Sandra M. DiVarco
Practice Focus Area: Health
Years at Firm: 19 years
What is your favorite part about practicing healthcare law at McDermott?
I sometimes joke that there is “never a dull moment” in my practice, but it really isn’t a joke! With the spectrum of clients we serve in the healthcare space, we are faced daily with novel questions, complex situations and unique business issues – often with incredibly short timelines. Even after years of practice, no two days are exactly the same and I would not have it any other way.
What is the biggest opportunity and greatest challenge facing clients in your area of focus today?
My practice is primarily focused on assisting hospitals and healthcare systems with the diversity of regulatory and corporate issues they face every day. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting to the changing nature of healthcare was posing challenges for these providers. The pandemic accelerated the use of what were previously novel care delivery processes, fueled by regulatory flexibilities permitted during the public health emergency. How hospitals and health systems will further adapt by scaling back (in cases where flexibilities are not made permanent) or ramping up (where regulatory changes are made permanent) will be the next challenge. Revenue hits from the pandemic and provider burnout may dampen some of the energy for major change as we emerge from the acute phases of the pandemic but, it is clear that healthcare will never be quite the same as it was pre-pandemic.
What kind of client work gets you most excited when it comes across your desk?
Even in the midst of steering interesting transactions and complex regulatory analysis, I still really enjoy helping clients with what I’d call “foundational” health law problems – like navigating patient consent issues, EMTALA compliance, survey and certification work, accreditation issues and resolving novel clinical/operational quandaries. Those types of matters are what led me, as an RN at a Chicago medical center in the mid-1990s, to become interested in the law in the first place. I relish the opportunity to incorporate my clinical and healthcare operational background when counseling clients.
What is the proudest moment of your career to date?
While there are definitely transactions I’ve worked on that still give me great pride, from the regulatory side of my practice, it would have to be our teamwork around COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic. Talk about novel issues for a novel virus! Working shoulder to shoulder with hospital clients on every aspect of their operations, seeing field hospitals come into being, addressing patient care and safety issues and assembling what amounted to a “SWAT” team of talented colleagues to digest and help clients understand the rapidly changing regulatory landscape was incredibly rewarding. And I hope it remains a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
What is your favorite decoration in your office?
Among the lucite deal toys, plaques and other remembrances in my office of projects past, I have displayed (and have since my earliest days at McDermott) one of my hospital unit name tags from my days as an RN. It is a reminder not only of where I have come from and to keep me grounded, but also provides a tangible reminder of the vital role of clinicians and facilities that are impacted every day by our healthcare-related work.