Introducing Our New CEO

Dr. Jeff Sperring steps aboard to steer Seattle Children’s along the path of growth, research and the best possible care.

Jeff Sperring and others

From left, Bonnie Rice, Austin Schlichtman, new CEO Dr. Jeff Sperring and Caitlin Siegfried on the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Unit. Sperring’s goal is to build the strongest possible team that can adapt to whatever changes come our way.

Join us in welcoming Dr. Jeff Sperring, who joined Seattle Children’s as our third chief executive officer in May. Previously the president and CEO of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, Sperring graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and was a pediatric resident at Naval Medical Center San Diego before serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps and running a pediatric medical clinic in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

What drew you to Seattle Children’s?

Seattle Children’s has an incredible reputation throughout the country for world-class clinical work. The growth of the research programs over the past 10 years, coupled with the responsibility of caring for kids over a large geographic region, makes this an exciting opportunity.

I also appreciate the way Seattle Children’s is held by the community. When I flew here for my first interview, I got in a cab and as soon as I mentioned Seattle Children's, the driver told me about the care his 3-year-old son received here. I could just tell that this was a place that people in the community care about and view as their children's hospital.

What are our top priorities?

Jeff Sperring and Amie Sperring

Dr. Jeff Sperring met his wife Amie Sperring, a nurse, while working in the pediatric intensive care unit in the U.S. Navy. “We always talked about living in the Pacific Northwest, but never dreamed such an incredible opportunity would arrive so soon.”

I see us traveling further along the path Seattle Children’s has been on for the past 10 years. We’ll continue to grow regionally and develop our specialty programs while engaging in research that improves the practice of pediatric medicine.

I’d like to see our national reputation reflect the amazing care available here – I think Seattle Children’s deserves to be ranked higher than it already is – so that parents everywhere know that this is the place to come when their child needs high-level care.

I see us reaching out locally and regionally around children’s health and wellness.

And a big thrust for the foreseeable future is being able, as an organization, to adapt to the pace of change in the external healthcare environment. Our continuous performance improvement culture will serve us well as we look for ways to manage costs while keeping the patient at the center of all we do.

How did your experience in the military influence you?

In the military, you get more responsibility at a younger age than in the civilian world. I ran a pediatric clinic on a Marine base in the middle of the Mojave Desert straight out of my residency. Leadership training is built into the process and it centers on knowing that at any moment you could be called to do something else. You have to be ready to take on whatever comes your way.

Why pediatrics?

Jeff Sperring and child

The lifelong impact pediatric providers have on children drew Dr. Jeff Sperring to the field. “There’s the medical challenge of taking care of kids who are sick, and there’s also so much hope,” Sperring notes.

I love all parts of medicine, but there’s something special about taking care of kids. The impact of your interaction with a child could last a lifetime – 50, 60, even 70 years.

One of my first patients during medical school was a 15-year-old girl with leukemia who, unfortunately, lost her battle. Patients like her motivate me to do everything I can to figure out how we might provide better answers for kids. What if immunotherapy had been around then? Maybe something like that could have cured her.

And just the other day I got a card from the mom of a little guy, a preemie, I took care of back in my Navy days. She wrote to say he was graduating from high school and she just wanted to thank me.

That’s what’s amazing about working in a children’s hospital – there are those really positive stories and the ones that motivate us to keep pushing to find better ways to provide hope to other kids and families.

What’s something that’s really struck you in your first few months at Seattle Children’s?

I’m really impressed with the role the community plays in making sure we can care for every child who needs us. Financial challenges for children’s hospitals will only increase and the support of our community is more important than ever.

We need to continue helping our friends understand how their gifts – of time, money, advocacy – directly affect the kids in our care and our ability to develop programs to better serve them.

What are some of the words friends and colleagues might use to describe you?

Enthusiastic, passionate, committed, dedicated.

My outlook is “Life is an adventure. Be prepared. Be willing to take on responsibility.”

“We need to help our friends understand how their gifts – of time, money, advocacy – directly affect the kids in our care and our ability to develop programs to better serve them.”

Dr. Jeff Sperring

Published in Connection magazine, Fall 2015