A message from Dr. Jeff Sperring
It has been our deeply held value and commitment at Seattle Children’s to provide a place where every child and family member feels valued, safe and seen and where Seattle Children’s workforce feels respected and valued.
Recent news and multiple conversations with families and members of our workforce has made clear that we have work to do at Seattle Children’s to realize this vision.
This past fall, Dr. Ben Danielson, the highly respected medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), raised very serious concerns about racism and bias within Seattle Children’s, and I want to let you know I take these issues seriously and am taking action to examine them.
I have so much respect and appreciation for the work Dr. Danielson does in our community and his decades of commitment to OBCC. When he left OBCC, his absence was felt deeply by many who served with him as well as by the families and children to whom he dedicated decades of his life and career. At the same time, I recognize this is a difficult loss for OBCC’s broader community of advocates who’ve admired and supported Dr. Danielson’s work and passion for many years.
Many have asked why we didn’t immediately communicate Dr. Danielson’s departure. This was in part necessary due to ongoing negotiations through legal representation. Our intent was to jointly communicate Dr. Danielson’s departure to our patients and the community. I take responsibility for the harm and challenges this delay caused to our OBCC patients and families and our broader community.
Above all, I want to be clear that racism has no place in our organization. Racism is a public health crisis, and health systems must take the lead to directly address racism and health disparities. Last year, we committed to becoming an anti-racist organization, and I am resolved to take action that will lead to systemic and institutional change at Seattle Children’s.
We have heard feedback from our community and agree that an independent examination is required to help us accelerate meaningful, lasting progress. That’s why an assessment is being conducted by the nationally recognized law firm Covington & Burling LLP. They are leading an independent, external assessment of Seattle Children’s race, equity, inclusion and diversity policies and practices. Covington was chosen by an Assessment Committee comprised of members of the Seattle Children’s board and members of the community, and I will have no direct role in how the assessment is conducted or who is interviewed. I am, however, committed to acting on the recommendations presented to us. For those interested in providing feedback as part of this process, the Assessment Committee and Covington provided us with ways to contact them and we have posted these on our website.
Covington’s assessment, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, will look at a broad range of systemic and institutional issues, including the concerns raised by Dr. Danielson. This approach and commitment to a full examination will allow our team to deliver world-class care in an environment that understands, respects and nurtures all patients, families and members of our team. This assessment, along with recommendations for action, will assist us in our work to become the anti-racist organization we must be to live out our mission to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.
Since Dr. Danielson initially raised his concerns publicly, we’ve advanced our existing work to address anti-racism organizational change even further. We have even more intense and important work ahead, and we are confident it will bring about positive transformation for Seattle Children’s – most especially for our team and the patients and families we are proud to serve.
We are grateful for the Seattle Children’s community’s commitment to our patients and families, and the incredible team at OBCC. Your support for this effort is essential and truly appreciated.
About Seattle Children’s
Seattle Children’s mission is to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. Together, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Research Institute and Foundation deliver superior patient care, identify new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients.
Ranked as one of the top children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – the largest region of any children’s hospital in the country. As one of the nation’s top five pediatric research centers, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is internationally recognized for its work in neurosciences, immunology, cancer, infectious disease, injury prevention and much more. Seattle Children’s Foundation, along with Seattle Children’s Guild Association – the largest all volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country – works with our generous community to raise funds for lifesaving care and research.