UW News

March 27, 2018

Distinguished pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Danielson to be UW’s 2018 commencement speaker

UW News

Dr. Benjamin Danielson, a 1992 graduate of the UW School of Medicine, a Children’s Hospital pediatrician and director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, will be the featured speaker at the University of Washington’s Commencement exercises Saturday, June 9.

Danielson, a man The Seattle Times dubbed “a quiet hero of health care” whose work helps shape children’s lives and extends to support an entire community, is known for his humility and modesty. Yet his work has deep roots and broad impact.

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Dr. Benjamin DanielsonOdessa Brown Children's Clinic

“Dr. Danielson’s commitment to the people and communities of Seattle is the embodiment of the UW’s great public service mission and we are very proud to count him among our alumni,” said President Ana Mari Cauce. “We’re excited for him to share his thoughts and wisdom at our 2018 commencement ceremony and grateful for his participation in this special moment in our graduates’ lives.”

Born in Boston, Danielson was placed in and then, in his words, rescued from foster care and raised by his single mom in Washington, D.C., and rural Montana. He went on to attend Harvard University and then UW to study medicine. He completed his residency at Seattle Children’s before assuming responsibility for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in 1999.

“His work is impressive. His story is impressive,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “He’s a physician but ultimately an educator. His goal is to educate and care in such a way that we are all well, particularly those who need compassion the most.”

Danielson runs the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a pediatric care center based in the heart of Seattle’s Central District. Nearly 4 out of 5 patients are on Medicaid and the waiting room often reflects a United Nations-like collection of families, Danielson said.

“Diversity is a super power that makes you better,” he said.

“I want to inspire people about the power that they have to be important change agents in the world,” Danielson said, reflecting on some of the wisdom he plans to share at commencement. Life is a team sport, he said, adding, “It’s amazing how much you can do to be helpful from whatever position you hold.”

Danielson sits on the boards of a number of organizations, including the Group Health Community Foundation, Equal Start Community Coalition, Health Coalition for Children and Youth, Children’s Alliance Public Policy Council, United Way of King County, The Washington State Health Exchange Board, and others.

“Where there are families and kids in need, Ben shows up,” Taylor said.

The University of Washington’s 143nd Commencement ceremonies will take place at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. President Cauce will officiate. An audience of about 40,000 family members and friends is expected, and more than 5,500 of the UW’s 2017-18 academic year graduates in Seattle are projected to attend.