Dr. Danette Glassy is our inaugural profile for this Spotlight Forum. This Forum is an initiative of the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (
An accomplished pediatrician describes her method for success in child advocacy:
"You almost never get what you want the first time you ask. You might not get it the sixth. Sometimes when you try the eighth time, you actually get it."
You specialize in pediatrics and adolescent medicine — tell us more.
Danette Glassy (DG): Physician practice is one of the hats I wear. I am a primary care pediatrician — that is how I earn my money and that is my vocation. I went to medical school at a time when women were starting to go to medical school. A third of my class were women, so I wasn't the only one. My other hat is child advocacy. After I had my own children and they started going to school, I had more time. Then I thought, 'This is my time to start thinking about the broader community.' I ended up being the president of the Washington chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). AAP is a child advocacy organization, with chapters in each state. I got my training in child advocacy by working in the Washington chapter of AAP. During that time, I worked mostly on trying to get all children covered with health care. We specifically worked to get CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) legislation passed in the state of Washington.
What inspired you to take on this active advocacy role?
DG: I was inspired very quickly by the only pediatrician we saw in the first couple of years in medical school. He came to talk about his practice and how he wanted to do more for kids outside of his practice. He was a child advocate, he said, and he was meeting legislators, talking to the community groups, identifying issues that were important for children's health and well being and then urging people to get things done for them. I said, 'That is what I want to be, that is what I want to do.' So I went into primary care practice and joined my marvelous partners, Mercer Island Pediatrics, in 1989. That practice started in 1950 and we are still a doctors-owned practice independent of larger organizations. But we of course partner with our hospitals, and we see patients in and work with other practices to improve health and access for kids.
What do you see as your accomplishments as an advocate?
DG: When we were trying to get the CHIP legislation passed in the state of Washington, the other issues that came up were about bullying. The governor appointed me to head the taskforce on bullying. After just two years, we were able to get legislation passed that required our schools to have a policy about bullying; educate students, faculty, and parents about the issues surrounding bullying; and maintain that education. I was able to continue to take excellent care of my patients while exploring other ways to connect the children to their communities in a way that builds resilience for families and children. For me to be able to do both well was a great gift that I was given, and that in itself is an accomplishment.
At this stage of your career, what challenges you? What keeps you up at night? What do you aspire to change and why?
DG: The thing I am passionate about now is children and nature. So many of my patients are spending less and less time outside and we know that there are many health and wellness benefits to spending time outside. Some of our least advantaged families have the least access. We started something we called Project Nature, and we are just about to launch our feasibility study. Partnering with the University of Washington's EarthLab as their pediatric arm, we put together a website for families as a clearinghouse of the partners in our area who have opportunities for kids in the outdoor world. Families can go to this website, put in their zip code, and all the activities and opportunities will be populated there. The second part of it is talking to families about being in nature in a way that actually inspires them to go and do it. Our feasibility studies will be at well-child visits at one year, 18 months, two years and three years. We will be giving a packet – a little carry bag with our logo and a website together with a toy that helps children interact with nature
How do you envision Project Nature serving especially those that have the least resources?
DG: We have many programs, many opportunities and community partners who are already working on these issues. It is just getting people to connect to that and I think pediatricians can help with that in a way that is meaningful for their population. I also believe that the natural experience builds resilience in the child and the family, so we are hoping for that magic to happen naturally if families are given that opportunity. How that will happen will be a learning experience of joy to find out what is the most effective for each population and then connect them to the opportunities that are right there, but they may not have known or heard about them.
What advice do you have for women leaders who are frustrated and working with limited resources?
DG: I have my people that I can complain to, lean on, and ask for help. Also, because I am older now and have lived through this, I know that there is always 'next time.' And one other thing with working in lobbying legislatures for children's health is that you almost never get what you want the first time you ask. And you might not get it the sixth time you ask. But I have been around long enough on the block that sometimes when you try the eighth time, you actually get it. As frustrating as it is and mind-blowing that people don't understand how important this is to you, you just step back, re-evaluate and try again. I would say being dogged is how I keep going, despite limited resources. I just keep looking for better and more resources, although I haven't been 100% successful. The other thing I would like to say is you also have to work with a team, work with partners, and look for likeminded people who can help carry the load. I did all these great things, but I was never alone. I was always in the community that I was working in.
WHAMglobal is working to bridge gaps between resources and access by strengthening networks. What do you envision in terms of bridging those gaps in your projects?
DG: There were three other pediatricians in the room at the IWF Miami luncheon in the fall of 2018, which I was excited to know because in my own forum in Washington State there are no other pediatricians. I think raising the awareness of child health and wellbeing issues as physician leaders, we are not nearly as accomplished as our businesswomen partners. Through this Spotlight Forum, I hope to learn from other leaders things like: How do you run an organization well, how do you inspire other people, and how do you use that inspiration to get more resources for whatever child advocacy work that I am doing? And I know those other pediatricians who were in that room feel the same way. Both of them are heads of their children's hospitals. So networking about that would be very helpful. I hope to learn from other women in this network how to use resources to increase access, so that I can be some spoke of that bigger wheel to help families connect to the opportunities in their communities with the limited resources available, without recreating the wheel.
What do you see as your legacy?
DG: Looking back, when I transitioned from being head of the national AAP's Council on Early Childhood, I had mentored my replacement one generation down. As soon as she took over, the federal government snapped her up and she was not able to do that work anymore because they had given a grant to the AAP, and my baby — the Council on Early Childhood — was in disarray. With this I learned a valuable lesson: Think two generations to carry on the work that we do. I think legacy is another iteration of that; we want to think about not only how we are mentoring the people coming up and how we connect them to the opportunities that we have, but also to think of it in terms of what it is that people remember me for when I am done. This two-step idea is very important in expanding my mentoring, and that is also something I hope I could learn from someone in this healthcare interest group who is already an effective mentor.
About Dr. Danette Glassy:
Dr. Danette Glassy is a primary care pediatrician and a child advocate in Mercer Island, WA. She received her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine, specializing in pediatrics and adolescent medicine, and has been in practice for more than two decades. Dr. Glassy has worked with Mercer Island Pediatrics since 1989 and is also affiliated with Overlake Medical Center, Seattle Children's Hospital and the Swedish Medical Center, First Hill Campus. Dr. Glassy is the proud mother of a 28-year-old son who got married a few years ago and a 25-year-old daughter who is completing her Master's program. She also has a 4-month-old grandchild who gets her really excited.
Questions? Ideas? Want to share your story?
Contact Hanifa Nakiryowa, global health associate: nakiryowa@JHF.org