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Greenburg Memories

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David J. Greenburg: Memories From Members


In 1971 David left the organization then called the American Society of Hospital Attorneys, one of the societies that was then a captive of the American Hospital Association. The late Jay Hedgepeth, a true character from Jackson MS, had just been hired as General Counsel for AHA and the AHA was looking for additional staff for Jay's office. One of the hires would write the Newsletter, run ASHA in addition to providing legal services for AHA.

David's departure from his position as Executive Director of ASHA was not a totally happy circumstance for him and he decided to start the American Health Lawyers Association, literally out of his kitchen.

I was David's successor, very young with no clue as to what health law was and even less idea as to how to run ASHA. I had one more staff than he did (my secretary) but he made up for that by working full time for AHLA. My secretary and I each devoted about 40% of our time to ASHA. That included the running of the annual meeting. My first was at The Broadmoor in 1972 and Cookie (my wife) and I ran the meeting. There was no money for staff. It killed David not to attend, but his advice was invaluable.

David and I met sometime in 1972. He was always helpful notwithstanding the fact that he viewed me as an interloper running what was really "his" organization. We communicated fairly often in those days - the then Board of Directors consisted of names like Jim Ludlam (still living I believe and a true prince), Jack Wood (another interesting fellow who few would describe as a prince, other names perhaps, but not prince), Nate Hershey, Denny Purtell, Ross Stromberg, the late Richard Epstein, the late Ed McEachen, the late Alvin Moore (from TN a true southern gentleman and just a wonderful human being) and many others.

After not very long, much to the unhappiness of some in AHA and others on the ASHA Board, David and I became friends. There was never a sense of competition on my end and none with me on his. David always enjoyed when some AHA executive and ASHA Board noses moved out of joint. We had a number of politically incorrect conversations.

We both just wanted to see where this train called healthcare law would go. We thought it would be a fun ride. It took me about 6 months to figure out that a decent health lawyer would be employed forever — this was a fascinating specialty and one that would provide no end of interesting work. It has.

The evolution of both ASHA and AHLA was interesting. We both faced some of the same issues, although David was much better at dealing with the many egos than I was (a trait that continues today). We would compare notes on who had the most unusual board and since the bar was small, continued to talk about some of the characters that populated the health law field for some time after I left AHA for the University of Chicago.

People gravitated to David and supported his organization because he "did it right" and was sincerely committed to the new professional called a health lawyer.

As happens much too often as lives move in various directions, David and I lost touch over the years, but would in the occasional meeting at one event or another, renew friendship. David cared. He ran "his" organization the right way for the right reasons. He was an honorable and decent man. David will be missed.
- Mark D. Olson

I first met David Greenburg in 1977, shortly after I joined what is now Ober Kaler. At that time, there were, if I recollect, just a couple of NHLA programs, the Tax Program and the Annual Meeting. David was always enthusiastic and always very complimentary, going out of his way to solicit one's opinions and envisioning opportunities for the health law bar to thrive and grow. He explained that he was instrumental in starting NHLA because he did not want to move to Chicago when the American Hospital Association consolidated its educational arms, including AAHA, in Chicago.

David paid a particular amount of attention to Len Homer and me. David was always looking to expand the programs for NHLA and he had the vision to know that health law education would be very large in the not too distant future. Len Homer and I encountered David in attendance at the Washington Hilton to hear Joseph Califano speak on "Fraud, Abuse and Waste", shortly after the original Health Care Fraud Bill (PL 95-142) was passed by Congress in 1977. It was at that conference that Len and I convinced David to consider having the NHLA begin sponsoring a Medicare Conference. David indicated that we would have to include the AHA group because if we did not, AAHA would start a rival conference. David kept saying "Do you think it will attract people?" David also insisted that government and intermediary employees should attend by offering them free tuition/speaker slots in order that there would be a "free exchange of ideas" without posturing or a spin which sometimes happens when only lawyers advance positions.

While the rest is history, I endorse the other tributes that some members of the health law bar have given David in the January 2008 issue of Health Lawyers News. David was always a gentleman, always an optimist and always enthusiastic about NHLA/AHLA and the lawyers that comprised its membership. He went out of his way to introduce people to each other, to try to create networking opportunities among the health care bar and to promote young lawyers. To me, David kept saying "you are one of the experts in reimbursement" even though we both knew that was an embellishment. He cared for his organization, its members and the world. I could not be more fortunate to have met and interacted with David Greenburg. In November 2007, and probably for the rest of my life, I mourn his passing and honor his memory.
- Charles MacKelvie

As I reflect on the memories of David J. Greenburg, "DG" or "Mr. G" as I sometimes playfully called him, a famous quote from Vince Lombardi comes to mind; "The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." In this case, DG chose to pursue the practice of health law, a field that he pursued with a great deal of passion and self-fulfillment. As a direct result of his passion to the field of health law, he formed NHLA, now called AHLA. The good qualities that DG displayed did not come just from education or knowledge; they evolved from his experiences, which built and developed his character. It was through his compassion, devotion, foresight and vision that DG achieved the highest peak and deepest reach of success.

