Deeona R. Gaskin is a partner in Sidley's Food, Drug and Medical Device Compliance and Enforcement group in the firm’s office in Washington, D.C.
To begin with—congratulations are in order! You were elected to Sidley’s 2021 new partnership class a few weeks ago. What does it feel like to reach this career milestone? Who is the first person you called immediately after you learned you were elected partner?
It feels great to reach this goal and milestone. I have been fortunate to receive amazing support and mentorship, not only from the partners in the FDA group, but broadly across the firm as well. Over the years, partners have provided me with numerous opportunities to counsel on significant matters. I’m excited to continue to help our clients innovate for patients and the public health.
The first person I called was my mom! She was very excited.
You joined Sidley in 2016 following a successful career as the Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What are some of the most impactful matters that you handled while at the FDA?
I helped the agency take enforcement and judicial action when the FDA determined it was needed to bring companies into compliance with the law or to protect the public health due to an issue with a certain product. That was meaningful to me as someone committed to public health. One highlight was work I did when there was an outbreak of liver illnesses. I worked with a cross-functional team to help make sure that the product allegedly linked to the outbreak was removed from the market.
At Sidley, among many other things, you have advised clients with COVID-19-related issues, including, for example, providing advice and counsel to clients concerning newly issued FDA guidance documents. What has been most rewarding for you as you help clients navigate these extraordinary circumstances?
Too many lives have been lost and negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — disproportionately so in minority communities. It’s hard not to feel frustrated and powerless. The life sciences industry has really stepped up to confront the pandemic. I feel fortunate to be able to support these efforts related to COVID-19 countermeasures.
You also serve on CAIR Coalition’s Legal Advisory Committee. What attracted you to CAIR? Can you tell us about your work and leadership role with the organization?
My parents and many of my family members are immigrants, and I care a lot about immigration issues. CAIR Coalition does amazing work to help give asylum-seekers and other immigrants a fighting chance in our legal system. My clients are resilient and courageous. It’s a privilege to have the incredible opportunity to serve on the Legal Advisory Committee.
What city in the U.S. or aboard is your favorite and why?
I don’t have a favorite! I love to travel and explore different places and discover my favorite parts of each city.
Deeona during her Harvard Law School graduation ceremony. She also received an M.P.H from Harvard School of Public Health.