Claire Cowart Haltom, JD
Baker|Ober Health Law a Baker Donelson Practice
The daughter of a prominent healthcare attorney, Claire Cowart Haltom grew up with a working knowledge of the industry, but it was a personal experience that sparked her desire to practice at the intersection of law and medicine.
As a freshman at Vanderbilt University, Haltom underwent genetic testing during a surgical procedure. "It was a perfectly reasonable clinical decision to run the test, and the results would help my doctors provide me better care," she recalled. "But what I realized in the following days as I waited for the test results was that a positive genetic test could give health insurers a reason to deny me health coverage for the rest of my life." Healthcare technology was developing so rapidly that the law had struggled to keep pace.
"Thankfully, my genetic test proved negative, but the experience opened my eyes to the complex interplay between healthcare and law and the important role lawyers can play when they are fluent in both areas," she continued.
To better understand policymaking, Haltom worked on Capitol Hill after graduation. "Public policy can be a powerful and pragmatic solution if you understand how the system works," she pointed out. She also learned it can require a lot of patience. From the time she underwent testing, it would take eight years before Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act to ensure genetic information couldn't be used against an individual in employment and insurance decisions.
Following her stint in D.C., Haltom earned her law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law where she was founder and co-president of the Ole Miss Student Health Law Association. She continues to call on that early leadership training as she serves on multiple professional and community boards. Haltom, who is winding down her term as chairman of the Leadership Health Care Board of Directors, also sits on the boards of the Nashville Health Care Council and Faith Family Medical Center. She just completed a three-year term chairing a practice group for the American Health Lawyers Association and is on the leadership team for Baker Donelson's Women's Initiative.
Haltom relishes finding creative solutions to confounding healthcare problems so her clients can stay focused on their mission of patient care. "Our clients appreciate that we not only understand the law of healthcare, but we understand the business of healthcare and can design transaction and policy solutions that achieve their goals," she said. To get to that point, however, requires asking lots of questions to thoroughly vet an issue. "You'll be amazed at how your advice changes when you hear 'the rest of the story,'" she pointed out.
Haltom's outgoing personality makes her a natural at connecting people. "Some people have even joked that this is my side gig," she said with a laugh, "but nothing gives me greater personal satisfaction than helping people find jobs, helping introduce people to non-profit causes, or connecting people with resources when they are in need."
She is also invested in growing Nashville's renowned healthcare industry by ensuring the next generation of leaders has the tools needed to meet new challenges. "I am blown away by the talented, passionate individuals I have met through Leadership Health Care."
When it comes to her penchant for focusing on others, Haltom noted she had a pretty good teacher in her father, Dick Cowart. "Many know him as one of the nation's leading healthcare attorneys - which he is - but he is also a model of servant leadership," she said. "He has taught me to listen, really listen, to people and to always be thinking of ways that you can help others. His quiet commitment to putting other people first has made a profound impact on how I think about leadership and helping others."
Her husband, James Haltom, who is a partner at Nelson Mullins and a major in the Tennessee National Guard, mirrors those same types of qualities. She laughingly noted the two met in "the most nerdish way" in the law library at Ole Miss. Active community volunteers, the couple is particularly drawn to issues impacting veterans. "My husband and three of my brothers-in-law are all combat veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, so this is a personal cause for us," she noted.
Whether it's preparing the next generation of healthcare decision-makers or caring for the underserved, Haltom said Nashville is home to incredible organizations working to improve people's lives. "I can't think of a better way to use my legal training and healthcare knowledge than to help organizations improve the lives of others," she concluded.