The feedback Kari Sims has received from the community on the new location of Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) has been overwhelmingly positive, although there’s one recurring theme she describes as “heartbreaking.”
“Our registration coordinators told me that sometimes when families are coming in, they're looking around them and saying, ‘Wow, this clinic is beautiful—I don't deserve this,’” says Sims, DDS, M.S.D., dental director, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. “It almost breaks my heart when I hear that, but we remind them, ‘Yes, you do; this clinic was built for you.’”
That sentiment underscores a value central to OBCC’s mission: dignity. It all traces back to the clinic’s namesake. Odessa Brown was turned away from receiving medical care as a poor Black girl in 1920s Chicago. She later became a community organizer in Seattle committed to bringing quality health care with dignity to the area’s underprivileged children. She died in 1969, and when Seattle Children’s opened the doors to a new children’s facility the following year, it would bear her name.
That original clinic, in Seattle’s Central District, is temporarily closed while undergoing renovations. Seattle Children’s opened a second OBCC location in March 2022 to address the community’s evolving needs and demographics. Located in Othello Square on the city’s south side, it’s much closer to where many of the OBCC families now live.
The new clinic carries on Odessa Brown’s legacy by providing medical, dental and behavioral health care to families in need. Additionally, it aims to address social and economic factors impacting children’s health with a variety of programs and services, including:
- Economic opportunity center.
- Computer lab.
- Charter school and early learning center.
- Family resource center with basic supplies like diapers and hygiene products.
- Community kitchen.
- Affordable housing units.
OBCC also operates clinics at seven schools in Seattle, hosts a series of community town hall events and offers community programs and classes on topics ranging from nutrition to emotional well-being and physical safety. The goal, according to Sims, is ensuring the clinic’s resources are always in the right place at the right time.
“We do so much work out in the community—and being a visible part of it gives us the ability to keep ourselves relevant and available to meet the access needs for families,” Sims says. “It's thinking very broadly about the community—not just focusing on the families who can make it through the door but also being proactive and reaching out beyond our four walls.”
Becoming one with the community they serve
Beyond top-notch facilities and a myriad of programs and services, Sims says the heart and soul of the clinic is the relationships it has forged with its patient families. Among the 40,000 patient visits OBCC conducts each year are children whose parents—and sometimes even their grandparents—visited OBCC as kids. Many of the more than 30 languages spoken by patients and their families are represented among the clinic’s diverse staff. This relationship with the community provides a medical home following the mission Odessa Brown pursued decades earlier.
“It really is remarkable, but I think OBCC has become a legacy in this community that’s transcended different populations because families could come here and know their child was not just getting adequate care, but the best care,” Sims says. “It encompasses the idea of quality care with dignity by providing individualized care, taking the time to listen, being a supportive part of the patient’s well-being and thinking broader than just a diagnosis.”