2017 Forty Under 40: Anna Obergfell Kirkman

Associate Counsel and Medical-Legal Partnership Director
Eskenazi Health

Kirkman has built a medical-legal partnership that helps get Eskenazi patients assistance with a whole range of legal issues.kirkman.jpg

Age: 32

Birthplace/hometown: Indianapolis

Family: husband, Clark; son, Gabe, 1

Education: bachelor’s in political science and French, Villanova University; law degree, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Years with organization: 7

Getting here: After clerking at law firms in Indy and Louisville, Kirkman thought she was destined to work at a big firm. “Then the market crashed in 2008 and … a week before graduation in 2009, I learned that my job offer had been deferred for a year.” So she rethought her options and started working at what was then Wishard Hospital on a grant-funded basis to coordinate the Medical-Legal Partnership. “I wanted to work in health law, so gradually I started doing more work with the in-house legal team, too. At the end of the temporary deferral period, I had the opportunity to stay on at Eskenazi Health as both Medical-Legal Partnership director and associate counsel.”

challenge faced: “Eskenazi Health encounters many patients facing difficult decisions, often around end-of-life choices,” Kirkman said. “Complex family dynamics often complicate the decision-making process. Physicians, nurses, social workers and the hospital ethics committee often seek legal input in these matters. In those moments, giving people an opportunity to be heard and acknowledging that family members are trying to do what’s best for their loved ones are some of the most powerful tools for dispute resolution.”

Major achievements during her tenure: Kirkman cites the growth of the Eskenazi Medical-Legal Partnership. “What started as a small pilot program has grown across the Eskenazi Health system, [with] attorneys collaborating with treatment teams to meet the comprehensive needs of patients at six locations.”

Givebacks: Kirkman serves on the board of Indy Reads, is a board member and board secretary for the Indiana Health Advocacy Coalition, and is board chairwoman for Artmix, while accumulating a long list of past service to not-for-profits.

Favorite place in central Indiana: “If central Indiana includes Brown County, my favorite place is Gnaw Bone Camp,” Kirkman said, who has been going there since fourth grade, served as counselor, and has taken her husband to visit. “It’s a magical place.”•

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