The newest endeavor for Thomas A. Kelley III, professor of law and director of clinical programs at UNC School of Law, has been to explore the possibility of forming a medical-legal partnership at the Tabitha Medical Clinic in Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The clinic, which was established with the help of Carolina for Kibera, provides healthcare and HIV/AIDS counseling services to the residents of Kibera. A medical-legal partnership would place a local lawyer in the clinic to assist patients with medical-related legal issues.
"The legal issues that people identify there as being urgent are different; the overwhelming issue that everybody talks about is gender-based sexual violence. Addressing that violence would be one of the priorities of a lawyer if such a medical-legal partnership evolves," Kelley says.
Kelley first became involved in international law and development in Niger, studying the local legal systems and how citizens understood and interacted with their own legal system. Recently, Kelley and students in the Community Development Law Clinic, of which he serves as the faculty supervisor, became involved with Carolina for Kibera, an international, nongovernmental organization supporting grassroots community initiatives.
This summer, Kelley and Suzanne Maman, associate professor at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, traveled to Kibera to investigate the potential for establishing a medical-legal partnership at the Tabitha Clinic.
An important aspect of this partnership, according to Kelley, would be a research component, where a local researcher would survey patient-clients at the beginning of the program and throughout to determine whether or not such a partnership would be viable as an international model.
Kelley hopes to involve Carolina Law students in the project and believes that the medical-legal partnership would have great effects on the community in Kibera.
"There is a potential that it could have a much broader positive impact if the study component is done carefully,” notes Kelley. “It could become a model that could be implemented in other parts of Africa and across the world."
-September 29, 2011