Kilby Garabedian, R.N., J.D. ’82
From the winter 2004 issue of Assumption Magazine:
Dear Abby once received a letter from an adult reader contemplating a return to school but lamenting the fact that she would be 50 years old when she graduated. Abby’s answer to the woman? How old will you be if you don’t graduate? Kilby Garabedian ’82, associate general counsel for UMass Memorial Health Care, read that column and agrees that age is not a limiting factor when it comes to education and opportunity. And she has the background to prove it.
Garabedian began her academic adventure at the Elliot Hospital School of Nursing in Keene, NH, where she received her nursing degree in 1965. For the next 20 years, she rotated through different hospital departments, ultimately developing an expertise in coronary and critical care, and eventually assuming an administrative role as nursing supervisor. In spite of her success and proficiency as a nurse, she heard academia calling.
Once the idea of returning to school ingrained itself, Garabedian sought the right institution. “Most of the people I worked with in healthcare had positive things to say about Assumption College,” she says. “I wasn’t really interested in a big Boston school. I wanted a school that was a little smaller, but very well respected.” She initially contemplated preparing for medical school until a women’s literature course propelled her in another direction. Her professor, Mary Lou Anderson G’69, now dean of the College, impressed with Garabedian’s thoughtful insights, proposed the idea of law school. Garabedian brushed off the notion, but the seeds had been planted. With her strong background in health and newfound interest in law, she became motivated by a new goal. “Once I got the idea in my head that I wanted to be a hospital lawyer, things started making sense,” she says.
Not one to procrastinate, Garabedian called Suffolk University, scheduled an interview, and sat in on some classes. Soon after, she enrolled and started another leg of her educational journey. Upon graduating from Suffolk in 1988, she worked for law firms before joining the legal department at Memorial Hospital. An internship experience at
the hospital, along with her expertise and passion, led her through the door
of opportunity. “I met my goal,” she says. “There are a lot of lawyers in this state, but I don’t know if there are many that are lucky enough to be doing exactly what they set out to do.”
Since the creation of UMass Memorial Health Care, Inc., Garabedian has worked in the Office of General Counsel where she engages in numerous legal activities; none of which, she emphasizes, involve malpractice. “If you talk about law and healthcare in the same breath, the general public assumes you are talking about defending malpractice suits,” she says. “What they don’t understand is that healthcare law includes just about everything you could think of—patient care and quality, real estate,
corporation, tax issues, even family issues. It is something new and different every day.”
Garabedian has also used her past professional experiences to build another career. “When I was a nurse, I taught coronary care nursing through Newbury College. As I went along and increased my skills, I always thought that the best way to use knowledge is to teach someone else,” she says. At Memorial, she was asked to conduct training sessions and seminars on legal issues. Anna Maria College had a relationship with the hospital and convinced Garabedian to teach a health law class at the school. Assumption College then asked her to join its paralegal advisory team. When the school created a healthcare administration certificate, Garabedian was the natural choice to teach one of the required courses. “It was well-received and I liked doing it,” she says. “The goal is not to teach someone to be a lawyer. The goal is to give someone who is interested in healthcare enough information to recognize some issues and do some things on their own, but the biggest thing is to recognize and ask questions.”
Garabedian praises the faculty and staff at Assumption for the encouragement, one-on-one attention, and overall support she received as one of its first continuing education (CE) students. When she entered Assumption’s CE program, the concept was fairly new.
No precedents had been established so Garabedian basically developed her own course of study, took both day and evening classes and enhanced her academic experience. Nowadays, CE is prevalent. “Administratively, I can’t imagine what it must have been like back then when it was not so mainstream. And yet these professors at Assumption gave me the same type of support and direction they gave all their students,” says Garabedian.
Another member of the Garabedian family graduated from the school in 1993. “ Assumption College was also a great opportunity for my son, James. He played football and was captain of the team. Now he has a graduate degree and works in financial consulting,” she says. “For me, I got exactly what I needed in CE. For him, right out of high school, Assumption was exactly what he needed.”
In addition to her daytime job as associate general counsel for UMass Memorial and her teaching responsibilities in the evening, Garabedian serves on the board of directors at the YWCA. A recent move to a historic 1820s house in Princeton keeps her and her husband busy when they are not hiking, skiing the local mountain trails, or entertaining their three children and grandchildren.
For Garabedian, timing proved to be everything. “When I went back to school, things were just starting to gel in terms of older people going back to school. The same holds true for law school. Geraldine Ferraro was the vice-presidential candidate and middle-aged women were in,” she says. Personal experience has taught her to remain flexible. “Don’t narrow your goal so much that you limit choices. As your circumstances and interests change, you want to be able to build on what you’ve already done so you can get to the next goal.” In Garabedian’s case, Assumption proved to be one of the cornerstones of her achievements.
Last updated 7/6/11