Students benefit from health care legal policy expertise

Clinical Assistant Professor Barbara Zabawa, JD, MPH, stands in front of a row of law books in a library.

Clinical Assistant Professor Barbara Zabawa, JD, MPH (pictured), has over 20 years of experience working in various capacities within the health industry. She has been a consultant, consumer advocate, health lawyer and in-house counsel to a large health insurer. A few years ago, she was hired by the College of Health Sciences to bring her expertise into the classroom, and is now an active member of the Department of Health Informatics and Administration.

Professional interests and activity

As a legal professional, Zabawa has had many accomplishments in her career. She is the founder and president of the Wellness Compliance Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate and empower wellness professionals with wellness compliance tools and resources for the workplace. She also serves on the Rogers Hospital Foundation board of directors. The professional achievement she is most proud of is creating her own law firm, the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC. Her firm works with health and wellness providers who are unable to obtain legal services from typical health law departments in large law firms.

Whether Zabawa is working from her non-profit or her law firm, she explains, “My interests and expertise lie within the areas of health and wellness law and compliance.” She has written and presented extensively on such topics as health information privacy, health reform efforts, scope of practice and licensing issues, ethical standards for health and wellness professionals and health delivery methods that aim to improve quality and reduce costs.

Bringing legal expertise to students

Zabawa’s experiences help her bring real-world case studies to the students to illustrate how the law impacts real people in the health industry. At the college she teaches Health Law, Law and the Health Care Consumer, Health Care Compliance, Health Care Policy, Politics and Law and Health Care Delivery in the United States. She also co-directs the Master of Healthcare Administration program.

Her students find value in her understanding of the real-life impact of law and policy on health care administrators. Zabawa explains, “Some of my students have completed law-based projects for their coursework under my direction, or have asked for career advice regarding health law.” She helps introduce these students to other health lawyers in the Milwaukee community who provide them with additional insight into the practice of health law in Milwaukee and the State.

Creating the Certificate in Healthcare Compliance

Another way Zabawa is connecting the professional world and academia is by creating the Certificate in Healthcare Compliance. Health care compliance is critical to all organization types and persons who work in the health care industry. Whether you are a health care practitioner, administrator, insurer or in a business that contracts with health care organizations, it is vital to understand the need for and function of a robust corporate compliance program.

Learning outcomes in this certificate program address the fundamentals of health care compliance, such as compliance administration, policies and procedures, oversight and committees, enforcement and reporting requirements. In addition, it covers screening of employees and vendors, billing and coding basics, auditing and monitoring, education and training, investigations, fraud and abuse laws, and HIPAA. As the certificate moves toward accreditation, students and professionals have more opportunities to understand law and policy’s impact on health care.