LAWRENCE — Dana Pugh is the fifth KU Law affiliate in five years selected to represent the interests of low-income Kansans as a Sunflower Foundation Advocacy Fellow. The program trains nonprofit leaders to effect public policy changes that improve the health of Kansans.
Pugh is the postgraduate fellow and staff attorney for KU’s Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, a joint initiative of the KU School of Law and the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The program connects low-income patients to law students who provide free legal services ranging from housing and utility assistance to education and employment advice. The program uses a preventative model that aims to address legal barriers to health before they escalate to medical emergencies.
“The Sunflower Advocacy Fellowship will allow me the opportunity to grow and strengthen my advocacy skills,” Pugh said. “While a large portion of our efforts are geared toward individual advocacy, to truly benefit all Kansans we have to mobilize on a larger front. This fellowship will give me a chance to hone these skills and use them to improve the lives of the patients we serve.”
The MLP Clinic is grateful for the support the Sunflower Foundation has provided for its work over the years, said Director Katie Cronin. The partnership assists low-income community members by providing direct legal assistance, transforming health and legal institutions and changing public policy.
“Most MLPs engage in the first two activities during early stages of implementation, but a fully functioning MLP will change policy by working with health care partners to identify and address broad-scale legal barriers to health,” Cronin said. “The Advocacy Fellowship will provide Dana with dedicated time and training to focus on policy changes the MLP Clinic can pursue to improve the lives of many low-income Kansans.”
Pugh credits her time at KU Law with giving her a desire to serve her community and improve access to legal resources for all Kansans.
“While KU certainly gave me the education that I needed to practice law, it also fostered an awareness of our responsibility to strive for improvement of our legal system,” Pugh said. “We need to make our legal system accessible to all, regardless of income.”
The nonprofit Sunflower Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of Kansans. Launched in 2008, the nonpartisan Advocacy Fellows program trains nonprofit leaders in effective strategies to better serve their organizations and communities. The 2014 Fellows class includes 14 leaders who will participate in six sessions over the course of the year, including a trip to Washington, D.C. The series will focus on collaborating with community members, political leaders and the media.
Previous KU Law alumni who served as Sunflower Fellows now work in government, health law and academia. Pugh plans to follow in their footsteps, pursuing a career of service and advocacy.
“In addition to developing my institutional and systemic advocacy skills, I will get the opportunity to network with some very impressive leaders from the health care field in Kansas,” Pugh said. “I look forward to building these relationships, and I have no doubt that they will open doors for future collaboration and advocacy opportunities.”