Public Interest Law Initiative Honors Amy Zimmerman, Illinois Child Health Advocate with Prestigious Award

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Director of Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children at Health & Disability Advocates accepts PILI Distinguished Intern Alumni Award.

Amy Zimmerman receives PILI Distinguished Intern Alumni Award

Amy Zimmerman receives PILI Distinguished Intern award from last year's recipient, Justin Lee Heather

I am thankful for my PILI experience as it introduced me to Chicago’s dynamic public interest community and helped solidify my commitment to serving the underserved.

Founded in 1977, the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), a Chicago-based organization that promotes a lifelong commitment to public interest law to better meet the legal needs of low-income individuals and families across Illinois, honored Amy Zimmerman from national nonprofit Health & Disability Advocates with their prestigious Distinguished Intern Alumni Award.

PILI connects law students, graduates and law firms with opportunities to provide pro bono legal services as part of fostering an overall culture of service and commitment in the legal profession. The annual award is bestowed upon a former intern whose work epitomizes the ideal of justice for all.

In accepting the award, Amy thanked PILI for helping her realize that, “...if I wanted to make a difference, I didn’t have to travel halfway across the world...I could make a difference at home...PILI became my entrée into the real life challenges of the disenfranchised in Chicago.”

As a law student, Amy Zimmerman served as a PILI Intern at the American Jewish Congress after her first year at Northwestern University School of Law. Since then, Amy has devoted her legal career to children's health advocacy, program and policy analysis and community-based partnerships. She is a frequent speaker at national conferences, and serves on numerous advisory boards and committees including the Attorney General’s Special Education Advisory Committee, the Early Learning Council’s Systems Integration and Alignment Heath Subcommittee, the Illinois Early Intervention Interagency Council’s Service Delivery Approaches workgroup, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics EDOPC Policy and Legislative Advisory Committee, the Premature Infants Health Network, and the Governor’s Lead Safe Housing Advisory Council.

Celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, PILI also honored Deere & Company (Pro Bono Initiative Award), Judge Edmond E. Chang (Distinguished PILI Fellow Alumni Award) and Harvey Grossman (Distinguished Public Service Award). The event also commemorated important milestones and impact of this unique resource to the Illinois legal community.

PILI is nationally respected for cultivating a remarkably unique, strong and collaborative pro bono community in Chicago and across Illinois. “PILI fills a void that would otherwise exist if it weren’t there,” says Lee Ann Russo, president of the PILI board of directors and partner at Jones Day, “By bringing together law firms, corporations, law schools, retirees... [PILI] enables individuals who otherwise don’t have access to justice to have it.” Adds Northwestern Law School professor Cindy Wilson, “When I talk to my colleagues in law schools around the country, they are in envy of what we have here.”

Since joining Health & Disability Advocates in 2006, a national health, education and employment nonprofit based in Chicago, Amy has led the Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children. This pioneering program joins two powerful professions — law and medicine — to improve the health and economic security of vulnerable people and places. One of the first such innovative projects in the nation, the Chicago project works closely with partner sites at Lurie Children’s Hospital, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, Friend Family FQHC and specialty care clinics.

“The idea of looking at social determinants of health and recognizing that without impacting social factors, health outcomes can and often will be compromised— this is the cornerstone of medical legal partnerships. Our approach involves direct representation, training and technical assistance at our partnership sites and systemic advocacy. In keeping with the core values that underpin PILI’s work, we focus the bulk of our trainings on medical residents—endeavoring to imbue these future medical leaders with the tools to both understand the value of legal assistance to their patients and their medical practice and the ability to recognize a legal need, hopefully preventatively—so that legal assistance is available before a crisis occurs.”

Amy has also provided leadership to growing medical legal partnerships (MLPs) nationwide, spearheaded legislative initiatives and helped implement groundbreaking health policies including changes to: the Illinois Children’s Product Safety Act on recall requirements, the Illinois School Code on classroom access and home and hospital instruction and the Early Intervention Services System Act, as well as a first-in-nation district-wide asthma policy for Chicago Public Schools. Her work on behalf of children and families has also included individual and class action representation.

Amy notes, “I am thankful for my PILI experience as it introduced me to Chicago’s dynamic public interest community and helped to solidify my commitment to serving the underserved.” She continues to contribute to the field and to public interest law by mentoring PILI interns and fellows at Health & Disability Advocates each year, “I’ve now spent a good 15 years working with PILI fellows and interns. I’m amazed every year by their commitment, quality and their passion. Many are so accomplished that I know I am getting the far better end of the deal.”

Prior to Health & Disability Advocates, Amy served as Children’s Policy Advisor to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, assistant director of the Children’s Health and Education Project at the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and as a neighborhood and project attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

About Health & Disability Advocates
Health & Disability Advocates is a national organization, based in Chicago, Illinois, that promotes income security, work and educational opportunities, and improves healthcare access and services for vulnerable populations, including children, people with disabilities and low-income, older adults. Its team of legal and policy experts provides a range of services including individual legal representation and custom trainings and technical assistance to consumers, businesses, service providers and state agencies.

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