Why Partnering with FQHCs is Personal at Smith + Malek

Nov 9, 2023 | Health Care, Smith + Malek

Smith + Malek has partnered with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) since day 1. Our long-standing commitment to supporting these community-based clinics that operate on a sliding scale isn’t just a professional endeavor; it’s a deeply personal passion that stems from our roots and is grounded in our core beliefs.

Our co-founder, Luke Malek, comes from a line of rural physicians: his grandfather practiced in Wyoming during the 1960s and his mother practiced in Northern Idaho in the 1980s, eventually opening the first free clinic in that region. His mother’s experiences laid the foundation for Luke’s understanding of the pivotal role FQHCs play in rural and underserved communities. 

When Smith + Malek opened its doors in 2015, one of our first clients was an Idaho-based FQHC. What started as keeping the organization abreast of stringent and fast-changing federal regulations has grown into a full-fledged strategic partnership. Today, this FQHC is a $45 million organization with nearly 400 employees. It offers high-quality healthcare to the community we live, work and play in, which is why we are intrinsically motivated to help it grow sustainably. 

Our role as legal counsel extends beyond courtroom battles; we work with in-house legal teams across the business sector to help clients shape policies, refine processes, and facilitate actionable strategic planning workshops. Our core values are to make tomorrow better than today and to be a force of justice in the world. Helping a values-aligned business expand in order to serve more customers – or patients, as the case may be – brings meaning to our work.  

Caitlin O’Brien, our healthcare practice lead, has been instrumental in growing Smith + Malek’s work with FQHCs in six states: Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, and Alaska. Each community health center we partner with is a unique reflection on the people it serves; from urban clinics treating people experiencing homelessness to rural clinics that provide dentistry, behavioral, and medical care under one roof. Our work is informed by what the healthcare team members and the patient population need most

As Caitlin says,

“To see how quality healthcare can impact a community is just incredible. It transforms individuals and families and whole generations of people. When you have good access to high quality healthcare, it changes your ability to take care of yourself, your family, and ultimately that helps support a thriving community.”

National Rural Health Day, November 16, will come and go, but our healthcare team works with FQHCs in the West every day of the year to elevate the power of accessible high-quality healthcare for all. For us, it’s not just about being lawyers; it’s about being advocates and architects of a healthier, happier future.