My first encounter with DG dates back nearly twenty years, when I was hired by him to join what was then a staff that I could literally count on both hands. Because of DG’s friendly and easy demeanor, it was one of the most comfortable and pleasant interviews I had ever experienced. Of course, my answer to his offer was, "yes." My fond memories of being employed under the creator, founder, Executive Director, and "God-Father" of NHLA are countless. Even after his retirement, and my continued employment here at AHLA, DG kept in constant contact with me each month. I will truly miss his inquiring mind, laugher and many questions. Our relationship went from me being “one of the girls” he hired way back, to becoming a dear friend

I feel that DG is looking down at us from heaven with the peace of mind and self-satisfaction of knowing he did his utmost to become the best in his endeavors, and that it’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.

He will continue forever in a world more beautiful than our words can describe. His life and fond memories will be an eternal and meaningful part of the lives of those he touched. His spirit and dedication will continue to shine among us as will his legacy. And in honor of the life that was lived well by a gentle, good-hearted, caring, committed and genuine human being, I wish him forever peace.

As one of the last "Mohicans," you hired DG, I will always have you in my thoughts and prayers.
- Carine Brice, AHLA

David Greenburg will always be "Mr. Greenburg" or "Mr. G." to me. I went to NHLA as a temp, not looking for a "real job" because I was headed for a trip to England but Mr. Greenburg liked me enough to hire me anyway.

Working for Mr. G. was one of the highlights of my work career. He was so kind to me and believed in my potential enough to move me up from his executive assistant to Membership Services Manager. I remember going to my very first embassy function with him with as much fondness as I recall picking up his dry cleaning. We had so many wonderful conversations before I left, with very mixed emotions, to raise my two young children.

I will always remember Mr. G. driving to Boston for my wedding, and buying a stuffed puppy for my baby that ended up being her very favorite toy for years. When I visited from Florida, he drove my girls and I around on a wonderful tour of the monuments, waiting in the car as we hopped out of prime parking spots all over the city before we went back to his charmingly cluttered apartment for cream sodas.

Mr. G. was one of the kindest men and by far the best boss I have ever had. Knowing him made me a better and more confident human being. I will miss him very much.
- Sharyn (Finkel) Lonsdale

David was "present at the creation" ( and for all the years thereafter) of my health care regulatory career and he was largely responsibility for it.Iin 1973 he guided me through the National Health Lawyers "side-door" that opened up to a path ( 1968-1973) that connected my early years as a labor lawyer, for health care management, to an expanded role as a health care regulatory lawyer for health care hospitals, nursing homes and physician group providers as well. It was David's guidance and encouragement that helped me to participate , first, as an attendee in 1973 at one of the original NHLA programs. Thereafter I seved as a speaker at the "NHLA Nursing Home Program", and I served later as a speaker at many of the other NHLA and AHLA programs in the years thereafteras my practice became diversified. (The first NHLA program I attended in San Diego in 1973 had 75 attendees, and many were David's health care government regulator friends.).

David had great foresight and judgment and he sensed the development of the educational needs of health care lawyers and he devised ways to meet those needs as the regulatory climate continually changed. David understood the art of quiet , suggestive, leadership. Although his wisdom was not necessary to display with the political charisma and dominance that other more outwardly assertve lawyers always seek to employ, David laid the mantle of his objectives and aspirations on the shoulders of his colleagues and friends who later became NHLA, AAHA, and AHLA leaders.

David was directly responsible for the growth of my health care practice and my devotion to AHLA for over 35 years of my health care lawyer career. I never lost sight of my gratitude and respect for David's contributions. I owe the opportunity to serve as an NHLA and AHLA Director ,and now as a Fellow, entirely fo David and his gentle touch and his wonderful kindness. David's presence as the conscience of our fellowship will always be missed.
- Stephen E. Ronai

