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A Registered Nurse & An Attorney: Donna Craig L'82 Has Secured Position in Healthcare Law as Both

By Kenneth Stratton '19 MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

A registered nurse, and an attorney. That's a powerful combination, and Donna J. Craig L’82 happens to be both.

Craig began her career as a staff nurse in a cardiac care unit at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, moving from Michigan to “see the world.” Working there for four years and eventually becoming acting head nurse, she began to re-evaluate her career. She was thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner when she began taking classes here and there to test the waters. One such class was on healthcare law and ethics at Boston University’s School of Public Health. She audited the class - and soon realized she could combine her nursing experience and knowledge with the law.

“It was never my intention to study the law,” Craig said. And yet, that’s where her path took her. Soon she left her nursing friends from Boston behind in favor of becoming a “serious student” all the way out in Western Massachusetts in the School of Law at Western New England College. She recalls feeling welcome, from the very first moment she visited the school.

“I met people there, who just took me all around the school,” she recalled of her visit. Trying to find a way which described exactly how she felt during her first visit to campus, she simply said: “It just felt like home!”

So Craig joined the day program at the School of Law, and worked nights as a staff nurse at Springfield Municipal Hospital and at the United States Attorney’s office. Not only was her schedule full, forcing her to stay more organized than ever before, but she had to grapple with a rigorous course of study.

After an abysmal first exam in Contracts, Dean Howard Kalodner told Craig at the time she’d have to reframe her thinking. To put it into basketball terms, he said: “You can shoot really well from mid court, but you can’t shoot a layup.”

“It was like learning a different language,” Craig said of her legal studies. “It was very self-centered studying. I had to change the way I thought and the way I analyzed issues,” she explained, after taking Dean Kalodner’s advice to heart.

Eventually Craig dribbled her way through law school, and thought she landed a slam dunk opportunity upon graduation. She remembers having to consider several offers: after all, who wouldn’t want this powerful nurse-attorney combination on their team?

So she chose work as an Associate Attorney with Kitch, Suhrheinrich, Saurbier and Drutchas in Detroit, a medical malpractice defense firm, where she stayed for two years before realizing the life-work balance wasn’t there.

“This isn’t just learning the ropes as a new associate attorney, this is a way of life,” she remembers thinking at the time, when she would witness named partners also working long hours and weekends. So for the next 13 years she’d work in a large multi-hospital healthcare system, Oakwood Healthcare Inc., as the corporate director of legal affairs, risk management and insurance. Due to rising malpractice insurance premiums for physicians at the time, the healthcare system launched an off-shore hospital/physician captive insurance company where she served as a board member.

Making a bold move to strike out on her own, Craig left Oakwood to establish her own firm. Initially formed as Donna Craig and Associates PLC, she began providing healthcare transactional, business, insurance, regulatory and licensure defense legal services for hospital systems, medical group practices, and affiliated healthcare providers, as well as serving as an arbitrator and mediator in healthcare disputes across the country. Today she remains the Principal of the firm, now called The Health Law Center, PLC.

“I’m still working with nurses and other healthcare providers,” Craig said with enthusiasm. Craig enjoys being in a position where she feels like she can help people with her knowledge on healthcare law. Among her responsibilities, she works with families and patients denied healthcare services, and also works with software maintenance and technology companies needing to comply with Michigan and federal privacy regulations.

“Law was something not even on my radar,” Craig said. “But the work is very rewarding and fulfilling,” she added. In March 2018, Craig was admitted as a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in a motion accepted by Chief Justice John Roberts before the full panel of Supreme Court Justices. As far as accomplishments, Craig said, “being admitted before the full Supreme Court and hearing oral arguments on the case before the Court was a thrill of a lifetime that I will never forget.”

Offering some advice to students and young adults just starting out, Craig said “don’t follow the money.” She continued, “You have to ask yourself, ‘what’s that spark; where’s your passion?’ and jump for it,” she said. “Sometimes you make that jump where you don’t expect it and you stumble, but it’s okay,” Craig concluded.

Craig has made a few jumps in life herself, and has secured a position in healthcare law as a powerful registered nurse and healthcare attorney.