by Beverly Aarons
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States 37th in overall quality of healthcare, right behind Dominica, Denmark, and Chile, but way behind our northern neighbor Canada, which ranked 27th, and our European ally, France, which ranked number 1. More babies per capita die (5.9 per 1000 births) within days (or weeks) of being born in the United States than in Iceland, Finland, and Japan combined. In Seattle, there are persistent racial disparities in healthcare – 6.9 Black babies die per 1,000 births compared to 4.3 deaths per 1,000 white babies born, and gaining access to quality healthcare informed by facts, not racist controlling narratives, is almost impossible. In a recent survey of medical students, 50% believed that Blacks experienced less pain than whites because of biological differences.
Black physicians are less likely to hold these kinds of biases, but there are only 45,534 active physicians identified as Black in the United States compared to 516,304 white physicians, 157,025 Asian physicians, and 53,526 Hispanic physicians, so finding a Black physician or medical institution operating with an anti-racist lens might be impossible for most of the 46 million Blacks in America. This is why Dr. Ben Danielson’s resignation as the medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic is so significant to Seattle’s Black community.
Continue reading Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic: A Glimpse Back May Offer a Path Forward
by Dr. Ben Danielson, Sean Goode, and Anita Khandelwal
Young people’s brains are still developing; they are more impulsive than adults and less capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. Researchers, teachers, doctors, and courts all recognize this scientific fact. Unfortunately, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, a self-proclaimed “progressive,” has chosen to ignore and even challenge this science with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Washington State’s Supreme Court’s decisions providing protections to youth who are prosecuted in the adult system. If successful, he would undo necessary safeguards for young people and exacerbate the racial disparities that plague our criminal legal system. He should withdraw his appeal immediately.
Continue reading OPINION: Satterberg’s Appeal to the Supreme Court Harms Youth, Undermines Science, and Exacerbates Racial Injustice
by Adana Protonentis and Jasmine M. Pulido
In the weeks since Dr. Ben Danielson’s resignation from the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) was made public, there has been an outpouring of shock, grief, anger, and loss from the community he served. Running consistently through these messages have been calls for accountability. But what does that mean?
“True accountability is not only apologizing, understanding the impact your actions have caused on yourself and others, making amends or reparations to the harmed parties; but most importantly, true accountability is changing your behavior so that the harm, violence, abuse does not happen again.” — Mia Mingus
In the United States, accountability is often transactional. Our criminal legal system is an example: Someone commits a criminalized act, they are assigned a punishment (jail or prison time, restitution, community service), they complete the punishment, and the case is closed. There are collateral consequences that continue to punish the “offender” for years afterward, and those who were harmed rarely find closure. The wound cannot heal. In this version of accountability, the community is not centered. There is a transaction between a system and an individual. The individual is punished, but no one is made whole.
Continue reading Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Version of Accountability Fails to Prioritize Healing of Odessa Brown Families
by Susan Fried
The Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and accompanying events, hosted by Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition (Seattle MLK), is one of the longest-running MLK Jr. Day celebrations in the country. This year, Seattle MLK adapted to the realities of COVID-19 and, instead of the usual job fair and rally held inside Garfield High School, the 39th-annual event was held entirely online and outside. In-person events on January 18 began in the parking lot in front of Garfield High with a rally that included a speech by Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180 — an organization designed to help keep youth out of the criminal justice system — as well as performances by singers Sydney Coleman and Nyshae Griffin, and a presentation of a plaque honoring long-time Seattle MLK committee member, Tony Orange, given to his wife. Then, about a thousand people marched downtown to 4th Avenue and held another small rally.
Continue reading Seattle’s 39th Annual MLK Jr. March and Celebration
On their way downtown, the marchers stopped briefly at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic to show respect for Dr. Ben Danielson, the former senior medical director there, who recently resigned due to allegations of institutional racism at parent organization, Seattle Children’s Hospital. The marchers then continued down Yesler Way to 4th Ave. where another small rally was held, highlighting and critiquing the juvenile justice system, with speeches by civil rights attorney Sadé Smith and performances by D’Mario Carter and E-Rich.
by Adana Protonentis and Jasmine M. Pulido
True accountability is about nurturing relationships.
Continue reading Dr. Ben Danielson’s Resignation Begs the Community to Question: What Is True Accountability?
It is generative and proactive. Accountability is a practice of relying on those we are in relationship with to help us see when we have stepped outside of our integrity and help us find our way back. In short, accountability is about caring.
This is what Dr. Danielson modeled, when he spoke of examining his own complicity in a system that exploited Black and Brown families as fundraising tools, while refusing to make meaningful investments in their wellbeing. Dr. Danielson’s integrity demanded that he leave Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), as an act of care for the families he served. He was willing to sacrifice his 20-plus-year tenure at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the nation to stay aligned with this level of accountability.
If we view accountability in this relational way, we get insight into how Dr. Danielson’s approach to health care deeply held the communities he served. When the Emerald spoke with South Seattle families, we asked them, “What did Dr. Danielson’s care feel like?”
by Ben Danielson
I am a Black male pediatrician. I have severed my relationship with Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) and I expect they will soon make efforts to disparage my character. Leaving has been a deeply painful and difficult decision, particularly because in leaving SCH I must therefore stop working in its community clinic: the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.
The clinic, spiritually and physically separate from the hospital, is a special place with an amazing staff and a wonderful community of patient families that will forever hold my heart. A clinic born in the later days of another reckoning: the civil rights era. A clinic owned by SCH but brought into being by a mostly Black community that wanted their own space in the health care system. A place that treated them with dignity. A place where staff looked like them, in the heart of their community. And still today, a community of mostly poorer families from diverse backgrounds.
I have been part of the SCH organization since 1992 when I first cared for patients as an intern. I have continually worn an SCH badge ever since, working in just about every medical area of the hospital. I settled into my dream job with them when I became the medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in 1999. In the intervening years, the hospital itself has grown into a corporate behemoth. In the intervening years, our clinic’s community has been displaced by gentrification and the families we serve have suffered the consequences. By many measures, societally, our country has left Black families further away from the “American dream” than they were when MLK was alive.
Continue reading OPINION: A Time of Reckoning for Seattle Children’s Hospital