From foster care to Harvard: One of Seattles "Top Doctors"

Voted a "top doctor" in Seattle, Dr. Ben Danielson, "Dr. Ben," is a respected leader and advocate in the world of pediatric medicine. He is also the product of a life that pulled him from the foster care system and into education.

Voted a "top doctor" in Seattle, Dr. Ben Danielson, "Dr. Ben," is a respected leader and advocate in the world of pediatric medicine. He is also the product of a life that pulled him from the foster care system and into education.     

Personal experience guides his work every day. He brings both a deep understanding and great hope to his patients, himself having had a childhood that took him from foster care to Harvard.

At Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, he has passion for his work, and compassion for the kids.

Jean Enersen sat down with Dr. Ben to talk about the idea of “growing wellness” at OBCC.

DR. BEN:

I would say in the informal educational realm, I have a PhD in life lessons learned.  I was troubled and angry and confused as a young kid and I acted out in my own ways.

Sometimes we understand our strengths the best when those strengths are in the midst of many things that are more difficult - that are hardships.

JEAN:

How does it inform your work?

DR. BEN:

It's an incredible honor to have the slightest bit of shared experience, commonality with the families you get to serve and sort of say "I believe in you. I really have faith in you" and those words are not enough. 

JEAN:

Tell me about the key features of Odessa Brown that you think people maybe don't know fully?

DR. BEN:

Being part of Seattle Children's hospital has allowed our clinic to think a little more, to dream a little more, to imagine doing something better to be kind of Odessa Brown and to say the status quo for healthcare is not satisfactory.

It's a team. It's a group of people, and here one of the things that makes this place especially special is that team happens to be these remarkable gifted heartfelt strong, never give up, inspiring, encouraging, that just happen to be these souls who work here that make this one of the most amazing places that you could spend your time. 

JEAN:

Talk about the population that you serve.

DR. BEN:

Families that we serve, four out of five are on Medicaid which means they are low income. About 40% are African American which is a pretty big percentage when you think about the six or seven percent African Americans that make up the general population in the county.

If you spend any time in the waiting room you feel like you are in the lobby of the United Nations you just see clothing and family structures skin colors and languages and just different ways of celebrating that just feel kind of inspiring.

So we see this broad host of families and what we also notice over time is, a lot of them are coming from South Seattle and south KING county. This place. This one place here in the Central District that Blanche Lavizzo and Odessa Brown started in 1969, it was perfect for that time when poverty was centralized to one neighborhood and when much of the African American community much of the diversity was pretty close by. 

JEAN:

So what does that mean? 

DR. BEN:

Well that might mean putting in a better clinic in a space that's in a better location and I don't necessarily mean drawing a circle around all the families we serve and putting a clinic right in the center of that because today's poverty is a little bit different than yesterday's. 

JEAN:

What does Odessa Brown need?

DR. BEN:

Odessa Brown needs the space to continue this journey of seeing what the next iteration of healthcare really needs to look like.

JEAN:

My sense of Odessa Brown is it's not just a medical clinic. It doesn't just serve children but their families the whole community, could you talk about that idea? 

DR. BEN:

Somebody once told me this adage that sounds corny but is actually really real to me that I can't educate an unhealthy child and you can't keep an uneducated child healthy.  And that means that education and health, education and healthcare practices those are interlink those are intertwined there's a single garment there, that is woven together by those two components especially.

The second thing I would say is the future of healthcare needs many more people who have many different kinds of skills and then we can't wait to invest in 18 years that it takes to get through from high school through medical school and residency and then put somebody out there and then say start helping people. There many ways that you can be a great community health care provider.

JEAN:

What makes an investment in in this particular part of the community is an investment that serves the whole community? 

DR. BEN:

I think if you look at this community and the children who live in it the things that you do to support their futures are the kinds of things that are going to pay back the whole community 

A healthier whole community is healthier for everybody throughout the wide expanse of that community. That's actually proven in research and literature and you wouldn't even need that proof if you walk through the door and you saw the potential that you were investing in here in this in this neighborhood today.  

JEAN:

How would you describe the clinic in a nutshell? If you were going to make the most compact statement, what would you say? 

DR. BEN:

A few of my colleagues and I kind of sat down at a couple years ago now and so talked about that what is it what is it that we are about if we had a really boil it down into a phrase and I we came up with this phrase we grow wellness, we grow wellness.

To donate visit: https://giveto.seattlechildrens.org/OBCCspecial

Copyright 2016 KING


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