During his third year at Miami Law, Gayland "Tad" Hethcoat II was recognized as one of eleven finalists nominated for the Scribes Law-Review Award for his in-depth analysis "Free Hospital Care and Takings Clause: Franklin Memorial Hospital v. Harvey in a Chancing Health Care Landscape."
It was "well-researched and clearly written," said Law Review Committee Chair Mary Nicol Bowman. The nomination doesn't come as a surprise for those who know Hethcoat.
"He is remarkable young man with an incredible talent," said Professor Jan Jacobowitz director of the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program. Jacobowitz says Tad isn't just a great student, but also an amazing teacher. She notes that several times Tad assisted in reviewing his peers' papers. "He's just an incredible writer and very thoughtful, too. So the combination is what results into a really impressive article."
For Hethcoat, the Scribes recognition only magnified his desire to continue his passion for health law.
"It was just major vindication for a significant undertaking and just solidified for me that this is what I like to do." Even before applying to law school, he never envisioned himself as the guy litigating in the courtroom. Writing has always been his passion. "I think I do much better behind the pen than as an oral advocate."
Journalism, after all, was his first passion. Hethcoat graduated with a Communications Degree in 2007 from Virginia Commonwealth University. However, entering an industry during a turbulent economy was challenging to say the least for the former school newspaper editor.
He decided to pursue a degree in law to delve deeper into his interests in healthcare, a subject he became interested in around age 12 when his father, a former pharmacist turned doctor, moved the family to rural Georgia. The change was drastic, but it was met with a wealth of lessons, which he'll remember for a lifetime.
"I got to see early on disparities in access to healthcare and some of the other problems that average people face in getting healthcare."
During law school, Hethcoat spent eight months working a hospital switchboard where he helped run the pager system that monitored calls between patients, doctors and nurses.
Even though he was intrigued by the dynamics of the healthcare system, he didn't want to follow his father's path.
After living six years in Georgia, he was compelled to focus on healthcare reform from a legal standpoint, and it's a decision he hasn't wavered from since. It's what inspired him to write a second paper, its title is "Plaintiff Standing in Florida ex rel. Bondi and the Challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
"I thought it would be worthwhile to build on that research for another project," he said. The lawsuit, he says, was filed 10 minutes after President Barack Obama signed the healthcare bill into law. The case claims the healthcare bill is unconstitutional, and was filed in Florida and is backed by several other states.
"It was clear to me that this was going to be a big case that was going to attract a lot of attention," he said. "I thought it was interesting that of all places Florida was going to be the battle ground."
This fall, Hethcoat will be continuing his legal education at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he was awarded the prestigious Mitchell J. and Frances M. Wiet Fellowship in Health Law.
"Getting to see my dad rise up from student to a professional gave me a strong sense of humility," he said. "That's what guided me as a law student and I hope that stays with me."