Expert Interview: Joseph P. McMenamin, MD, JD, FCLM

Special Report I


Issue9_April 2016





Please introduce your current profession in the clinical and/or non-clinical setting. What experiences have motivated you to pursue your current profession?


I have two businesses: a law practice, and a consultancy. Both focus on medicolegal topics. I became a doctor because human life is my highest value, and in no other profession is it so directly served.


I became a lawyer for three main reasons. First, even in med school, and certainly in residency, I became concerned about the profession’s non-clinical burdens. Even then, doctors had to devote considerable time and energy to reimbursement, tort claim risk, and other innervating but necessary matters. I anticipated that the trend would continue, and probably accelerate. Unfortunately, this prediction proved to be accurate. Second, I developed a still-growing intellectual interest in questions arising where the fields overlap. Medicolegal issues are complex, but for me, endlessly fascinating. Third, and perhaps most important, I felt I could more effectively utilize whatever talents I might have through the practice of law, especially those branches pertaining to healthcare, than I could through the practice of medicine.


What I decided on would not be for everyone, but thirty years on I am glad I pursued the law.


What are the pros and cons of being a physician trained lawyer?


Pros: I am bilingual in law and medicine. A lot of what I do is akin to translation: helping physicians understand the law, and helping lawyers understand medicine. I empathize with providers, even those trained in fields I never entered, because the similarities among the disciplines, especially their shared philosophies, outweigh the distinctions. And, without exposing patients to risk, I get the chance to learn about developments in almost every branch of medicine.


Cons: Clients sometimes assume I do not need their help to learn about their diagnostic and therapeutic methods. My training was confined to internal medicine, so in most medical disciplines, of course, I have no specialty training at all. Even in medicine, I am thirty years removed from clinical care. Whatever branch of healthcare a particular matter implicates, I still need instruction and insight from those who care for patents, and those who develop medicines and devices.


You are collaborating with W Medical Strategy Group as an executive and an expert. We recognized that you’ve received the 2016 WMSG Contribution Award as well. What is your current and past relationship with W Medical Strategy Group and other Korean healthcare communities and/or organizations?


I am privileged to serve as counsel to WMSG and as its EVP. As a result, I have had the good fortune to meet, work with, and learn from some outstanding Korean healthcare leaders, both here and, on three occasions now, in Seoul. Among them have been academicians, private practitioners and medical scientists, including entrepreneurs fairly bursting with energy and ideas. Exposure to so many bright and highly-trained individuals has been enlightening.


I also serve the World Korean Medical Organization, representing physicians throughout the Korean diaspora in virtually every specialty. Founded by Dr. Chul Hyun, and currently under the leadership of Dr. David Ko, WKMO provides a forum for scientific and cultural exchange, and a platform for advancing public health goals, such as hepatitis control.


Most recently I have had the great honor to counsel a Korean pharmaceutical company with respect to the U.S. clinical trials law, helping to manage the associated risks.


Since you have represented multiple healthcare companies, what would you say are the top three priority assets or skill sets needed to be a successful company in the healthcare industry?


First, an emphasis on quality. A company that demands of its personnel their best efforts, and that insists that its products meet or exceed marketplace expectations, will not only improve patient health, but will achieve its business objectives as well. A good reputation earned in this way will also provide better insulation from unfairly broad criticisms recently leveled at the industry’s commercial practices.


Second, an ability to adapt. For more than a century, change has been a given in the life sciences. What is exceptional about today, however, is the rate of change. Technological achievements nearly unimaginable a generation ago become obsolete in a matter of years now, and are replaced by still newer technologies that at times seem like science fiction. Companies have to be exceedingly agile and adroit to spot changes early, assess their significance, and pivot as needed to adapt to new challenges.


Third, a focus on the big picture. Too often, companies concentrate on hitting their numbers for the present quarter, or the one to come, rather than thinking about the company’s position 5 and 50 years hence. Investor pressures make this understandable, but long-term value depends on longterm scientific progress and fiscal health.


The healthcare industry is one of the most unique fields where collaboration among multiple entities is a ‘must’. What would be your advice to companies in maintaining effective and long lasting relationships with partners including consultants and other service providers?

Dr. Joseph P. McMenamin paneling at the New York Health Forum

To make the most of the skills and knowledge of service providers, a company should require them to develop a deep, broad understanding of its culture, personnel, goals, and challenges. An onsite visit, or perhaps several, especially with large, complex organizations, is ideal. Interviews with the leadership team and with employees whose roles are most directly pertinent to the project will help the consultant to understand the company better, which should in turn result in better “diagnoses” and “treatments” for the issue(s) to be addressed. Within reason, service providers ought to be willing to take the time to achieve this improved understanding at no or reduced fees, to build a collaborative foundation, to improve the quality of the consultant’s services, and in anticipation that this investment of time and energy will bring mutual benefit. Experience, expertise, and a sound work ethic are invaluable as well, but nothing can replace a thorough grasp of the client’s business for enhancing the likelihood that engaging with a service provider will yield abundant fruit.


WKMJ has readers from over 10 countries globally. Please share your final words or thoughts with our readers.


By no means am I am a scholar of Korean history. I am highly conscious, however, of its struggles in the 20th Century. Korea was occupied and dominated by a foreign power for decades before and during WWII. At its end, the peninsula was divided to forestall Soviet occupation of its entire land mass. Only a few years after V-J Day, war erupted in the country, causing yet more death and destruction. After such prolonged trauma, the prognosis for peace and prosperity must have seemed meager. Yet in fields such as shipbuilding, car manufacturing, and electronics, the Koreans have achieved astonishing success over a comparatively short time, all while building a stable democracy. The country has now set its sights on the life sciences, and I am confident it will achieve comparable results there as well.




Joseph P. McMenamin, MD, JD, FCLM

EVP, W Medical Strategy Group

Principal, McMenamin Law Office


Joe McMenamin is General Counsel and EVP at W Medical Strategy Group, as well as the Principal at McMenamin Law Offices. Before starting his own firm, Joe was a litigation partner at McGuireWoods LLP. He earned his MD at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine and trained in internal medicine at Emory University. He earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Law and is admitted in Virginia. Joe is a Fellow of the College of Legal Medicine and an Associate Professor in the Department of Legal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University

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