Q-and-A with Craig Birgfeld, MD

Craig Birgfeld, MD

What’s the best thing about working at Children’s?

The best part of working at Children’s is the total, all-encompassing commitment to the quality of care provided to the children of the Northwest. It is a pleasure to work with excellent physicians and nurses, but it goes beyond that. Everyone who works here is focused on making the experience a positive one for the patients. You feel it as soon as you drive through the hospital entrance and see the beautiful cherry blossoms. The security guard waves hello and helps you cross the street. The greeters welcome you and actually help you find your way. The staff looks for ways to make things work, rather than looking for ways to avoid having to do something. Everyone will go the extra mile. This makes coming to work every day a pleasure. It also fortifies my commitment to my patients and makes me proud to be a part of the team.

What do you like most about the work you do in the Craniofacial Center?

I enjoy becoming a part of the patient’s family. It is rare in medicine to become part of a patient’s life so early on and then be able to care for the patient as they grow into adults. Because the Craniofacial Center provides a wide spectrum of care for patients with craniofacial differences, we become like another family to them, through good times and bad. They know they can rely on us, and we do everything we can to take good care of them.

What makes Children’s Craniofacial Center unique?

I was initially drawn to craniofacial surgery for the complexity of the cases and for the teamwork involved in treating these patients. I am lucky to work with other physicians, nurses and staff who share a common interest and who are as committed as I am to caring for these patients. What makes our Craniofacial Center unique, though, is the egalitarian attitude. Our team members are able to put ego aside as we strive to improve the care of our patients. Other teams across the country are lead by a single plastic surgeon, whose teammates are there to assist him or her. Our team involves over 40 members across 19 disciplines, and everyone’s role is equally important.

What made you want to come to Children’s?

To put it simply, Children’s provided the opportunity to create the kind of life I wish to live. My goals are to be a busy plastic and craniofacial surgeon who treats a variety of congenital disorders in a friendly atmosphere. I wanted to find a team that would not only support me, but also allow me to grow and hopefully improve the care we give to our patients. At the same time, being a good husband to my wife and father to my son are equally important to me. Children’s understands the importance of family, not only to the patients, but also to the staff, and I feel I can balance my need to be a good father with my need to be a good surgeon to my patients. Perhaps most importantly, I smile when I come to work.

What do people say when they find out you work here?

I didn’t realize the kind of respect the people of Seattle have for Children’s until I started working here as a faculty member. It never fails that when I say I work at Children’s, people reply with, “Oh, that’s a great place”. They then usually relate some story of a friend or family member who was cared for at Children’s and had a positive experience. Even if the outcomes aren’t favorable, people are still left with a good impression of the care they received. This certainly isn’t the case at most hospitals, including some I have worked in previously. It is also something that is difficult to create. I think we, as members of the Children’s team, should always strive to keep this positive feeling about our hospital strong within our patients. It pays dividends in the end.