Dr. J. Fred Stoner Explains: What is Doctors without Borders?

Dr. J. Fred Stoner
Jun 17 · 3 min read

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known in English as Doctors without Borders, is a non-government organization that works internationally in countries and areas that have been affected by both natural and man-made disasters. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, over 30,000 volunteers from medical backgrounds (doctors, nurses), engineering backgrounds (ex. Water sanitation engineer), and administration work in numerous countries and have helped provide medical help to over 70 countries as of 2015. Funding comes from mainly private and corporate donations, allowing the non-governmental organization to have an annual budget of $1–2 billion USD.


Officially created on December 22, 1971, the framework for MSF began back in 1968 with a group of doctors from France that had decided to help victims of war and other disasters after having seen the impact of war and images of dying children in other countries on their TV sets. It was at this time that the Biafran movement had been ongoing in Nigeria, and the Nigerian government had moved in on the movement and created a blockade, starving millions of Biafrans. 6 individuals-2 doctors, 2 nurses, and 2 clinicians, set out to Nigeria to help the people, and found themselves in a very uneasy position. While the Red Cross was criticized for not doing their part, it is to be noted says Dr. J Fred Stoner, that they are not a medical charity, and it is hard for them to provide with the MSF does now. It was because of this disaster, that a call to action began, and these 6 individuals along with other doctors helped begin what is now MSF.


  • MSF aids populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of gender, race, religion, creed, or political convictions.
  • MSF observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance. MSF claims full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.
  • Members undertake to respect their professional code of ethics and to maintain complete independence from all political, economic, or religious powers.
  • As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the assignments they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation other than that which the association might be able to afford them.

What they do

Doctors without Borders provide a variety of career opportunities that encompass the areas of population health, public health, and epidemiology. The organization offers medical aid to those in distress through doctors, nurses, health promoters, and a variety of other workers. The work can be on the front line, working directly with the people, or administrative work. The organization keeps its followers up to date to the ongoing crises that occur globally, while also updating their own contributions to these communities. Dr. J Fred Stoner outlines that the group claims to be independent and that they focus on being neutral and impartial to those they work with, therefore providing service equally to those in need. Through their programs, victims of disaster are provided with much needed medical attention that they would otherwise not receive. With almost 90% of funding going towards programming efforts, victims worldwide are being helped on a daily basis.

How to get involved

Getting involved with MSF can be done through volunteering through their many offices around the world, or by applying for fieldwork in affected countries. MSF is always looking for both medical and non-medical personnel to get involved and help in any way possible, be it through a hands-on approach, or by volunteering their time to help raise funds. Dr. Fred J Stoner also notes that as almost 90% of funding comes from private donations, individuals are encouraged to help by donating and contributing as much as they can. Many doctors that work with MSF are paid very little amounts, and those that get involved know they are doing so for humanitarian efforts more than for monetary gain. The MSF website regularly updates project lists, and if interested individuals can reach out to see how they may be best able to get involved.

More information on Dr. J. Fred Stoner here.

Dr. J. Fred Stoner

Written by

Dr. J. Fred Stoner is an experienced pathologist and clinician specializing in pain management, at The Pain Centre based in New Castle, PA.

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