After more than 20 years at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, Dr. Ben Danielson quit his role as medical director of the facility in November after accusing the Seattle Children’s Hospital – which is its subsidiary – of racism against its staff as well as patients of color.
In a recent interview with Crosscut, the very popular and beloved doctor said he left due to several instances of racism at the facility and the failure of its leadership to critically look into them. Danielson also said being one of the very few, rare Black employees in authority at the health facility also made his position untenable. The doctor said he contemplated quitting last summer after a colleague was fired without any reasons given whatsoever and after another also resigned – the latter saying she felt she was coerced to resign from her leadership position.
Danielson said though the hospital’s leadership gave assurances they were going to take steps to ensure equity within the organization following the recent protests against racism that was spurred by the death of George Floyd, they did little to nothing. He cited instances including security being constantly called on patients of color, and hospital staff – including himself – unable to openly talk about racism within the facility out of fear of reprisal from leadership.
He also said a staff member at the Seattle Children’s Hospital administration had previously called him the n-word and used the derogatory word “japs” to refer to people of Asian descent, Crosscut reported. Danielson said that person remains a member of the hospital’s administration to date.
Besides that, Danielson also said he got concerned over the facility’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing an incident where management informed a family they could come to the clinic without wearing any masks. Danielson said the management of the clinic did not ask about his views on that.
Danielson told Crosscut it ultimately came to a point of “examining” his own “complicity as a representative of a hospital that does not treat people of color as it should.”
“I have privilege enough that I should be somebody who says, ‘This is not okay,’” he said. “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. 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.”
He added: “The institution is replete with racism and a disregard for people who don’t look like them in leadership.”
The spokesperson for Seattle Children’s Hospital, Jen Morgan, released a statement acknowledging Danielson’s resignation and expressed gratitude for his services. Morgan also addressed Danielson’s allegations.
“While some of the claims made were investigated a decade ago, we are examining the issues raised,” she said. “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.”
Following Danielson’s resignation, some prominent “stakeholders” at Odessa Brown sent a letter to the CEO of the hospital on December 28 saying the allegations are “shocking and need to be addressed immediately.”