“We provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.” —Seattle Children’s Hospital mission statement
Every hospital, including Seattle Children’s, has one: a policy against obstruction of patient care.
Seventeen years ago, Children’s policy was a single page, with bullet points outlining violent and intimidating behavior against hospital employees by patients’ family members or friends.
The policy is a warning: our institution has the power to remove and ban you from this hospital if we feel your behavior interferes with our care. The document requires a signature of acknowledgement, which the hospital can use to invoke internal security or external police, child welfare, and the court system. The message was clear: you are here receiving life-saving — or not — care. On their terms.
Global pandemic, year one: Many businesses are shuttered or providing restricted service, but Seattle’s real estate market is still booming. We even have the most cranes in the sky — again. Despite the strained economy, Seattle housing prices continue an upward trend.
When thinking about Seattle’s construction boom, most people think of overpriced housing, gentrification, and the displacement of People of Color, especially Black and Indigenous. They most likely wouldn’t imagine a Black person as an emerging power player in that realm. But GardnerGlobal, Inc., a Black-run, privately held holding company that’s been around since 2009 is consistently challenging assumptions about who has the right and the power to take a slice of Seattle’s real estate pie. Its subsidiary, Onpoint — a real estate services company providing brokerage, HOA management, and development services — recently purchased Mount Calvary Christian Church and has a plan to develop over 200 units of multi-family, mixed-use housing. Forty percent of the units will be affordable, earmarked for renters earning 50–80% Area Median Income (AMI).
True accountability is about nurturing relationships.
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?”
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.
Since the start of the global pandemic, one Seattle therapist said that roughly 90% of her new clients are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), compared to before, when about 70% were white.
“There are so many people coming into therapy for their first time — first in their family, first in their history,” said Asian American psychotherapist and codependency therapist Ivy Kwong. “I always tell them: ‘I’m so grateful you’re doing this work, it’s not easy, but it’s the most important work I believe you can do in this lifetime. The work you are doing [honors] your entire lineage because it will heal past and future generations.’”