Duality: Student aims for JD, and MA in Dispute Resolution

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
 
Law student Jessica Biondo previously worked in the Henry Ford Health System, in patient care departments and in applications, building electronic medical record programs for revenue/claim generation applications. Both experiences were influential in her decision to start a law career, after seeing first-hand various situations providers encounter on a daily basis when providing patient care, combined with exposure to the complex financial side of healthcare.

“There are so many wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet and work with—it’s important to me to help propel change in health law with those people and their patients in mind,” says Biondo, who recently completed her 1L year at Wayne State University Law School. “In my opinion, we as a society must look out for the patient population—we’ve all been or will be a patient at some point.

“Likewise, healthcare providers, and healthcare organizations need advocates. Healthcare and all of its intricacies are common knowledge to those who work in the field, but a completely foreign language to those who are unexposed. I hope to be able to use my knowledge of the interworking of patient care and revenue cycle efforts, combined with my legal knowledge, to help all those involved in healthcare.”

Biondo is studying for a dual degree—a juris doctor and an M.A. in Dispute Resolution, and also will become certified as a mediator. Her long-term career goal is to work in an ADR group practice or serve as a court appointed mediator.

“For me, the dual degree program was an absolute must — I think it’s so wonderful I can not only get a fantastic legal education in the heart of Detroit, but also sharpen my skills in a focused area of interest, Alternative Dispute Resolution,” she says. “I love being able to reach a compromise, when possible, that benefits everyone involved. Compromise and negotiation can be powerful tools in advocating for a client and the best outcome.

“So many cases settle before trial and results sometimes depend on the parties’ ability to settle amongst themselves in an amicable way,” she adds. “Not only is it extremely important to be able to negotiate properly on behalf of your client, it’s also so important to build professional relationships that help you come to resolutions tactfully.”

Biondo is enjoying her Wayne Law experience.

“Everyone is so nice and kind! Law school is a tough and stressful time,” she says. “Sure, it’s very competitive and I constantly have this sense of awe in feeling I’m surrounded by very smart people, but I love that I’m getting my education in an environment that’s very positive and encouraging. I’ve met so many great people– classmates, mentors and faculty alike. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the relationships I’ve developed.”

Biondo has resurrected the inactive Health Law Society, spearheading it as president.

“I’m excited to bring the group back. We have a great team on the board, with very diverse interests—our plan is to create a community for students interested in any type of health or healthcare related law,” she says.

“So many incoming law students hear ‘health law,’ but what they actually hear is ‘malpractice’ and while I personally am very interested in malpractice defense work, it’s not for everyone,” she adds.

“Malpractice is the tip of the iceberg. I would love to bring to light all the many and great opportunities in the field and connect with those who practice in different areas of law related to health and healthcare.”

In this summer’s externship with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Health Fraud Division, Biondo is looking forward to combining her healthcare experience and newly developing legal career.

“Detroit is one of the top two cities in the United States for health insurance fraud, which affects everyone in our community negatively,” she says. “I’m very excited to contribute to the team and their work in any way I can.”

She hopes to extern later with a hospital or health insurance provider, and work with a firm in some type of health law group; and after graduation, practice in Ann Arbor or Detroit, in work related to compliance, health insurance, employee benefits or malpractice defense.

“Health law has so many different opportunities and I’m not sure which is the best fit for me to help others,” she says.

A member of the Women’s Law Caucus, Women Lawyer’s Association of Michigan, Italian-American Bar Association Michigan, and American Health Lawyers Association, Biondo also is member of the Italian-American Law Student Association, and is proud of her Italian heritage and the uniqueness of the culture.

“My Dad’s family came over from Palermo, Sicily and Casalattico, Italy, with my Grandpa arriving in the U.S. the day before the stock market crashed in 1929,” she says. “He and his brother were then drafted in World War Two, and subsequently my Dad went on to attend and graduate college.

“It’s amazing to think about the struggles my family faced early on—in the early 20th century, Italians were strongly discriminated against. I think about the progress my family has made and it’s very inspiring to me, and also a great reminder to treat everyone with kindness.”

Biondo finds great strength in her family. “My mom and fiancé are huge sources of support. I also have a sister and two brothers—all of whom are amazing and inspiring in their unique ways,” she says. “My Dad passed away in 2017—he was an engineer and very committed to and involved in auto safety and security. His work regarding auto fraud is very inspirational to me as I have great interest in healthcare fraud.”

A native of Beverly Hills in Oakland County, Biondo now makes her home in Ann Arbor, where she enjoys reading, running, yoga/meditation, and trying new restaurants.

She also enjoys the restaurants in the Motor City, walking or biking along the Detroit riverfront, and has run in the Detroit Marathon.

With a strong need to give back to the community, Biondo volunteers with the national organization, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and the local nonprofit, Therapaws of Michigan, where she also serves on the board. She also has volunteered with Washtenaw County’s Crisis Response Team, and previously volunteered on the post-crisis response team at Henry Ford Health System.She started training Loki, her 5-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Poodle Mix (Bernedoodle) to become a therapy dog at four months, and the duo passed the exam when Loki was 15 months old. They have volunteered in a variety of locations including with patients of all ages at local hospitals, and also have provided stress relief to students during final exams.

“Loki’s my best buddy and has a naturalness about him—the joy he brings to patients is absolutely amazing,” she says.

“It’s a great way to give the patients a break from the day-to-day hospital activities which can be stressful and relax with a big fluffy dog. He’s a favorite amongst the young children as I’ve been by told by many patients that he looks like something from Sesame Street.”

 

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