DHMC hires United States Attorney for New Hampshire as chief legal officer

by Erin Lee | 4/14/15 8:44pm

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center named John Kacavas, United States Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, as its chief legal officer and general counsel, media relations manager Mike Barwell said. Kacavas will begin his position next week on April 20.

Kacavas has served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire since 2009 and was responsible for federal criminal prosecutions, civil litigation and federal law enforcement initiatives. During his tenure, he focused on child predators and cybercrime. Throughout his career, Kacavas has been a prosecutor in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and served as chief of the homicide unit, in addition to work in the Department of Justice and in private practice, DHMC reported.

In his position, Kacavas will oversee DHMC’s legal, government relations, risk management and claims management departments.

Katherine Hanna, attorney at Sheehan Phinney Bass and Green and chair of the firm’s health care practice group, said that at a healthcare system as large as DHMC, the role of chief legal counsel is the same as any general counsel at a large corporation.

“Hospitals and healthcare organizations have the same problems as corporations — issues of employment, taxes, hazardous waste and environmental issues, in addition to health care,” she said.

Dartmouth general counsel Robert Donin said that medical center general counsels have a diverse workload, spanning health care law, regulatory compliance, transactional matters and real estate. He said that Kacavas has extensive experience in both private practice and government service, with skills including substantive legal knowledge and strategic instincts.

Hanna said that a chief legal officer at a large organization needs to be a strong leader and be able to delegate matters to other lawyers on the team, though certain issues may be complex or important enough for him to deal with himself. She said working in the U.S. Attorney’s office, Kacavas gained experience leading a large staff and communicating with the public, and called Kacavas an “inspired choice.”

“Although he has not been steeped in healthcare law over his career, he has everything it takes to be a great healthcare lawyer,” she said.

Mark Howard, attorney at Howard and Ruoff, P.L.L.C., joined Kacavas and attorney Michael Ramsdell from 2006 to 2009 to form the firm Kacavas, Ramsdell and Howard, P.L.L.C. Howard said that Kacavas is a driven attorney who works hard for his clients, especially in public service.

“Positions in public service require the highest degree of integrity and honesty, and [Kacavas] has always delivered that,” he said. “The hospital is getting one of the most talented, brilliant and honest lawyers that our state has to offer.”

Ramsdell, who works at Ramsdell Law Firm, L.L.C., said that aside from Kacavas’ talent as a lawyer, he takes the time to understand the problem at hand and possesses a “tremendous amount of leadership.”

Howard said that Kacavas has a unique ability to both have a focused sense of an overall mission and incorporate and “give life” to other people’s opinions.

Kacavas’ appointment follows several employment discrimination lawsuits filed by dismissed residents against DHMC’s residency program. Four cases filed in 2013 involve alleged forms of discrimination or abuse that former residents claim are characteristic of an insular and exclusive program.

Former radiology resident Christyna Faulkner claimed that DHMC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against her diagnosed insomnia and eventually terminating her.

In another case, former resident Jennifer Connors claimed that she disclosed her diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder before her hiring, but was discharged based on her disability and DHMC’s failure to accommodate it.

Kimberly Troland is currently serving as Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s interim general counsel. Kacavas announced his resignation from the U.S. Attorney’s office on April 9.