Ruth Benfield and Dr. Ed Marcuse begin their retirement by honoring the Journey Program

Dr. Ed Marcuse, left, and Ruth Benfield, right
Dr. Ed Marcuse, left, and Ruth Benfield, right

Let’s go back…way back, to 1977. The first Star Wars film was released and a gallon of gas cost 65 cents.

That was the year Ed Marcuse, MD, MPH, a young physician who came to Seattle Children’s in 1973, joined the search committee to find a new nursing director for outpatient clinics. Marcuse and the team hired someone with pediatric expertise, leadership potential and passion for Seattle Children’s mission: Ruth Benfield.

Now 37 years later, Benfield, who had become the vice president of Psycho-Social Services, retired on Feb. 3 and Marcuse, medical director for Quality Improvement, will retire one month later.

With their combined 78 years of service, Benfield and Marcuse have left a lasting impression at Seattle Children’s.

But rather than make their retirements a celebration of their careers, they’ve decided to use the occasion to garner support for something they both hold near and dear to their hearts – the Journey Program, a program that helps families cope after losing a child.

One last journey together

Over the years, Benfield and Marcuse have teamed up countless times. With their retirement dates just one month apart, it’s only fitting that they join forces yet again.

“We really wanted to recognize that what’s been wonderful about our careers is the work of this institution and the colleagues we have,” says Benfield.

They wanted to raise funds for Seattle Children’s – but choosing which program to support wasn’t easy. “There are many programs we care about, both clinical and support programs,” says Marcuse.

In the end, they agreed that the Journey Program was the right choice. Benfield and Marcuse are asking their colleagues, friends and families to consider donating to this important program.

“The Journey Program reaches out to families whose children have died. We all mourn that,” says Benfield. “We always hope for a different outcome, and to be able to support families through that most tragic loss is incredibly positive.”

For Marcuse, supporting families who have lost a child is a way to give back. “I really feel like I have a debt to the patients and families who I’ve had the privilege of caring for and learning from,” he says.

“We have been very fortunate to receive commitments from a number of hospital supporters to create a matching fund,” says Benfield. “Each donation made will be matched up to $25,000.”

Although Benfield and Marcuse have tried to redirect some of the retirement spotlight from themselves, their colleagues can’t help but recognize their incredible generosity.

“The fact that Ruth and Ed decided to honor the Journey Program as they make their way toward retirement is indicative of their generosity and ongoing commitment to our patients and families,” says Roosevelt Travis, director of Social Work.

“It’s fitting that Ruth and Ed have asked friends and colleagues to support the Journey Program in honor of their retirement,” says Doug Picha, president of Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. “They have witnessed first-hand how this program has not only served our families, but our employees as well.”

About the Journey Program

The Journey Program helps families cope after losing a child. The program offers support groups, individual counseling and assistance with finding local grief support for out-of-town families.

“The work we do is available to any family in the region for as long as they need support,” says Jackie Kite, program manager of the Journey Program and a clinical bereavement specialist.

For 25 years, the Journey Program, which is funded with philanthropic contributions, has helped thousands of families.

Jackie says the funds Benfield and Marcuse are raising will allow the program to serve more families and offer more services. “We will be able to add additional support groups that will reach more family members, like sibling loss groups, grandparent support groups and drop-in parent groups,” says Kite.

Thanks for the memories

After 40-year careers at Seattle Children’s, Benfield and Marcuse find themselves reflecting on the highlights.

Benfield says her favorite moments are actually the hard times. “It’s about being able to overcome challenges and come out with something that was better as a result of that challenge,” she says.

For Marcuse, it’s about making lifelong connections – both with colleagues and with patients. “I took care of an adolescent patient when I was a third-year resident here, and 20 years later she looked me up to tell me she was managing her condition well, is married and is now a mom,” says Marcuse. “That was very special.”

They remember the fun times, too.

Just ask them about the time Marcuse mounted deer antlers above Benfield’s desk overnight, or about the carnival cutout of ‘the bambino,’ which was part of Seattle Children’s previous logo.

“Ruth and I have had a lot of fun together over the years,” says Marcuse.

Retirement awaits

After retirement, Marcuse plans to continue – and even expand – his vaccine work, which has been a focus on his career: promoting timely infant and adolescent immunization; understanding and addressing vaccine hesitancy; and working with Vax Northwest and on state and federal vaccine advisory committees.

Marcuse is carving out time for fun, too. “A couple years ago when I stepped down as editor of a journal, I used my last paycheck to buy a banjo, and I’m hoping to learn to play it,” he says.

Also on his agenda: travelling with his wife and spending more time with his grandkids.

Benfield also hopes to spend her retirement travelling with her husband and doing all the things she didn’t have enough time for in the past, like photography and pottery.

One thing’s for sure – these two will be missed around Seattle Children’s. “Ruth and Ed are an inspiration,” says Picha. “Both of them embody the values and dedication to the mission of Seattle Children’s. Their leadership and love of this hospital will leave a lasting mark and legacy.”

If you’re interested in giving to the Journey Program, please visit Benfield’s and Marcuse’s donation page. The first $25,000 in donations will be matched, dollar for dollar.