always bring such positive energy. How do you maintain that so consistently?

Thank you, that is very kind of you to say! I subscribe to the Positive Attitudinal Effect. Meaning, the greatest thing about attitude is that it is the one thing we all have the ability to control. It’s a choice. You could say that my positive attitude is my secret sauce. A positive attitude has a positive impact on my productivity, work quality, service, innovation, and the emotional bond I feel with my colleagues, customers and family. It’s what I am trying to teach my daughters to practice, every day.

Q: What’s something you like to do outside of work?

We love our community and proudly give back to it through our family charity, the Turkey Plunge, which has raised $166,000 over the last seven years for our local food bank. There is something very satisfying about bringing together people, have some fun and making a difference in people’s lives!

Large Turnout for Making Strides Event

  • Survivors tent sponsored by UConn Health.
UConn spirit and pride was evident with the largest team turn out ever for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Hartford event on Sunday, Oct. 16 at Bushnell Park. Team UConn Health Husky Heroes proudly joined 5,500 walkers to help raise over $280,000 to support the American Cancer Society in the fight against breast cancer. The team was comprised of patients, caregivers, friends, staff and families. It was a beautiful autumn day and UConn Health once again had the honor of sponsoring the Survivor Tent which offered survivors delicious food, tips and advice, special goody bags, and a space to interact with other survivors.  One of the speakers at the event was a Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center patient whose story for the opening ceremony was impactful and moving. She was able to share the experience with her family and caregivers, providing inspiration and hope to all participants. Thank you to all who raised funds, volunteered their time in so many different ways, and continue to support important events like Making Strides.

 

ACO with Hartford Healthcare – What Does It Mean for Us?

What it is

A voluntary collaboration, related to clinical care only and is separate from existing partnerships or affiliations.

What it is not

Not a merger, joint venture, or anything that involves the transfer of assets. As an ACO partner, Hartford Healthcare has no governance or other control over UConn Health.

For the past 9 months UConn Health has been pursuing the selection of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) affiliation partner from among the surrounding health systems and physician groups in Connecticut.  An ACO is a group of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers who voluntarily collaborate to coordinate care and ensure that patients receive the best care at the lowest possible cost. UConn Health’s process for seeking an ACO partner began with an October 2015 letter to 13 regional providers seeking interest in UConn Health joining one or more their ACOs “at a leadership level.” UConn Health followed these letters with meetings and phone calls with the CEOs and/or ACO representatives of these institutions. This process has concluded and UConn Health has selected Hartford Healthcare (HHC) to be its ACO partner.  The reasons for choosing HHC include that HHC leadership was extremely engaged and motivated to find a customized non-binding model for UConn Health that allowed for equal leadership. It was also viewed favorably that HHC has local leadership and a strong regional reputation as a quality healthcare provider.

Key characteristics associated with this ACO partnership are:

  1. The ACO partnership is voluntary non-binding collaboration that does not include any merger of assets, nor is this a form of  joint venture as that term is often used.
  1. It is essentially an agreement where the leadership of both entities will jointly identify and implement initiatives to improve the quality and costs of shared populations of patients.
  1. Once the ACO partnership identifies joint initiatives, the appropriate structures will be created
  1. UConn Health and HHC has equal leadership in the collaboration.
  1. To ensure maximum flexibility, UConn Health is not joining HHC ‘s existing ACO (“ICP”) rather this is a separate collaboration that will benefit from ICP’s experience without becoming a member of ICP.
  1. The ACO partnership does not affect existing clinical or other relationships with other regional health systems or providers.
  1. This ACO partnership pertains to clinical care, not education or research.
  1. This initial ACO partnership does not include any payment or receipt of funds.

What Happens Next?

UConn Health leadership and HHC leadership will work together over the next few months to identify specific initiatives that will increase the quality and decrease the costs of care for shared patients. We look forward to sharing these initiatives as they are contemplated and developed.

Welcome to The Pulse

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Pulse – a weekly newsletter aimed at monitoring the pulse of UConn Health and highlighting what really makes us tick. It’ll be delivered to your inbox every Friday. No, you can’t unsubscribe – and you won’t want to – because this newsletter will focus on news you need to know, events you won’t want to miss, and unique stories that make UConn Health special.

Plus, Dr. Andy will answer your most thought-provoking questions and we’ll get you caught up on UConn Health in the news – stories from newspapers, radio, or TV that you may have missed during your busy week.

This isn’t meant to replace broadcast messages – we want to add to the conversation, not take information away. There’s a lot going on here and we want to cut through the clutter and talk about what’s important.

That’s why our first feature focuses on the biggest project our campus has ever seen – University Tower. Construction began three years ago and now we’re just over two months away from opening day. The Pulse will keep you up-to-date on the nitty-gritty of moving day, as well as opening events in which you and your family can partake.

While we’re not asking for submissions as we do with broadcast messages, we do welcome your feedback and story ideas. You can contact us at thepulse@uchc.edu.

UConn Health’s Hennig to Compete in World Fencing Championships

Bonnie Hennig is packing her bags for Paris, not to represent UConn Health at a conference, but to represent the United States at the 2015 Veterans Fencing World Championships.

Bonnie Hennig is gearing up for the Veterans Fencing World Championships in France.

Bonnie Hennig is gearing up for the Veterans Fencing World Championships in France. (Photo by Bob Trestman)

Hennig, the associate director of UConn Health’s Huntington’s Disease Program, shares the No. 2 ranking in the U.S. in her category, which is women age 50 to 59 who compete with a sword called a foil.

“To me it’s the ultimate sport,” Hennig says. “Fencing is considered ‘physical chess.’ It’s aerobic with an anaerobic piece to it. It’s one of those sports that has team comradery but is also very individual.”

Hennig first dabbled in fencing in college but hadn’t picked up a foil for two decades when a local club opened 10 years ago and she got back into it. Recreational fencing became competitive fencing, locally, then regionally, then in national tournaments.

“This is the first time I’ve met the age requirement for an international veteran tournament. For international competition, you’re not considered a ‘veteran’ until age 50,” Hennig says. “For a veteran fencer, the World Veteran Fencing Championship is the highest level you can reach.”

The world championship events take place in Limoges, France, Oct. 20-25.

Bonnie Hennig in her national team uniform (Photo by Madison Hennig)

Bonnie Hennig in her national team uniform (Photo by Madison Hennig)

“While I would love to be a world champion, my first goal is to enjoy the journey,” Hennig says. “It’s not just about a medal around my neck. If I can go to France and fence my best, then I’ve met my goal. I want to fence ‘in the zone’—I’ve been there before and it’s an awesome place. My first plan is to arrive at the venue, do a 360 degree turn, take it all in, and say, ‘I am here!’”

Hennig trains at the Connecticut Fencers Club in Middletown twice a week. She also competes on weekends.

“What’s great about this sport is that anyone can fence,” Hennig says. “There is a lot of technique to it, but people can do it recreationally or competitively. You can go anywhere in the world to fence. It really brings people together.”

In her case, it helped bring husband and wife together. Hennig and Dr. Robert Trestman, executive director of Correctional Managed Health Care and interim director of the Center for Public Health and Health Policy at UConn Health, have fencing in common. While they initially met at UConn years ago, it was fencing that brought them together. They were reintroduced through fencing in 2010 and married in 2012.