Briefing Room


Alumna uses legal skills to help doctors, innovators as Cleveland Clinic’s deputy chief legal officer

September 20, 2016 | Alumni

When Jessica Flickinger Slifko ’98 was earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at The Ohio State University, she pictured herself getting an advanced degree in the subject and eventually providing organizational psychology services to businesses.

It was only after meeting with her academic advisor that she began to think about providing a different kind of counseling. Slifko realized that her keen listening skills and enthusiasm for problem solving would serve her well in the legal field. “I saw that this would be a good fit for me and would open a lot of doors,” said Slifko, who now serves as deputy chief legal officer for the Cleveland Clinic.

Slifko discovered her passion when she went to work for a well-established law firm in her hometown of Cleveland after graduating. “It was a smaller firm and I was able to work on many different cases and experience different areas of law—family law, litigation, estate planning, corporate work,” she said. “I found that my favorite work was what I did for a nonprofit retirement community. I caught the bug for nonprofit work.”

She moved to Case Western Reserve University where she served as in-house counsel for the nonprofit university and gained experience working on healthcare related matters due to the school’s affiliation with University Hospitals.

The position provided the perfect launching ground for her to move to the Clinic when the world-renown hospital expanded its legal department in 2006. “That was the pinnacle of everything I had been working toward for so long—a job with the premier healthcare institution in my hometown,” said Slifko, whose team focuses on healthcare regulations.

She loves the work because it is always changing and challenging. She also appreciates that she plays a role helping doctors, scientists, and innovators heal people.

“The health care industry is so heavily regulated by so many different parts of the government, it really presents us with unlimited challenges,” she said. “Plus, all of these regulations are constantly changing. Every day that I come to work I am presented with an idea, or a problem, or question. The way I look at it today may be totally different in three months.”

Rather than seeing that as negative, Slifko thrives on the variety. “I’m constantly learning. I feel like I’m in school. I get to learn something new every day and I’m working for a healthcare institution with a charitable mission,” she said. “It’s exciting. I never get bored. It’s mentally challenging. It makes me stay creative.”

A wide array of questions and issues come across Slifko’s desk. She handles concerns ranging from HIPAA protections to setting up joint ventures with other entities to answering questions from the hospital’s pharmacist about the impacts of Ohio’s medical marijuana law. “I like that my job allows me to help our employees interpret how different laws and regulations will affect the way we take care of patients.”

Throughout her career, Slifko said she has continued to value her ability to listen—a skill she honed in undergraduate school. “I really do think it has helped,” said the mother of three boys. “I really believe the ability to listen is so critical. Listening helps you understand where a person is coming from and where they want to go.”

Slifko, who enjoys cooking, working out, and watching her sons play hockey, lives in Hudson, Ohio.

Working for a nonprofit institution known for its contributions to medicine inspires Slifko. “It definitely adds to my engagement in my job,” she said. “While I’m not a doctor or a nurse—what I do every day in some way supports what ends up impacting patients and saving lives.”