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‘Education in Medical Malpractice’ Spotlight will Unite Doctors, Lawyers

Second Annual Lawrence Educational Symposium is May 8, 9

Friday, April 26, 2013

As the nation wrestles to advance health care reform, medical malpractice is proving a hot-button issue, contributing to climbing health insurance costs.

Doctors and lawyers will get talking on the thorny subject of medical malpractice at the second annual Lawrence Educational Symposium on Wednesday, May 8, and Thursday, May 9. The two-day symposium, organized by the Physicians and Attorneys Cooperative Education program and supported by the Lawrence Education Fund and the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Anesthesiology, will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Saunders Research Building (265 Crittenden Boulevard), and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Monroe County Hall of Justice, at 99 Exchange Boulevard.

As the nation wrestles to advance health care reform, medical malpractice is proving a hot-button issue, contributing to climbing health insurance costs. This symposium was conceived of with the aim of opening the lines of communication between doctors and lawyers outside of the courtroom, providing doctors with more clarity on medical malpractice, and perhaps even preempting their involvement in a case. In the absence of actual litigation, the symposium presents a rare opportunity for the medical and legal communities to educate each other.

“Tort reform in New York State is not happening in the near future,” said Suzanne Karan, M.D., associate professor and vice chair of education for URMC’s Department of Anesthesiology, and co-founder of PACE. “The medical malpractice system is particularly broken in New York State. There aren’t good checks and balances to the process of suing and bringing a case.”

Wednesday’s cocktail hour will culminate in a panel discussion featuring Karan; Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., URMC professor of Pediatrics, Neonatology, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Rochester’s own Hon. Matthew W. Rosenbaum; and Spencer Studwell, Esq., University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital and Strong Health associate vice president for Risk Management and Senior Counsel. Of interest, the fifth and final guest panelist, New York City-based Hon. Ann Pfau, held the position of Chief Administrative Judge of all New York State courts from 2007 to 2011, stepping down to serve as statewide coordinating judge of the UCS Medical Malpractice Matters program.

On Thursday, a real court case (stripped of identifying information), in a mock courtroom setting, will serve as the launching point for conversations regarding key medical and legal issues. Defense and plaintiff’s lawyers, along with judges and relevant medical faculty, will provide the expertise for a mock deposition and a mock trial, where program participants will play key roles (i.e., plaintiff, expert witness).

PACE was launched in 2010 by both Karan and Judge Matthew Rosenbaum, and has been running programs annually at both the medical center and in the courthouse. 

“I'm delighted to bring together two important professions within our community for better cooperation and understanding,” Rosenbaum said. “The more dialogue between doctors and lawyers, the better it is for society.”

The Lawrence Educational Fund was created in honor of Robert M. Lawrence, M.D., the first anesthesiology resident at the University of Rochester. Panelist Ruth Lawrence, his wife, initiated the fund to remember him as a knowledgeable and dedicated teacher, as well as a compassionate and competent physician who upheld the highest personal ethical standards.

The symposium is open to URMC medical students, fellows, faculty, and residents, and to lawyers and judges from the community. Registration is required for both the evening and the daytime parts of the symposium. CME credit and MCIC medical malpractice premium reduction are available for medical faculty registrants. To register, visit by May 1. Contact Eva Weissman at with requests and/or questions.

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