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Expanding complete pediatric care beyond the walls of a clinic  

By Josh Friesen
For Ignite Magazine
Photos by Jason Hill

Standing in an emergency department at a hospital in New Mexico, Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., was grappling with yet another preventable tragedy. 

He was in his first pediatric position after residency at a hospital with the Indian Health Service on the Navajo Nation. Within a single month, he’d been called into the emergency department five separate times to help stabilize a child who’d been critically injured in a car crash. None of the children had been restrained in car seats or had their seatbelts on. The injuries were preventable, and Hoffman — angry at the failures of the systems that work to support children and families — knew he needed to work with the community to spark change. 

“I knew I could, as a pediatrician in the clinic, talk to families and try and educate them, but that only goes so far,” said Hoffman, now a professor of pediatrics at the OHSU School of Medicine and medical director of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s Child Injury and Prevention Program and Tom Sargent Safety Resource Center. “Stepping back and asking where the gaps were, what barriers existed and what assets existed in the community that we could collectively employ to build solutions was an incredibly powerful experience.” 

Benjamin Hoffman wears a navy blazer and a dress shirt with an optimistic smile

That was nearly 30 years ago. Hoffman realized that complete pediatric care expands beyond the walls of a clinic, needs to be viewed through a health equity lens and is influenced by lawmakers, community leaders and social justice advocates. His dedication to influencing policy, connecting authentically with families and communities and advocating for children’s health and injury prevention has led to his recent election as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

“The advocacy work — the community engagement work — it’s crucial,” Hoffman said. “Every child should have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential, and there are so many structural barriers to that.”   

Hoffman arrived at Doernbecher in 2011 because the children’s hospital values what he values. Doernbecher understands how children’s health is fundamentally different from adult health — how a strong foundation of well-being early in life is crucial to positive health outcomes later.  

“Every child should have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential, and there are so many structural barriers to that.

Benjamin Hoffman

Hoffman owes a lot of his work at OHSU to community support. Funds from Injury Free Coalition for Kids and the Credit Unions for Kids formed the Tom Sargent Safety Resource Center, and private philanthropy has been essential in furthering the Child Injury Prevention Program’s mission. This support has helped establish OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital as one of the best children’s hospitals in the U.S.  

By empowering communities, inspiring a new generation of pediatric leaders and shedding light on historical, systemic inequities, Hoffman hopes to spur positive change for the future of children’s health. 

“It’s not just lip service — we have a fundamental role in changing policy at the institutional level, the state level and the federal level,” he said. “And I’m grateful for that work OHSU enables us to do.” 

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