Alumnus Establishes Health Law Initiative at GW Law

Jonathan Kahan
Jonathan Kahan, BA’ 70, JD ’73
August 20, 2020

By Jamie L. Freedman

An impactful gift by leading health law attorney Jonathan Kahan, BA’ 70, JD ’73, is accelerating GW Law’s rise in the fast-growing field of health care law. The trailblazing medical device lawyer, who is a partner at Hogan Lovells and former director of the firm’s Medical Device and Technology Practice Group, funded the creation of an innovative Health Law Initiative directed by Sonia Suter, the Kahan Family Research Professor of Law.

Mr. Kahan has long recognized GW Law’s potential to become a leader in addressing pressing issues in health law. “DC is the U.S. center for health care legislation and health care law, and I am confident that the Health Law Initiative will help propel our law school forward in this important field.”

An industry leader in helping medical technology and diagnostic companies obtain FDA approval and market clearance for new medical devices, Mr. Kahan is the author of the leading text in the field, Medical Device Development: Regulation and Law (Parexel 2020). He shares his expertise with GW Law students as an adjunct professor, and also serves as chair emeritus and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council. He also serves on the University's Leadership Advisory Council.  “I had an amazingly good experience at GW Law and enjoy giving back,” said Mr. Kahan, who attended law school on a Trustee Honors Scholarship.

Mr. Kahan’s journey to health law preeminence began in 1974 when he landed a job at Hogan and Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). “One of the first cases I took on was a health-related pro bono case,” he explained. “At that time, there was only one person practicing FDA law at Hogan, and I worked with him on the case, which we won.” Forty-six years later, Hogan Lovells’ has a deep bench of more than 75 law practitioners in the FDA area representing more than 1,000 medical device companies and hundreds of healthcare-related firms around the globe.

Mr. Kahan hopes the Health Law Initiative will inspire greater interest in health law among GW Law students and ultimately build a pipeline of practice-ready health care lawyers to fuel the burgeoning field. “At Hogan, we hire a lot of associates straight out of law school and we would love for new graduates to come to law firms like ours already well trained in FDA and health law,” he explained. “By offering increased engagement opportunities at GW Law, we hope to interest many more students in the field who can jump right in and take health law and regulatory law to the next level.”

Professor Sonia Suter, he said, is “the perfect leader to get the Health Law Initiative off the ground and move it forward.” A leading scholar of health policy, bioethics, and legal issues in medicine and genetics, she joined the GW Law faculty in 1999. Prior to earning her law degree, she earned a master’s degree and achieved PhD candidacy in human genetics.

“It is a great honor to be appointed the Kahan Family Research Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Health Law Initiative,” she said. “Mr. Kahan’s gift to the law school will help position GW as a leader in health law and build on the law school’s existing strengths, including our location in DC, the center of health policy and regulatory.” 

According to Professor Suter, the Health Law Initiative will support symposia, distinguished lectures, health law research, and mentoring by health law practitioners. “We are already planning several events for the coming year, which will involve leaders in health law from across the country,” she said. “In addition, we plan to cultivate and expand existing relationships with schools across the university, including our excellent School of Public Health, to address the many interdisciplinary issues that arise in health law. As this terrible pandemic has highlighted, health is influenced by various societal factors including income inequality, racial injustice, and existing laws and regulations. A goal of the Health Law Initiative is to develop collaboration among experts in various fields to address pressing and timely issues of mutual concern.”

Mr. Kahan’s generous gift, she continued, “will transform how we teach health law by supporting events and scholarship that will help students understand the richness of health and FDA law and the diverse career paths one can take in this field.”  The initiative also will award Kahan Health/FDA Fellowships to select students committed to health law and will support post-pandemic student travel to health law conferences.

“The timing of Mr. Kahan’s gift could not be more perfect in aligning with the appointment of Dean Matthew, who is a renowned leader in public health and civil rights law,” added Professor Suter. “I believe the synergy of these two events will be transformative.  It will help us realize the goals we have long had for GW to be a preeminent leader in health law and in addressing the critical issues in this field.”