• Assessment Committee

    An independent review of efforts to combat systemic racism, and to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at Seattle Children’s.

Susan Betcher, Chair
Board of Trustees, Seattle Children’s Hospital
4800 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Re: Covington’s Report to the Board of Trustees of Seattle Children’s Hospital

Dear Susan,

We appreciate the Board’s confidence in the Assessment Committee over these last six months as we have overseen an independent review of Seattle Children’s efforts to combat systemic racism and address the issues raised by Dr. Ben Danielson. As you know, the Assessment Committee worked closely with former US Attorney General Eric Holder and a team from Covington & Burling LLP as they led this critical work. The Assessment Committee met more than two dozen times with Covington, and we want to underscore Covington’s independence and thoroughness as they conducted their assessment, which is rooted in the experiences and perspectives shared by patients and families, members of the workforce, and the broader Seattle Children’s community.

Today, we are pleased to endorse Covington’s findings and recommendations, which we unanimously support. Covington has produced a comprehensive report that is as transparent as possible, given the need to also protect the confidences of those who participated in the assessment.

Seattle Children’s has an opportunity to truly live up to the value of Equity contained in the hospital’s values statement and to affirm its status as a national leader in health equity. We believe that Covington’s recommendations lay out a blueprint for accomplishing these objectives. Seattle Children’s must act urgently to drive meaningful change and achieve more equitable outcomes at Seattle Children’s. If it does so, Seattle Children’s can inspire broader, long-overdue change throughout the field of pediatric healthcare. To that end, we strongly encourage the Board to publicly release at least Covington’s eleven findings statements, as well as Covington’s complete recommendations, to be fully transparent with the Seattle Children’s community and to share the lessons from this assessment.

Now is the time to act decisively. Do not let this moment pass. We welcome the opportunity to answer questions about the Assessment Committee’s efforts, and we stand ready to work with the Board to help implement Covington’s recommendations.

The Seattle Children’s Hospital
Assessment Committee

Ken Denman Abigail Echo-Hawk Colleen Fukui-Sketchley
Hon. Gary Locke Frankie Manning, MSN, RN TJ McGill
  Racquel Russell  


- - - - -

The Assessment Committee was created by the Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees to oversee an independent review of efforts to combat systemic racism, and to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at Seattle Children’s, including the issues raised by Dr. Ben Danielson.

After a competitive process, the Assessment Committee chose former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and a team from Covington & Burling LLP, to lead an independent review of Seattle Children’s. Covington conducted a thorough examination of Seattle Children’s policies, practices, and procedures, and reviewed information from current and former members of the workforce, patients, families, members of the community and other stakeholders. The Assessment Committee asked Covington to engage broadly to understand the nuanced experiences of communities that Seattle Children’s serves, and to take an intentionally inclusive and holistic approach to ensure that all voices are heard, particularly those from historically marginalized and vulnerable populations.

To protect privacy and promote an environment most conducive to full and frank sharing of information by current and former members of Seattle Children’s workforce, its patients and families, the community and stakeholders, all information provided to Covington and the Assessment Committee will be kept strictly confidential. To ensure the protection of this information, the members of the Assessment Committee have signed confidentiality agreements.

For more information, please see our Frequently Asked Questions. Contact information for Covington is below.:

- - - - -

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How will information about the review be provided to stakeholders and the community?

A: This Q&A will be updated throughout the review to provide information about the Assessment Committee’s progress and significant milestones in its work. The information below describes the scope of the Committee’s work, the composition of the Committee, and contact information for Eric Holder’s team at Covington & Burling LLP.

In order to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those in the community and members of the Seattle Children’s workforce who provided information about their experiences at Seattle Children’s, neither the Assessment Committee nor Covington will disclose publicly who they spoke with or what information was communicated to them. To ensure the protection of this information, the members of the Assessment Committee have signed confidentiality agreements.

At the end of the review, Covington will present its findings and recommendations to the Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees, which will also receive the Assessment Committee's perspectives and learnings. The Board will then report to the community and stakeholders.

This Q&A and all Assessment Committee statements can be found at this website. We have made this “living” Q&A document available in multiple languages and utilized digital and analog format for outreach and communication. We have also shared this Q&A and other Assessment Committee materials:

  • On Seattle Children’s social media channels.
  • Via email to all employees
  • To local media, including print, digital, TV, and radio
  • Directly to community groups

We encouraged community members to suggest additional outlets for distribution.

Q: What is the scope of the review? Is it limited to the allegations of Dr. Ben Danielson and focused on racial discrimination?

