Parks: From the Hospital to the Courtroom
by John Fries
ItÕs not every day that you meet someone whose curriculum vitae includes
such diverse credentials as trauma nurse in a major hospital, prominent
partner in a respected law firm, successful litigator, active community
volunteer, and judicial candidate endorsed by numerous organizations
and media. However, Catherine B. (Cathy) Parks, does have those credentialsÑand
moreÑon her C.V.
Parks, who grew up in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina, has
spent the past few decades on an interesting and eventful journey. Early
on, she worked as a med-surg, trauma and intensive care nurse, and for
the past 20 years, sheÕs been a practicing attorney. Since 2000, sheÕs
been a partner in the Miami office of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer,
P.A. Currently, she aspires to a position as a judge on the Bench of
the Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Her interest in health care began when Parks was in her teens and volunteering
after school at the local hospital. "When I was 14 years old," she explained,
"I was a candy striper at Hamlet Hospital. Later, I became a nursing
assistant, and really enjoyed the opportunity to observe and help the
nurses as they did their work."
That experience had a lasting influence on her. Following graduation
from high school, she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 1976. Her first
post-graduate job offer was a nursing position at Duke University Medical
Center in Durham, where she worked for about a year. Then, in 1977,
she moved to Florida and joined the nursing staff at Jackson Memorial
Hospital in Miami-Dade County, where, over the next several years, she
worked in the trauma and intensive care units.
"I really loved it," she said. I worked with very, very sick patients,
many of whom were also young. It was great because I had the opportunity
to watch them as they got better. Each day, a different tube would be
removed until they were ready to return home."
While at Jackson Memorial, Parks was also asked to serve as an Instructor
for first year students at the hospitalÕs nursing school. Then, when
the school introduced a new course called "Legal Aspects of Nursing,"
she was recruited to teach that one as well. She found the topic so
fascinating that she began to give serious thought to the possibility
of working in the legal field full time. This led to her enrollment
at the University of Miami School of Law.
It was a comfortable transition, and Parks took to it quicklyÑso quickly,
in fact, that it only took her three years to earn a Juris Doctor degree.
While there, she served as editor-in-chief of Res Ipsa Loquitor, the
schoolÕs award-winning newspaper, and was a member of the Bar & Gavel
and Phi Alpha Delta. During law school, she also continued working as
a nurse part-time, through an agency. This gave her the opportunity
to work in nearly every hospital in Miami-Dade County.
After passing the Florida Bar in 1983, she joined Thornton, David &
Murray, P.A. Over the next several years, she also worked at Lanza &
OÕConner, P.A. and Blackwell & Walker, P.A. before joining Quintairos,
Prieto, Wood & Boyer four years ago. Her areas of practice include insurance
defense, mass tort litigation, medical malpractice and nursing home
defense litigation, and she represents such high profile clients as
hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers against some
of the most prominent plaintiffÕs attorneys in South Florida.
She said she chose to be a defense attorney because, "as a nurse, you
can read between the lines and ferret out the truth. As a defense attorney,
I can often see where patients (suing facilities and providers) have
been non-compliant or where there is a valid medical reason for the
problems that they experienced."
Interestingly, and as a testament to her health care roots, Parks continues
to maintain her license as a nurseÑalthough she hasnÕt actively practiced
for many years.
Working in a legal environment forces her to see things in different
ways; for example, the omnipresent liability issues. "If IÕm walking
down the street and see a bump in the road," she said, "IÕll think to
myself that the city should repair it."
There are a number of current challenges in health care in South Florida,
said Parks. Among them: the physician and nursing shortages, lack of
residency positions for new physicians, medical malpractice, and escalating
health care costs for senior citizens. "My understanding is that, in
five years, the cost of prescription medications will be equal to 50
percent of seniorsÕ income," she said.
Parks, a 17-year resident of Coral Gables, is very active in numerous
professional and civic organizations, including the Coral Gables Rotary
Club, League of Women Voters, Florida Association for Women Lawyers,
WomenÕs Political Caucus, American Association of Nurse Attorneys and
the American Association of University Women.
In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush appointed her to the Florida Local Advocacy
Council, through which she joins other citizen volunteers, also appointed
by the governor, to protect the rights of Floridians who are too disabled
or frail to protect their own interests. She also participates in the
annual AIDS Walk on Miami Beach, as well as other events, and is a certified
Guardian Ad Litem, volunteering to assist the court system to ensure
that children are being cared for properly within the legal system.
Speaking of children, Parks is mother to Dan and Michelle, both honor
students at Ransom Everglades School. Dan was recently inducted into
the National Honor Society.
Lately, Parks has been busy with her judicial campaign. Now that she
has 20 years of experience as a practicing litigator, she believes that
the time is right. "As a judge, you canÕt make laws, only interpret
them," she said. "You can also lend your credibility to certain organizations,
and make suggestions that people will be likely to heed. I want to create
liaisons between individuals working in the health care industry and
the people who appear in court."
She said that sheÕs found inspiration in many other judges sheÕs known
and observed through the years, including Circuit Court Chief Judge
Joseph Farina. "HeÕs filled with wisdom and serves as a true role model
to this community," she said.
When not working, volunteering or campaigning, Parks is an avid reader
and music aficianado who loves to cook. SheÕs also an avid cyclist and
traveler to other countries. Recently, she was thrilled to celebrate
the 91st birthday of her father, Perry M. Parks.
The election is November 2, 2004. Catherine plans to make history by
becoming the first nurse-attorney to serve on the Bench in South Florida.