I had the privilege of interviewing David J. Greenburg to reconstruct the history of the American Academy of Healthcare Attorneys (Academy) and the National Health Lawyers Association (NHLA), the predecessor organizations to Health Lawyers last spring in conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration of our organization. David served as the first Executive Director of the Academy as well as the first Executive Director of NHLA. During our conversation, David reinforced the notion that these associations began because attorneys practicing health law needed a forum in which to communicate to exchange information and ideas about the legal issues related to emerging healthcare delivery models. In implementing this concept, David brought a passionate dedication to quality, a willingness to do whatever it took to make these associations successful, and an entrepreneurial spirit to develop these organizations without dedicated cash flow including funds to cover his own salary. Today, this "forum to communicate" is comprised of over 10,000 members and is the largest bar association dedicated exclusively to educating its members about health law. David's greatest legacy, however, is creating a "forum to communicate" that not only meaningfully enhances the practice of health law, but also encourages the development of life-long friendships. The health law bar has been shaped immeasurably by David's tireless commitment to furthering our vision of "leading health law to excellence through education, information, and dialogue," and he will be greatly missed.
- Elisabeth Belmont

I met David after he left the hospital attorneys association. Recognizing his rare talent and expertise in health law, I hired him as a consultant. After a couple of very successful conferences and because of his brilliance and assiduous work ethic coupled with a rare knowledge and experience, the National Health Lawyers [Association] was formed. David assembled the best legal minds from the field and the result was a large vibrant and influential organization. Those who knew him and his work attest to his impact on the field. It was an honor to have known and worked with him.
- James Doherty, Sr.

I worked very closely with David at NHLA while I was in night law school in the early 80s. He always gave me time off to study and encouraged me to stick with it when the inevitable law school doldrums kicked in. I might not be a lawyer today if not for his generosity and support. His efforts on behalf of the organization were indefatigable. He was relentless about recruiting speakers for programs and attendees, people to be on the Board or its committees, writers for the Health Law Digest, etc. At every meeting, he had a wad of brochures for the next several meetings stuffed in his pocket and would buttonhole everyone he saw. He was a hard man to say "no" to.

When someone at the IRS once got the mistaken idea that the non-profit NHLA actually owed some taxes, nothing that that he could do would get the agent to back off. Finally, he was reduced to shouting "you're a stupid jerk!" into the phone and hanging up. This is the worst thing that I ever heard him say. I think there is no lower form of human life than someone that the always gentle and gracious David would call a stupid jerk.

A lawyer came in on the train from New York one morning to meet with David and brought a big fresh bag of real New York bagels as a gift. David was so delighted that he closed the office and took the entire staff upstairs to his condo so that we could all experience what a REAL bagel tasted like.

David liked to sprout plants from things in his groceries. He had an avocado plant that he grew from a pit that reached to his ceiling. One morning he called down to the office very excited and asked the staff to come up to his place right away. We were all a little worried that something was wrong, but he was just standing there all excited that a baby pineapple was actually sprouting on a pineapple plant that he had grown.

As a result of his polio, David wore a brace that would always make the metal detectors at the airport go off. I was with him many times on the way to NHLA meetings when he would be pulled out of line and publicly searched with the wand and everyone would turn to stare at the unusual-looking little man. I know that this really bothered him personally but David had so much character and was so used to professionally ignoring his disability that he just withstood the indignity with grace and moved on. He had work to do and no time for stupid jerks.

David was a one-man career counseling and attorney placement service. I cannot count the number of lawyers who sought him out by telephone or in person just to talk about health law and ask for his advice. One of the brilliant things about David was that he always took time to ask these lawyers to talk about their own practices and any hot button areas that he might be able to use as part of a program. He was all NHLA, all the time. Thank you, David.
- James F. Doherty, Jr.

I sat with David for the first time in 1978 at the Tax Program and he was gracious even then with his career guidance for a second year associate trying to make sense of where to get started. For David that logical point of entry was the Association and he would try in any way possible to get everyone he came in contact with interested in the power of collective effort. He was worldly but as down to earth as they come. He was a big thinker but not in the least aloof; he would listen to those who wanted to advance their personal interests and drove the discussion back to what good one could bring to the association. He stood his ground on principle and at the same time would bend when needed to make things better for those who needed it most. I liked him from the day I met him. In a sense, he was intimidating while welcoming. When I came calling on him at the condo out of which he grew the NHLA, he proudly shared his love for the profession and what he had been able to achieve over a short period of time. I saw the mention of the size of the NHLA when he stepped down, 700, and now close to 10,000. I hope this gave him great pride to the end. Few could have accomplished what he did. To have earned the award bearing his name is my finest professional moment. It stands for the man and his loyalty, grace, foresight, and perseverance. What a leader. We were all lucky to know him and participate in what he created.
- Michael F. Anthony, P.C.

