New Vermont Medical Society vice president of policy from Bennington

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BENNINGTON — A Bennington native with 10 years of medical-legal experience, attorney Jessa Barnard will be the new vice president of policy for the Vermont Medical Society.

Barnard will represent 2,000 physicians — members of the medical society — "before the Vermont General Assembly, governor's administration, and regulatory and public policy boards throughout the state," according to a release.

Barnard is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford University School of Law, and founded a program in San Jose, Calif. after graduate school. The program aimed to reduce legal barriers for low-income individuals with diabetes. For example, if one didn't have a home and couldn't treat themselves or eat healthily, Barnard would locate resources and represent the individual in a case. Other situations involved employment discrimination, housing issues, and medicaid.

She also speaks on health reform, advocacy, and health law issues.

"It was a fun job and I think I really made a difference in people's lives," she said. " It was fun in California, but it's nearly impossible to have an impact on state level policy there. Here, it's doable and that's really exciting."

Even though she settled down with her family in Montpelier, Barnard grew up in Bennington and her parents remain. Her father, Robert Block is a retired physician, which is where her passion for the health field stemmed from.

"I grew up watching him in his work and thought I might want to do that," she said. "During college I was thinking of going into the health field. I have a chronic health condition and worked with kids (who also had chronic health conditions) as a mentor and I enjoyed that."

Aside from her health focus on diabetes, Barnard is also interested in health insurance, access to health care, as well as women's and children's health, now that she assumes the first position.

Previously, the vice president worked as a policy specialist from 2002 to 2005. Her tasks include lobbying at the state house for bills, budgets and health issues, drafting and creating policies, and guiding agencies with questions they have about policies.

She plans to hold her stead for the long run and is honored to voice the interests of physician. By working in a small state, Barnard said there are more opportunities for new ideas and for voices to be heard.

"The physicians of the state are really respected among the legislators and state agencies we work with," she said. "It's a fun job and new things come up with every day. It's an honor working with them. Vermont is an exciting place."

Founded in 1813, VMS is an organization that provides services and information to physicians and lobbies on concerns that affect its membership. It's purpose is "to advance the general social and intellectual welfare of its members, promote public health, encourage cooperation among physicians in medicine and surgery, to elevate the standards of professional skill, care, and judgment, promote and follow ethical standards of conduct to benefit patients, individual physicians, other health professionals, and society as a whole, and to encourage and aid the progress and development of the sciences of medicine and surgery, and to encourage research in those areas," according to its site.

For more information on the Vermont Medical Society, visit vtmd.org.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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