Healthy Direction

Charmaine Chiu looks out for hospitals’ well-being

Published in 2010 Florida Rising Stars — June 2010

Growing up with a pediatrician dad—now the chair of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville—Charmaine Chiu witnessed firsthand the bustling internal affairs of a hospital.

Now she represents hospitals and is still intrigued. “It’s absolutely fascinating,” she says. “It’s a huge organization that takes an enormous amount of teamwork to pull off anything that they do, and they work miracles every day.”

While her sister followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming a family practitioner, Chiu went the legal route: defending hospitals and health-care systems.

“We figured, with everybody else in the family being a physician, somebody needed to watch out for their interests,” says Chiu with a chuckle. The 35-year-old is a shareholder at Smith Hulsey & Busey in Jacksonville, where she’s been practicing since graduating law school at the University of Norte Dame a decade ago.

For confidentiality reasons, she doesn’t discuss her legal cases with her father and sister. But chatting about health-care topics over dinner gives her a good perspective on how her behind-the-scenes legal work affects individual doctors.

Her firm represents some of the biggest health-care entities in Northeastern Florida. Chiu assists them with deals, transactions, joint ventures and issues with physicians. “People may never see what we do, but a lot of what we do affects what is available at the hospitals in terms of services,” says Chiu. The healthier the finances, the better a hospital is poised to make improvements. She is currently helping Shands Jacksonville Medical Center in a dispute over reimbursement rates with a Medicaid HMO. The case has been modeled by other Florida health-care providers seeking higher Medicaid rates.

As chair of the First Coast Child Protection Team, she also helps advise and raise funds for a team of local doctors who diagnose child abuse in court cases and testify at criminal trials. And she’s on the board of Patrons of the Hearts, a local charity that brings children with congenital heart disease from underdeveloped countries to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.

“To know that you’re building good will throughout the world, child by child, heart by heart, one little kid at a time, that’s very rewarding for me,” Chiu says.

At home, her 1-year-old, Beckett, keeps Chiu and her husband, Ernest Koe, busy. But health care is never far from her mind. “Having a baby completely changes your outlook on the world,” she says. “You start being green so that your son will have an earth to inherit one day. You start thinking about the future of the health-care system and whether or not he’ll have adequate resources available to him.”

For Chiu, it’s one more reason to go to work every day. 

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