Black doctor leaves Seattle hospital citing racism toward staff, patients

Dr. Ben Danielson called his departure 'the most painful sacrifice'

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In an exclusive interview with Crosscut, Dr. Ben Danielson, a medical director at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic revealed that he stepped down after more than 20 years due to racism towards staff and patients of color.

Danielson felt little faith in the leadership at Seattle Children’s Hospital – which oversees Odessa Brown – saying that leadership used the clinic, which serves low-income patients and patients of color, to raise money.

Dr. Ben Danielson, former medical director of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (via The Seattle Times/Courtesy of Ben Danielson)

Danielson said leaving the job he loves was “the most painful sacrifice.”

He continued to share how hospital executives offered “symbolic overtures to equity” in light of the nation’s attention towards racism after the almost year-long protests. He said they took minimum action to correct their wrongdoings.

Danielson said that security was frequently called on patients of color, and that the staff, himself included, was scared to speak out for fear of retaliation from management.

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In May 2020, Danielson spoke with NBC King 5 about the negative impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

“A lot of these are families are actually forced to continue to work during this time in various jobs that are either considered essential or that are essential for families, which increases their exposure risk, which then means they’re more likely to get sick and then when they are sick,” he said. “As we know, nationally, more likely to have more severe illness.”

According to Crosscut, Danielson contemplated quitting during the summer when a colleague was fired without explanation and another felt pressured to resign. Both were people of color.

Though he declined to name the person, Danielson said a member of the Seattle Children’s Hospitalization administration referred to him as the n-word and called Asian people “japs.” He reportedly remains a member of the team.

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“I’m privileged enough to know that this children’s hospital is not a unique organization, that these are all the same kinds of ills that many institutions have baked into their systems,” he said.

“And I understand that whatever I whine about personally and experiences I’ve had around leaders using hate speech and racial language relating to me, the experiences of low-income people of color are still miles worse than anything I experienced. The institution is replete with racism and a disregard for people who don’t look like them in leadership.” 

Jen Morgan, a spokesperson for Seattle Children’s Hospital, issued a statement in light of Danielson’s departure.

“While some of the claims made were investigated a decade ago, we are examining the issues raised. As an organization we are committed to racial equity, diversity and inclusion while also holding ourselves accountable and continuing to do the work required to address systemic racism when and where it exists. We are deeply committed to our OBCC community and looking forward to increasing access to its services through the expansion of our second OBCC clinic later next year,” she said.

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