A: The Assessment Committee and Covington is evaluating (1) Dr. Danielson’s allegations and (2) Seattle Children’s systems, policies, and practices to make findings and recommendations to address any issues of racism or racial inequality, diversity, or inclusion. To be clear, this is not an investigation of Dr. Danielson. It is an evaluation of the representative nature of his allegations.

One focus of the review is to understand the experiences of people of color at Seattle Children’s and Odessa Brown. This includes an examination of diversity, equity and inclusion, prior and existing efforts to combat racism at Seattle Children’s, and any opportunities to address those areas of concern or promote health equity.

Q: What is the status of the review?

A: In January, the Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees formed an Assessment Committee composed of three members of the board and four members of the community to oversee the review of Seattle Children’s. The Assessment Committee engaged former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct this evaluation. Covington began working immediately and has been meeting regularly with the Committee to advise it about the progress of their work.

Covington has been analyzing Seattle Children’s policies and practices related to diversity, equity, inclusion, health equity and anti-racism. Covington has also been interviewing individuals who may have information relevant to the review, including those within Seattle Children’s workforce as well as former employees and members of the community. Covington recently held focus groups with members of the workforce and the patient community. The deadline for providing information to Covington to consider as part of its review was May 21.

Q: When is the deadline for providing feedback to Covington for the Assessment?

A: Covington has now conducted focus groups with members of the workforce and patient families, and has received feedback from hundreds of individuals. The final day to provide feedback to Covington was May 21, 2021. Covington scheduled interviews with any individuals who contacted them by May 21.

Q: How will Covington ensure that its assessment incorporates expertise in health equity?

A: To provide expert analysis and recommendations regarding health disparities and healthcare equity within the Seattle Children’s Hospital network, Covington has retained Dr. Joseph Wright, MD, MPH, who serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Capital Region Health within the University of Maryland Medical System. Dr. Wright is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), where he chaired the Task Force on Addressing Bias and Discrimination. Dr. Wright previously served as Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at the Howard University College of Medicine, and as Senior Vice President within the Children's National Health System.

Dr. Wright has also worked extensively in the area of addressing health disparities and establishing anti-bias and equity agendas in the healthcare space. In addition to working on the AAP's bias and antidiscrimination task force, Dr. Wright has served on the DC Commission on Health Equity, published several academic papers on equity and disparities in the provision of healthcare, and spoken extensively on the topic at professional events.

In consultation with Covington, Dr. Wright will assess relevant Seattle Children's policies and procedures, data collection efforts, and related materials relevant to the issue of healthcare equity, including identification and reference to best practice models where appropriate.

Q: In addition to receiving direct outreach, how is the Assessment Committee gathering information from Seattle Children's workforce and the community of patients and families?

A: During April and May, Covington hosted several anonymous, interactive, virtual focus groups for members of Seattle Children's workforce and a separate set of focus groups for patients and their families. These focus groups provided an additional platform for soliciting confidential, anonymous input as Covington continues to examine allegations of systemic racism and discrimination, as well as broader issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Seattle Children's. Participants were randomly selected for the focus groups

In addition to these focus groups, Covington welcomed outreach directly through email, telephone/voicemail, and mail through May 21. Covington also directly emailed all members of Seattle Children's workforce encouraging them to participate in this process. Patient families were also contacted.

Q: How long will the review of Seattle Children’s last? Is there a deadline or timetable for the process?

A: Covington originally anticipated completion of this project in early June. Due to the high number of workforce, patient-family, and community member interviews scheduled as a result of various outreach efforts, Covington requested and received approval from the Board to complete the project and report its findings and recommendations before the end of July. The Assessment Committee’s priority is, and has been, for Covington’s work to be done thoroughly and rigorously, but as quickly as possible.

Q: Who could provide information to Covington for this review? Was it limited to current and former employees? Were patients, family members and members of the community allowed to share their experiences?

A: All members of the community—whether current or former members of the workforce at Seattle Children’s or Odessa Brown, patients, former patients, or family members—were encouraged to provide any information they believed would be relevant to Covington’s review. The Committee encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact Covington.

Q: Covington interviewed anyone who believed they had relevant information to share about their experience at Seattle Children’s or Odessa Brown that concerned systemic racism and diversity, equity and inclusion. Was there a limit on the number of people that Covington interviewed?

A: No. Covington welcomed information from anyone who believed they had relevant information to share. That information could be provided by email, written correspondence or in a voicemail message. All information and sources of information is treated confidentially.

Q: Some former members of the workforce might have important information to share but may be concerned about saying anything because of non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses in their separation agreements. How did you expect people to share information with these non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses in effect?

