Clifford Barnes is a member of the firm in the health care and life sciences practice at Epstein Becker & Green in the firm’s Washington and New York offices. Barnes is also co-chair of EBG’s health plan compliance group, and has been with the firm for 35 years.
In his youth, however, Barnes never imagined practicing health care law; he thought he would become an aviation mechanic. What changed the trajectory of his life was his admission into the U.S. Department of Education’s Upward Bound college preparatory program in 1965.
Ten years later, Barnes graduated from Cornell University with a master’s degree in health care administration and began his professional career as the executive assistant for Dr. Lowell Bellin, the Commissioner of Health in New York City.
Bellin, as a mentor, encouraged Barnes to further his career in health care law. By 1981, he received his J.D. degree from the University of Virginia. Afterwards, Barnes continued on to become the first African-American to earn the title of partner at Epstein Becker & Green.
Now, Barnes works in areas that he calls “passion projects.” For his current project, he’s working with health care coalitions, providers, and payers to enable an electronic health care record exchange across all states. It’s a lengthy process, as confidentiality rules require a patient’s consent.
His hope is to expedite electronic health care record exchange because delays in exchanging data have a negative effect on the patient’s well-being. Standardizing the laws for transfer of these records across state lines would lessen delays, and could help avoid death and other negative outcomes.
“Physical and mental health of a patient is really important for care coordination,” he said.
Barnes believes that health care is constantly developing.
“Health care in itself is an economic engine because it’s not going anywhere and everyone needs access to health care all the time,” he said.
Quality leadership, for Barnes, “starts with integrity.” Beyond that, he believes leaders should be receptive to what other people say, but not over-reactive in times of stress or frustration.
“Leadership is about being an example through (one’s) actions and realizing what (one) says or does is congregate. In other words, I model the behavior other people would want to engage in so that people will see me as an example of who they want to become.”