David Greenburg, with whom I was privileged to be friends for more than thirty years, was a dedicated member of the Advisory Council of the Washington Institute for Israel Health Policy Research. He had a life-long affection for Israel and was a wise and active counsel to me and the Washington Institute since its inception nearly fifteen years ago. We shall miss David immensely, as we mourn his passing.
- Warren Greenberg

When I first joined the National Health Lawyers Association (NHLA), David was its Executive Director. From the first time I met him at my initial in-person CLE program, we became fast friends. And like any true friend, David carefully and graciously maneuvered me through my first years as a full-fledged health lawyer. He was a magnet of knowledge attracting you to him to gain from his own experience and innate wisdom the information and strategy needed to become successful as a professional. His encouragement led me to apply for a position on the NHLA Board of Directors. As a Board member when the NHLA and the Academy both began and completed their merger into the AHLA, it was immediately evident that the one individual who transcended both organizations was David. If a corporate "person" can lose a good friend, AHLA has just suffered that loss. I hope that his generous spirit continues to suffuse the AHLA to allow it to continue to be the warm, caring and open corporate "person" that it is.
- Harvey Tettlebaum

As with so many others, David gave me my first job!! It seems ages ago that I began working at NHLA, first answering phones, then working on the educational programs, some of which are still going strong! David gave the people who worked for him the freedom to help grow NHLA from a small association to the large one that it has become. On our many trips around the country, David was a great traveling companion, always ready to share all the details about the airplane we were flying on. Even after I left NHLA to begin a new career, David always kept in touch, calling me frequently to reminisce about old times! David, I want you to know that I finally did become principal of the elementary school where I have been working since I left NHLA. Thank you for your continued encouragement!!
- Bonnie Glazewski

David Greenburg defined the field of health law. The highest honor a health lawyer can receive in his or her career is the David R. Greenburg Award — the health law Heisman. Like its football counterpart, the Greenburg Award will honor its namesake for generations to come. Those of us who were privileged to receive this award are equally privileged to be associated with Mr. Greenburg.
- Richard G. Cowart, AHLA President 2004-2005, Greenburg Award Recipient 2007

David Greenburg liked people, and people liked David. Someone who never met David would call NHLA asking a simple question. David would start talking with the person, and NHLA suddenly had a new leader who would plan programs, give speeches, and become a Board member. He had a way about him that drew you into him as a person and to his passion, the NHLA. He always wanted the spotlight to shine on someone else, and never had a mean thing to say about anyone. He knew everyone, and so many of us became involved in the Association because it was David who made it clear that all were welcome. David was a very warm human being, and his death will affect so many of us in a very visceral way.

Today, AHLA has lawyers from government, firms, in house, and other areas because David wanted all all-inclusive Association and reached out to make it so. David was not interested in fame or influence. He was interested in an organization that could be of value to its members and to the society as a whole. We will not see the likes of David Greenburg again. He will be missed.
- Alan Bloom

David Greenburg was a passionate person. He cared about his work and about other people. I will never forget our working relationship at the National Health Lawyers Association and how dedicated David was to the mission of that organization. Over the years David met many people and I am sure they are all thinking about what a great human being he was. Please accept our condolences and our gratitude and our admiration for a wonderful person.
- Mike Bromberg

As a past recipient of the David J. Greenburg award, I am more than saddened by David's passing. I first met David when I was a law student, clerking for my now partner and long time friend Joel Michaels. NHLA's offices were then in David's condominium, a few shorts blocks from GW Law School, which I attended. At least once a week, Joel would send me scampering over to David's to deliver health law case summaries which he had prepared for NHLA. Knowing of my interest in health law, each visit David would take time to talk and always share a few words of encouragement. For David loved the law and he loved health lawyers, and he certainly was not going to pass up the chance to influence and guide a health lawyer rookie in the making. David was a good soul, whose time on this earth brought a sense of learning and sharing to all whose paths he crossed. The health law bar has lost one its first and foremost legends. It is now for us to carry on David's legacy and to pray that he will rest for eternity in peace.
- Gary Davis

David was one of the most caring and concerned executive directors you could ever imagine. He always had time to talk to you about your concerns, personal or business. He was our secret weapon in the early days, as he worked night and day and really took the NHLA to heart. In fact, his plant-filled apartment was our original office. I guess you could say he would bleed health law. He was helpful to me and to the many callers he managed. He arranged for people to get the information they needed and he helped many people join and become active in the organization. I don't think we'd have had the success we had without David's attention to all the details of arranging meetings, getting out newsletters and building membership. In addition to the association work, I valued David as a friend. I started missing him when he retired, and I am glad he was able to get years rest after all the work he did and aggravation we must have caused over the early formative years of the organization.
- Michael Tichon

