Former US attorney general Eric Holder will lead an investigation into institutional racism, justice, inclusion and diversity policies and practices at Seattle Children’s, the hospital said.
The appointment takes place after the resignation of Dr. Ben Danielson, who cited institutional racism at the hospital when he left in November. A wave of criticism followed from local leaders and community members, many of whom had fond memories of caring for the pediatrician at the hospital’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, and urged the hospital to conduct an external investigation.
Holder, a partner at Washington, DC-based law firm Covington & Burling, will evaluate Danielson’s claims and recommend actions to Seattle Children’s leadership that “accelerate the pace of our existing work to become a truly anti-racist organization,” the hospital said written down.
Covington & Burling will work with the Seattle Children’s Assessment Committee on the investigation, the hospital announced on Thursday.
“We are grateful for the trust of the evaluation committee and take the responsibility entrusted to us seriously,” said Holder, who was appointed attorney general by President Barack Obama in 2009, in the statement.
Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, a member of the evaluation committee, added in the statement that the hospital hoped the investigation would allow the organization to deliver the best possible care in an environment that understands, respects, and respects all patients, families and members of our organization and looks after the workforce. “
“We take the recent claims against Seattle Children’s seriously and believe they need to be investigated,” the hospital said. “We anticipate that Covington’s review will address a number of systemic and institutional issues, including the specific issues raised after Dr. Ben Danielson’s departure.”
When Danielson – who now works in the pediatrics department at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine – announced that he had left the hospital, he said he was concerned the Seattle children’s leaders were not facing issues such as a lack of translation services or the practice of calling would have addressed security against color patients. He also alleged that the staff feared retaliation if they spoke up. Danielson’s departure was first reported by Crosscut.
Established in 1970, the children’s clinic is named after the community organizer, Odessa Brown, who advocated high-quality health care for children in the Central District. Danielson had run the clinic since 1999 and oversaw the expansion to a second location in Rainier Valley, which was under construction.
“If we do this right, we have the opportunity to be part of systemic change at Seattle Children’s,” the hospital said. “If we achieve this goal, we will leave this organization in a better and more equitable place for patients, families and the Seattle Children’s workforce.”
Holder recently led an investigation into Tyson Foods after a group of managers at an Iowa pork factory were accused of betting how many workers would contract COVID-19. The owner found enough evidence to dismiss those involved, The Associated Press reported.
In 2017, Holder sponsored Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan during her mayoral campaign. From 2009 to 2014 she worked under him as a US attorney for the Western District of Washington.
Seattle Times employee reporter Asia Fields contributed to this story.