Melissa A. Soliz, J.D., a regulatory health care partner of Coppersmith Brockelman PLC, a Phoenix-based law firm with a nationally recognized health care practice, is one of the 12 up-and-coming leaders in healthcare included in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.
We are thrilled to present this year’s list of 12 emerging leaders in healthcare. Managed Healthcare Executive editors picked the emerging leaders from a list of almost 40 nominees. They come from the full gamut of U.S. healthcare, including companies harnessing the ever-increasing amount of healthcare data, community health worker organizations addressing social determinants of health, and enterprises devoted to improving Medicaid program access and quality. These leaders are tackling the challenges of the 21st century with creativity, dedication and insight. They give us confidence in the future of healthcare.
Born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, I am the daughter of a registered nurse and a family chiropractor. I obtained a dual undergraduate degree at Arizona State University (ASU) while working at a rural Medicaid clinic for those with behavioral health and substance use disorders. I graduated summa cum laude with awards for excellence in undergraduate studies and the Feldt-Barbanell Women’s History Award.
After graduation, I worked for a women’s health clinic and later enrolled at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. I graduated summa cum laude with a certificate in intellectual property law and as a John S. Armstrong Awardee, the law school’s highest honor. After a clerkship at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, I embarked on my legal career with Coppersmith Brockelman.
Career turning point: At age 30, I had reached a crossroads in my life both professionally and personally, as I struggled to find meaning in commercial litigation battles over money and a loved one’s struggle with behavioral health and substance use disorders.
I decided to refocus my legal career on working with nonprofit data utilities, healthcare providers and technology companies to provide services, build platforms and structure data-sharing arrangements to connect people with the health and social supports that they need to attain their full health potential, such that no one is disadvantaged from achieving that potential because of social position, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, disability or other circumstances.
I’ve found tremendous professional and personal satisfaction in pursing work that meaningfully improves patient care and their experience with the healthcare system.
Biggest challenge of the job: One of my biggest challenges is breaking down complex legal concepts into actionable steps that advance health care goals. The amazing compliance personnel, in-house legal counsel, clinical and social care professionals, and business teams that I work with help me face this challenge each day.
Long-lasting COVID-19 effect: How health care is practiced and experienced will be forever changed by COVID-19. One of the most lasting impacts I see in my regulatory health care practice is the critical importance of technology vendors in supporting and advancing health care — from integrated electronic health records to telehealth platforms to clinical decision support tools that leverage artificial intelligence to consumer-facing applications and consumer-mediated health information exchange.
What I would change about U.S. healthcare: Everyone knows that healthcare is complicated. Although well-intentioned, those complexities are a contributing factor to the high cost of healthcare and are negatively impacting patient care. The complexities could be significantly reduced if there were a single federal data law that expressly preempts all local and state laws in the field. This would enable healthcare organizations to focus on compliance with a single law and ensure that every patient across the United States would benefit from the same high standards of privacy, security, interoperability and individual data rights.
Book everyone in healthcare should read: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot is a must-read for anyone working in the healthcare space. Henrietta Lacks, a Black mother of five children, died in her early 30s of cervical cancer. The cells from her tumor were taken without her knowledge to develop the HeLa cell line that has been used in countless scientific research studies.
Her story influenced the establishment of the Common Rule for federally funded human subjects research, including requirements for obtaining informed consent. It is compelling portrayal of how the law, ethics, ownership and business interests, and health inequities impact patient care and the advancement of that care from a generational perspective.
Guilty pleasure: The cinema on a Sunday night during a hot Arizona summer. It’s an icy oasis where I can kick back in that plush luxury recliner and savor a sugary fountain drink, hot dog straight from its foil wrapper, and box of candy while immersing myself in another’s story.