David's love for the Association was deep and devout. Always strong and courageous, he worked tirelessly to create an organization of practical value to health lawyers. In building the organization, he nurtured many lawyers and inspired in them a lasting loyalty. Their loyalty to the Association is his greatest legacy and is an honor to his memory.
- Marilou King

David Greenburg was an extraordinary man. He so gallantly endured the late effects of polio. I think I have a better glimpse than most of the enormity of his physical burden because of my own experience, but none of us can walk in his shoes. Few people could have kept standing and charging forth as a leader in his field, given the physical challenges he faced every moment of every day. He did it so well and we all owe him an enormous debt.
- J. Kay Felt

My wife Sharon and I mourn the passing of David Greenburg. I first met David in 1977 after graduating from law school, and we became very good friends when I moved to Washington, D.C. early in 1978. I remember frequently "shooting the breeze" with David; our conversations always included what was happening at NHLA. When I dialed his "home" phone number (which I have never forgotten was (202) 833-1100, because I called it so often), I was also dialing NHLA, because the phone numbers were the same, and rang at both the NHLA offices and also upstairs at David's condominium.

Some of my favorite memories of David include the following:

- When I found a "good buy" on a VCR shortly after they first hit the market, David and I went to the store (a nondescript tiny long since forgotten small business) where we each bought our first VCR.
- At NHLA conferences which I attended, I would frequently spend some time sitting behind the Registration Desk and keep David company (again shooting the breeze and talking about NHLA).
- David flew cross country to Los Angeles to be the Best Man at my wedding almost 23 years ago; Sharon and I will remember David each time we look at our wedding album which has a great picture of David toasting us.

At the annual dinner of the NHLA Board of Directors (on which I proudly served from 1987 to 1993), David was honored with the first annual David J. Greenburg Award. I was please to take my turn to toast David that evening. I will never forget that immediately after I concluded the toast by reciting to David the English of the biblical priestly three-fold blessing, Alan Bloom (past president ) loudly shouted at me, "Mazel Tov, rabbi!"

In the years since David retired from Health Lawyers, we would speak usually on a monthly basis; each time he would quiz me on what was going on at Health Lawyers. He never lost interest. Although he would not expressly admit it, I am certain that David missed his involvement in Health Lawyers and hearing from the lawyers whom he had befriended over the many years.

David Greenburg, of blessed memory, we were honored by your friendship in life and greatly saddened by your death; we will love you in our hearts forever.
- Michael Roth, Sharon Roth

That David took the notion of a health lawyers association, and from his own home, turned it into something that got us to the position we are in today was a testament to vision, tenacity, and complete undauntedness. These are all values I would like to believe I share. I was given the David J. Greenburg award by Sandy Teplitzky who managed the whole affair as if he were in the CIA. He asked me to be his date for the board dinner to be sure he would be entertained. Asked for suggestions as to who should get the award, ("who has done the most for health law this year?") I had suggested Hillary Clinton whose failed plan kept us all up at night at late meetings and at early morning ones. I had spent my year as president focused on making sure the organization had a mission statement that had the word 'excellence' or 'quality' in it, and getting its first strategic plan in place. Both had happened and that alone would have made me happy. When Sandy announced my name, I was dumbstruck and speechless (hard to believe, I know). I was completely honored to be recognized for those essential qualities David had demonstrated so clearly.

By the way, when I was President I gave the award to Tom Fox, for his work in bringing the public interest activities in their then iteration, to fruition for all the same reasons.
- Alice Gosfield

I was saddened to learn of the passing of David Greenburg who played such a key role in the founding and development of what is today the American Health Lawyers Association. David understood where health care was going and knew the value an association would have to lawyers who serviced that industry on a regular basis. Apart from his insights and perspectives on what we now know as "health law," David was also a friend to so many of us. When I left the firm I was with in 1978 to start my own practice, David befriended me and helped me get started. He hired me to do health law case summaries for the Health Law Digest at the rate of $10 per case. Without clients and an uncertain future, I appreciated the opportunity to stay connected with the field by doing the summaries. It was one of the few reliable sources of revenue I had at that time. He also worked with various program chairmen to provide me with speaking opportunities at the association's conferences. These opportunities became a key building block to the development of my practice, as I began to network with other health care lawyers in the field and as my own presentation skills gradually improved. Many years later, when my practice was more established, David would occasionally greet me at the AHLA programs by shouting out "Mr. Michaels, I have some case summaries for you to do." I would respond by telling him that my rates had gone up, and we both would have a good laugh. I am sure that my story parallels others who had the pleasure to work with David- the health law profession will truly miss him, and I will never forget his kindness and support.
- Joel L. Michaels

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