A: Seattle Children’s agreed to waive any such provisions for purposes of cooperating with Covington’s review. Some former members of the workforce signed voluntary separation agreements upon their departure from Seattle Children’s which included “non-disclosure” or “non-disparagement” clauses that prevent them from saying anything negative about Seattle Children’s. While it is standard to include these clauses in voluntary separation agreements, it is important to ensure they don’t prevent individuals from coming forward to share information relevant to this review. To address this concern, Seattle Children’s has agreed that any former member of the workforce who is subject to a non-disclosure or non-disparagement clause was permitted to provide information to Covington for its review.

Q: How can current employees of Seattle Children’s or Odessa Brown or members of the workforce more broadly be assured that their cooperation with the review conducted by Covington will not result in retaliation?

A: Covington established several channels through which employees could report information directly to the Covington team, without Seattle Children’s knowledge. Because Seattle Children’s management is not Covington’s client or supervising the assessment or Covington’s work, Covington will not be reporting to Seattle Children’s the identity of individuals who have reached out to them.

Also, Seattle Children’s policies prohibit retaliation against employees who report concerns in good faith or participate in reviews. Any employee who is found to have engaged in retaliation is subject to discipline, including potential termination of employment.

Q: Why is the review being called “independent” if Covington is working for Seattle Children’s? How can we trust the process will be fair?

A: Covington was hired by the Assessment Committee and only the Assessment Committee will oversee Covington’s work. Because the Assessment Committee is a committee of Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees, Seattle Children’s has agreed to pay Covington’s fees on behalf of the Assessment Committee. No member of Seattle Children’s management, including the CEO, will have any role in directing Covington’s work. Likewise, the Assessment Committee does not work for or report to anyone in Seattle Children’s management, including the CEO.

Q: The Assessment Committee statement talks about systemic racism, but it doesn’t say anything about discrimination against other underrepresented groups (based, e.g., on gender, gender identity, LGBTQ, disability, veteran status). Are other underrepresented groups included in this review?

A: This review is evaluating (1) Dr. Danielson’s allegations and (2) Seattle Children’s systems, policies, and practices in order to make findings and recommendations to address any issues of racism or racial inequality, diversity, or inclusion. In the interest of doing a thorough and timely review of those issues, the assessment is focused on those subjects.

Q: If I want to share my experience at Seattle Children’s or Odessa Brown because it relates to issues of systemic racism, diversity, equity or inclusion, or to the allegations made by Dr. Ben Danielson about Seattle Children’s or Odessa Brown, how do I provide that information?

A: Covington & Burling LLP welcomed input from workforce and community members directly by email, phone and mail. The final day to provide feedback to Covington was May 21, 2021.

Q: Could former patients or families of patients, who have signed non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements with Seattle Children’s, participate in Covington’s investigation without their identities being disclosed?

A: Yes. Seattle Children’s agreed to waive any non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements for purposes of participating in Covington’s review. As noted above, this is also true for former employees of Seattle Children’s. Covington has instituted a process through which it obtained a formal waiver from Seattle Children’s without disclosing the name and identity of the person(s) seeking the waiver.

Assessment Committee Members

- - - - -

Colleen is the head of Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity at HashiCorp and has been committed to building inclusive environments in the retail and technology industries as well as the public and private sectors. She is a Seattle Children's Board Trustee.

Colleen Fukui-SketchleyChair - - - -

Ken is a Partner at Sway Ventures and Board Member for Costco Wholesale, Motorola Solutions and VMware, as well as a University of Washington Foundation Board Member. Ken is a Seattle Children’s Board Trustee.

Ken Denman- - - - -

Abigail is a Citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. She is Executive Vice President for the Seattle Indian Health Board and Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute.

Abigail Echo-Hawk- - - - - -

The former Washington State Governor, U.S. Commerce Secretary and Ambassador to China, Gary is Interim President at Bellevue College.

Governor Gary Locke- - - - -

Frankie is a Retired Chief Nurse Executive, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, and Army Nurse. Since retiring, Frankie has volunteered for numerous boards and community groups. Her nursing career spans over six decades.

Frankie Manning, MSN, RN- - - - -

TJ is Co-Chair of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic Capital Campaign. He is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Evergreen Pacific Partners, a Northwest based firm focused on investing in middle market companies in Western North America.

TJ McGill- - - - -

Racquel is Vice President of Partner Success within the Zillow Premier Agent division. A former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama, she focused on building and advancing the President’s agenda on urban affairs and economic opportunity. She is a Seattle Children’s Board Trustee.

Racquel Russell- - - - -

Announcements and Press Releases

- - - - -

1.30.21: Seattle Children’s Assessment Committee Work is Underway; Committee Provides Process for Sharing Information

Read More

1.14.21: Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of Covington & Burling to lead examination of institutional racism, equity, inclusion, and diversity practices at Seattle Children’s

Read more