Pfizer-sponsored Fellowships Bring Three-fold Benefit

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 01:00

David Stern
Equal Justice Works

Anthony, a third-grader in a Baltimore City public school, had been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), anxiety disorder and emotional disturbance. Behavioral therapy and medication management were not effective and school administrators eventually requested that his mother consent to home instruction. A single, low-income, working mother, she was concerned about her son and about her ability to continue in her job under a home instruction arrangement. So she sought legal assistance through the Kennedy Krieger Institute where Anthony was being treated.

Hope in this case came in the form of a recent graduate from Whittier Law School, Maureen van Stone, who is working in a two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship made possible by Pfizer. She serves as director of a medical-legal collaboration at the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) in Baltimore. Ms. van Stone formally requested evaluations by the school system, provided the school with recommendations from the therapists at KKI, participated in the development of an appropriate educational program for Anthony and successfully advocated for placement in a school that serves other children with needs like his. Without Ms. van Stone's intervention, Anthony may never have received the kind of services and support that are giving him a chance to be successful in school.

KKI is an internationally recognized center focused on pediatric developmental disabilities. In the first year of her fellowship, Ms. van Stone provided direct legal representation to more than 35 patients and families receiving services at KKI, consulted with clinicians and families on more than 120 cases and conducted training presentations to clinicians and families.

Ms. van Stone is one of eight recent law school graduates who have been awarded Equal Justice Works fellowships made possible by Pfizer, the largest corporate sponsor of fellowships in this program.

"I am often surrounded by complex cases," says Ms. van Stone, "yet I feel very fortunate that the collaboration among Pfizer, KKI, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and Equal Justice Works is allowing me to improve the health and welfare of children through proactive advocacy and legal assistance."

Pfizer's investment is bringing a three-fold benefit: helping people who need, but are unable to afford, legal representation; fostering the development of attorneys who go on to leadership roles as public service lawyers after their fellowships and bringing value to Pfizer's legal department through involvement with the sponsored fellows.

In working with Pfizer's legal department, we have been inspired by the determination to increase the availability of legal representation in underserved communities and to do so in ways that are aligned with Pfizer's company-wide commitment to social responsibility and access to healthcare.

David Stern is Chief Executive Officer, Equal Justice Works.