29 Focused on What Matters As an undergraduate, Rajan Sonik didn’t know a lot about sickle cell disease or what it was like to be a child from a poor family living with this chronic illness. It wasn’t until he volunteered as a mentor and got to know kids with the disease that he began to think of helping them. When Rajan went to his students’ homes and met their parents and teachers, he started to understand that poor children who have sickle cell disease face particular challenges. For example, while a healthy child who becomes homeless or whose family can’t afford to pay for heat may face increased health risks, a child with sickle cell disease who is exposed to the cold is much more likely to need hospitalization, and could even die. Rajan soon learned there were very few resources dedicated to helping disadvantaged kids with sickle cell disease, and decided to focus his studies on meeting their needs.“Soon I realized I was somebody who now knew more about sickle cell disease than most,”he explains,“and if I didn’t do something about these kids, not many people would.” One year he was mentoring a girl who was at risk for dropping out of high school, and he succeeded in convincing her to stay. Going to the student’s graduation was one of the proudest moments of Rajan’s life. “Then that summer all of it almost fell apart when her Social Security benefits were going to be wrongfully terminated,” he says. “Her family was actually going to be homeless.” Rajan found a lawyer through the Medical-Legal Partnership who quickly got the girl’s benefits reinstated, and she was able to go to college. That’s when he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. While in law school, Rajan applied for an Equal Justice Works fellowship, co-sponsored by Mintz Levin and Biogen Idec, that would allow him to work directly with kids with sickle cell disease at the Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston. Attorneys Sue Finegan, John Koss, and Yalonda Howze along with two in-house counsel from Biogen Idec selected Rajan from among 360 applicants. Attorney Rebecca Diamond coordinates the firm’s pro bono services at the Medical Legal Partnership | Boston and works closely with Rajan, who began his two-year fellowship in the fall of 2012. “Having an Equal Justice Works fellowship has allowed me to take the ideas I’ve developed over eight years of working with these students with sickle cell disease and put them all together into a unique project that will hopefully improve health outcomes,”Rajan says. I’m pleased that Mintz Levin agreed to co-sponsor this work, which is really an extension of Biogen’s mission to make a meaningful difference in patients’ lives. Collaborating with the firm’s attorneys is a pleasure. It’s a great partnership. Susan Alexander Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary Biogen Idec We’re honored to partner with our client, Biogen Idec, to sponsor a young attorney with a passion for helping underserved children with sickle cell disease overcome their challenges and lead healthy lives. Bob Bodian Managing Member Mintz Levin Game Changer Helping Low-Income Children with Sickle Cell Disease