Matchinski, a Hanover Park, Illinois native, now a partner at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., in Chicago, said that working at the Valparaiso University Law Clinic during her last year of law school locked in her area of law practice — health law.
“I worked in the legal aid clinic. A client had been shot during a robbery at a convenience store. He was only 25 years old, paralyzed from the neck down, and living in a nursing home. He was an alcoholic and a drug user and was angry because he knew this was his life. The nursing home wanted to discharge him because they said he was a detriment and threat to the staff,” she said. Matchinksi’s supervising attorney sent her to the nursing home to hear the man’s story.
“My client was going through withdrawal and was abusive to the staff. I worked with the Director of Nursing and the Administrator of the nursing home. We conducted a hearing in his room and negotiated a settlement and plan of correction. My client agreed that he wouldn’t be abusive if he was permitted to stay,” Matchinski said.
That experience taught me to listen to your client and understand what’s happening in their lives in order to help them.
“The strange part of the story is that I was a college basketball player, and when I looked down to his wheelchair, I saw that he had high tops on and I thought, ‘He’s never going to walk again. He’s never going to wear those high tops out.’ We were about the same age, and I was glad that I had that opportunity to help him,” Matchinski recalls. She never forgot the paralyzed young man in the nursing home and the importance of listening and empathy.
Matchinski has now been practicing law for 25 years, and she currently handles reimbursement, regulatory and transactional work for health care providers. She is one of only a few attorneys in the United States who specialize in Sleep Medicine, her niche practice. “There are more than 100 sleep disorders and Sleep Medicine is an important part of our health care system,” said Matchinski, who writes and speaks nationally on different topics for sleep disorder centers and durable medical equipment companies.
Despite a hectic legal schedule, Matchinski continues to find time to help others through her volunteering. A member of the board of directors for the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), Illinois chapter, she serves as VOSH Illinois’ legal counsel. Matchinski got involved with VOSH in 2004 through her sister, who is an optometrist and the president elect for VOSH International, when she went on her first VOSH mission trip to Casablanca, Morocco.
VOSH is comprised of volunteers who are licensed optometrists, opticians, health care providers, and lay people who set up clinics and mission trips both domestically and internationally in over thirty countries. Matchinski has been on VOSH mission trips to Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
“I take one VOSH trip a year where we provide free eye exams and glasses,” Matchinski said. “I’m always collecting glasses, sunglasses, and readers.” She said the experience has been humbling.
“I’ve always been fortunate to have glasses and corrected vision,” she said. Most of the people we see at the clinics have never had an eye exam and are indigenous people. A lot of our patients are farmers or women who make crafts for their livelihood, so they need to be able to see and protect their eyes.”
The VOSH clinic in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, last year drew 2,382 patients in four days with 2200 sunglasses, 2,000 prescription glasses, and 1,500 reading glasses dispensed, 120 cataract referrals (with 60 surgeries completed), 300 pairs of glasses made on site, and numerous cases of glaucoma, infection and inflammation detected and treatment initiated. “I walk away from these experiences and realize that it’s all about access to healthcare. As an attorney, I’ve learned about the delivery of healthcare and I am happy to be part of a group that helps people. It’s a pretty amazing experience,” Matchinski said.
Matchinski has also worked with the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights to provide pro bono representation to individuals seeking political asylum. Locally, Matchinski has volunteered with the CURE Network (Collaborative Underserved Relief and Education) in Chicago to provide vision care to underinsured and uninsured people.
She serves as the Chair of the National Advisory Council for Valparaiso University Law School. “Being on the National Advisory Council gives me the opportunity to be connected to the law school and its alumni and allows me to get to know a lot of the students and Valpo attorneys,” Matchinski said. “It has been a lot of fun helping young attorneys network in Chicago. You have to find joy every day in practicing law,” Matchinski said.
I am very fortunate, and a big part of that has been my education at Valpo. My experiences at Valpo and the professors really impacted me and my legal career. Valpo provided me with a great foundation and I’m grateful for that.