Barry Zuckerman

Ashoka Fellow
United States,
Fellow Since 2010
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership


This profile was prepared when Barry Zuckerman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Because of a family member’s disability, Barry saw early on the struggles of parents and families trying to secure the right kind of care for their child, and experiencing great difficulty getting the various public systems to support their interests.

Through the lens of pediatrics, Barry has pioneered practical changes in the health clinic setting that fundamentally shift the tenor of care from reactive to preventative, especially for families living at or below the poverty line and experiencing such problems as inadequate housing, utilities shut-off in the wintertime, and food insecurity. Barry achieves this shift by showing the clear link between social determinants and illness in poor families; introducing non-traditional resources like lawyers and early education specialists into the clinic setting by creating new roles for them; and focusing everyone on fixing the root cause of illness at the same time they are addressing the presenting symptoms. Taken together, Barry’s efforts help underserved families, save overall system costs, and achieve a profound mindset shift, orienting professionals accustomed to silos to a truly collaborative approach to illness prevention for low-income families.

Through medical-legal partnerships, Barry’s current focus, he is pairing up front-line health providers and lawyers to deliver care to low-income families and, working together, to change the culture of health institutions. The partnership, now rooted in over 200 clinics, introduces legal staff – paid and volunteer – into the clinic setting by creating a funded role for them. Having piloted the effort at Boston Medical Center, Barry and his team are now advancing medical-legal partnerships as a national movement aimed at shifting care, professional training, and resource allocation to support illness prevention among low-income families.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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