Nathan Hershey Scholars

Remembering a Health Law Pioneer

Nathan HersheyNathan “Nat” Hershey’s death marked the passing of an era at the University of Pittsburgh. An intellectual force and superb teacher during decades of services at Pitt, Hershey died on April 15, 2017, in Austin, Texas, due to complications from a fall. He was 86.

Hershey played an integral role in founding the modern-day field of health law, which regulates what is now the nation’s largest industry. After earning a JD from Harvard Law School in 1953, Hershey served in the Army as well as at a New York law firm. He joined Pitt as an assistant research professor of health law in 1958, and in 1968, was named director of the health law training program. He was appointed professor of health law in the Department of Health Policy and Management in 1971.

Hershey coauthored the Hospital Law Manual, which for more than 40 years has been the definitive guide to the legal responsibilities and liabilities of health care providers. It was the first codification of health policy law and ultimately would form a critical part of what is today the LexisNexis database, the world’s largest electronic database for legal and public-records-related information.

Among his many publications were Hospital Law ManualHuman Experimentation and the Law (1976) and Hospital-Physician Relationships: Case Studies and Commentaries on Medical Staff Problems (1982). Hershey also was an elected member of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.

Pitt Public Health alumni who were fortunate enough to count themselves among Hershey’s many students remember him as larger than life and an outstanding teacher. “We were absolutely in awe—our teacher was the guy who created the health law field,” said Mike Evans (HPM ’80), managing principal of Revenue Cycle Solutions LLC. “He was a brilliant, great teacher.”

Becky Surma (HPM ’81), a member of Pitt Public Health’s Board of Visitors, echoed that sentiment. “All of us have teachers that we remember very fondly who make a difference in our lives. Nat was one of those,” she said. “He really challenged every one of us to think outside the box, to not be complacent, to say ‘Let’s examine this from all sides.’ He was very demanding, very challenging.”

Hershey earned a reputation not only as a valued and dedicated professor but as a force at the highest levels of faculty administration at Pitt, serving on the University Senate for 20 years. He spent the maximum three terms each as vice president and president and—never afraid to be a “thorn in the side” of University leadership when it came to faculty concerns—championed the Senate’s role as an equal partner in campus decisions.

“He was a giant on campus because he was willing to stand up for the faculty,” said Eleanor Feingold, senior associate dean. “Whatever issue was contentious on campus, Nat was out there making sure the leadership knew how the faculty felt about it.”

Nathan Hershey Scholarships

Natasha Shah (MHA ’24)

Natasha Shah

Katie Wallace (MHA ’24)

Katie Wallace

Noah Lohman (MHA ’24)

Noah Lohman

James Gray (MHA ’25)

James Gray

Past Hershey Awardees

Molly Shiflet (HPM '19)

Molly Shiflet

“From a very young age I knew I wanted to pursue a career in service and helping others, says Molly Shiflet. “The field of public health seemed like a perfect fit.”

Now an MPH candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt Public Health, Shiflet credits her parents, both military veterans, with demonstrating purpose and fulfillment through serving their country as well as instilling in her a sense of duty to use her knowledge and skills to help others. She enrolled at Clemson University with an “undeclared” major, but decided on health science with a concentration in health services administration after taking an introductory public health course her freshman year.

When the time came to look at graduate schools, Shiflet says she immediately was drawn to Pitt Public Health for its strong national reputation and “seemingly endless” opportunities for students. “However, I had never been to Pittsburgh, and my only knowledge of the city was the common misconception of its being ‘a dirty old steel town,’” she says. Purely by chance, her sister decided to run the Pittsburgh Marathon, and Shiflet went along to support her. “I instantly fell in love with the city, and I knew that Pitt Public Health was where I wanted to be!”

This past summer, Shiflet completed an internship in Barcelona, Spain, where she was able to see the inner workings of a health care system drastically different from that of the United States while gaining a deeper understanding of another culture. She says as a student at Pitt Public Health, she hopes to take full advantage of the wide variety of practicums and residencies, research positions, and volunteer opportunities available to students to help her to narrow down her specific career aspirations.

“My primary goal is gain the knowledge and skills that will enable me to make valuable contributions towards improving the overall health of my community,” she says. “The supportive network of alumni, faculty, and current students here at Pitt will definitely empower and enable me to do just that.  

“I decided to pursue an MPH largely because of the career versatility that comes along with it. Whether I decide I want to be advocating public health policy, running a nonprofit, or managing a health care organization, I know I can use my MPH degree to get me there.”

Manasa Pallapolu (MHA '19)

Manasa Pallapolu

Manasa Pallapolu discovered she had an interest in health care administration while on the pre-med path at Drexel University. After graduation, the Fairfax, Va., native worked as the head of medical billing at a psychiatric office, where she was exposed to “a completely different side of health care.” She decided to return to school to pursue a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree.

“I wanted an established program with an extended residency component,” she says. “I wanted to go to a school that had strong connections to a top hospital network or insurance company. When I was looking at where alumni ended up in their careers, I knew [the MHA program at Pitt Public Health] would be a good program for me.” 

Pallapolu already has benefited from the Department of Health Policy and Management’s widespread connections with major health care organizations like UPMC. During her first week in the program, she and her classmates met with top administrators at UPMC Presbyterian hospital, who took time out of their busy schedules to talk with them and give them a tour. Through her extended residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, she is able to spend 18 months working on various projects side-by-side with top executives like Nick Barcellona, vice president and chief financial officer of Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.

“The fact that this administrator is willing to act as my preceptor and guide me through the residency is amazing,” says Pallapolu. “I have friends in other MPH/MHA programs throughout the country, and they do not nearly have the experience that we have access to. A lot of other programs do not have the extended residency or it is unpaid and is the equivalent of a college internship. At Pitt, I am getting the best experience possible, and I am treated as another member of the team and not like a student.”

Pallapolu appreciates the relevancy of her course work—that she can immediately apply what she’s learning to her residency—as well as the open dialogue students enjoy with faculty members like Associate Professor Kevin Broom through monthly roundtable discussions that address problems and “hot topics” in the program. She also loves her new city and says she was surprised by how nice Pittsburghers are, how excited they get when they find out she’s a Pitt student, and how safe and comfortable she feels.

Upon graduation, Pallapolu hopes to complete a fellowship or go into health care consulting and take advantage of HPM’s vast alumni network. “The program has set me up with great mentors that have experience with fellowships and consulting positions,” she says. “I know I have a point person to answer all of my questions in those respective companies and career paths.”