Attorney Dina Shek, a 2006 graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, has been named the 2012 winner of the Rhoda Lewis Award for public service by the Hawaiʻi Women’s Legal Foundation.
Shek was honored for her efforts to found and run the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawaiʻi, which provides free legal assistance to Kalihi Valley residents served by Kōkua Kalihi Valley, a community health center.
Shek launched the service three years ago and has already helped more than 300 families, many of them immigrants, with a wide range of legal issues, from landlord-tenant concerns to how to apply for food stamps.
“Kōkua Kalihi Valley already does so much with their robust social services, their health outreach workers, their case managers and family strengthening programs, that it seemed to make sense to add a lawyer to that mix,” said Shek. “A lot of times just the presence of a lawyer changes the dynamic in a helpful way. We like to think of it as preventive law.”
Shek began by working with pediatrician Chris Derauf, who would bring her in for consultation when one of his patients had a problem that went beyond a medical issue. She was first inspired by the medical legal partnership concept while still in law school. After graduation, she spent two years in a fellowship with the Child Welfare Clinic during which time she was encouraged to apply for funding to launch the project.