100 Years

1967 to 1973: Becoming a Regional Specialty Center

Home Boy

Dr. Stanley Stamm, the Orthopedic's second full-time house-based clinician, joins the staff fresh from medical school in 1953.

Stamm establishes the hospital's first cardiopulmonary department and cystic fibrosis (CF) program. An outdoor enthusiast, he publishes studies on the value of recreation and fresh air for CF patients. These children, who do not survive beyond young adulthood in the 1960s, spend most of their waking hours struggling to clear their lungs of mucus.

After starting a swimming program, Stamm even organizes a swim team. That activity works out so well that he begins to think CF kids might benefit from a summer camp experience.

Home Boy A camper gets some help fishing at the Stanley Stamm Summer Camp  

In August 1967, Stamm, medical director Dr. Jack Docter (who now heads the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic), chief resident Dr. Ron Lemire and other Children's staff members take 19 children with CF and other chronic conditions to a camp in Carnation, Washington, for a week. Parents are not invited, thus giving them a break from caregiving.

The Stanley Stamm Summer Camp allows children with chronic conditions to meet and take part in normal childhood activities. The camp also gives medical staff a window into the lives of parents of chronically ill children.

In 2006, the Stamm camp celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Studying for the Future

In 1968, the trustees commission a study of the hospital and its future. Over a six-month period, consultants interview physicians and staff, examine floor plans and measure work flows.

At the conclusion of the study, consultants find some areas of the hospital lacking, particularly outpatient services, but among the community hospitals they evaluate across the nation, they find Children's Orthopedic to be "unusually good."

Studying for the Future The Lions Club entertains Children’s patients  

The consultants recommend many changes to keep up with the demands of the growing region:

  • A 20-bed psychiatric facility
  • A 30-bed rehabilitation facility
  • A full-time dentist
  • New surgery rooms
  • An emergency room
  • Expanded clinic facilities
  • A research wing for cancer, immunology and transplantation

It takes most of the 1970s and $34 million to turn the consultants' recommendations into reality.

In 1971, a private room is $60 per day, an X-ray is $10, minor surgery costs $50 and major surgery is $80.

Quality Care with Dignity

President Johnson's Model Cities Program focuses on improving the physical and social needs of residents in urban areas with their direct participation.

The mayor enrolls Seattle's Central Area in the federal program in 1967 and appoints an influential African American minister to run it. Neighborhood residents identify the creation of a free health clinic for children as one of their highest priorities.

Outpatient Department Director Dr. Abe Bergman, who volunteers his services in the Central Area, convinces the trustees that Children's Orthopedic should organize a clinic.

The sticking point over local control is resolved with the formation of a Health Advisory Board, elected by neighborhood residents, which approves the hiring of all clinic staff members.

The Health Advisory Board recruits pediatrician Blanche Lavizzo and dentist Peter Domoto to head the clinic. The federal government approves a $220,768 grant, and in 1970 Children's Orthopedic signs a contract with the city for the administration and operation of the neighborhood health clinic.

The advisory board recommends that the clinic be named for community activist and healthcare task force member Odessa Brown, who had died of leukemia the year before. Brown often shared her harrowing experiences trying to find medical care as a poor black woman.

The Odessa Brown Clinic opens its doors in May 1970 with very little publicity. Dr. Lavizzo coins the clinic's motto, "Quality care with dignity."

A unique element of the clinic is the employment of community health assistants from the immediate neighborhood. The assistants help families make and keep appointments, handle transportation to and from the clinic and navigate the social service system.

They are an invaluable bridge to the community, helping neighborhood residents overcome the cultural gulf between those who need treatment and those who provide it.

An Official Rainmaker

An Official RainmakerChildren’s casting room circa 1970  

In 1969, the board's Development Committee suggests hiring Paul Harris, an experienced and well-connected local fundraiser.

At first, many trustees recoil at the idea of "professionalizing" a function they handle personally with traditional appeals such as the Penny Drive, Pound Party and Pencil Sale. They worry that the hospital will appear too commercial in the eyes of the community.

Within six months of hiring Harris, their resistance is overcome. He outlines a program to negotiate terms of life-income gifts, gift annuities, pooled income agreements and charitable remainder gifts — all new ways of meeting both donor and hospital needs.

That same year, King County's largest employer, the Boeing Company, lays off 7,500 workers before Christmas.

More and more families appear at the Orthopedic's clinics with no regular physician. The cost of free care rises to $2.5 million in 1971, while the books bleed $500,000 in red ink.

The "Boeing Bust," when the company's payroll shrivels from 100,000 to 40,000, persists through 1973.

Bailing Water

Bailing Water Children’s nurse with patient  

In 1973, hospital donations cover the entire cost of uncompensated care ineligible for Medicaid or insurance. By 1983, donations cover just 35% of the cost. Children's Orthopedic must make up this shortfall by using investment income and other revenues.

Becoming a Regional Specialty Center

Becoming a Regional Specialty Center Children's campus  

In the 1960s and 1970s, most of the hospitals in Seattle, including the University of Washington Hospital, close their pediatric services.

With the majority of sick children being sent to Children's Orthopedic, the hospital develops outstanding specialized support for pediatric care — from skilled pediatric nurses and anesthesiologists to laboratories, radiologists and dedicated volunteers.

Community surgeons operate at Children's Orthopedic because of the specialized pediatric nursing and high-quality pediatric anesthesiology, which significantly improves surgical outcomes. Most community physicians want their patients to be cared for at Children's Orthopedic, the place where pediatric care is more sophisticated on all levels.

It is at this point in the early 1970s that Children's Orthopedic begins to deliver care to all children across the region who require the most advanced specialty care.