Led by its guiding credo of making as meaningful a difference as possible in the provision of healthcare, the international non-profit Doctors of the World/Médecins du Monde (MdM) re-established a base in the United States in early 2012. Hurricane Sandy had just wreaked havoc on New York City, with the Rockaway Peninsula being one of the hardest hit areas. With Sidley’s assistance as pro bono counsel, MdM recently achieved its goal of signing a lease to open the Doctors of the World Rockaways Free Clinic in the storm-ravaged area of Queens, NY, making it the organization’s first free primary care clinic in the U.S.
Ron Waldman, MD, MPH, President of MdM USA, said the signing of the lease marks a huge milestone in the non-profit’s efforts in the Rockaways, focused on providing free healthcare to U.S. residents affected by Hurricane Sandy. "We hope it will be an important step toward improving access to healthcare for some of New York City's most vulnerable and marginalized people," Waldman said.
MdM was established in Paris in 1980. Unlike some organizations that have a presence in America solely to raise money for relief abroad, MdM is dedicated to providing healthcare in every country in which it operates. In France, for example, where MdM is based, the nonprofit operates primary care clinics, as well as raises funds for initiatives in areas of the world where basic healthcare is tragically not available. This includes MdM’s vast efforts in war-torn Syria.
“We really want to make a difference,” said Anne-Sophie Jaume, senior advisor of corporate engagement for the organization’s efforts in the U.S. and a liaison for the Doctors of the World Rockaways Free Clinic. Jaume, originally from France, relocated with her family to New York last year after practicing law for a number of years in London.
Jaume was introduced to Stephen Rutenberg, a private equity partner at Sidley, through a relationship with longstanding Sidley client Goldman Sachs. Rutenberg, a member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, had previously become familiar with MdM through his work in assisting asylum seekers. He immediately agreed to manage the legal support necessary to pursue the opening of the clinic. To that end, Rutenberg, together with a number of Sidley associates in the New York office, and recent alumna Michelle Galvez in New York, provide ongoing legal council to MdM USA. This includes recently representing the organization in a co-branding relationship with Manhattan chocolatier Michel Cluizel. The partnership seeks to raise funds to fuel the nonprofit’s programs.
"I look forward to continuing to build our relationship with MdM,” said Rutenberg, adding, "It is rare to find an organization with which we can provide help both to our own city and in some of the most desperately affected areas of the world.”