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The impetus for the recognition of the need for legal partners in healthcare came from Boston City Hospital in 1993. The hospital provided care to the largest uninsured and underinsured population in the New England states. The pediatric patients were noted by Dr. Barry Zuckerman to have difficulty in recovering from medical illnesses. He linked their inability to improve their health to poor housing, food insecurity, and basic social determinants of health. His hiring of a part-time lawyer led to a national movement for the development of medical-legal partnerships. The American Bar Association, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnerships at George Washington University in Washington, DC and the American Academy of Pediatrics formed the first national medical-legal partnership in 2007. Joint resolutions were passed for members to become partners with the other professional colleagues to “address the legal and social issues affecting patient health and well-being.” The American Bar Association resolution led to the creation of the Medical-Legal Partnership Pro Bono Project. In 2015, the East Tennessee State University College of Nursing nurse-led community health center was awarded a small grant from the National Nurse Centers Consortium to participate in the development of a medical-legal partnership. The health center is staffed by Nurse Practitioners who provide health care for the underserved in northeast Tennessee. The patients are diverse and include homeless, migrants, residents of public housing, uninsured, and underinsured. Partnering with the Tennessee Justice Center in Nashville, Tennessee, the nurse-led medical legal partnership improved lives of pediatric patients, adults, pregnant women across the state, and advocacy rights for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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© 2018 Vanhook et al.

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