Skip to main content

Abraham “Abe” Bergman, MD, professor emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine, passed away on Nov. 10, 2023, at the age of 91.

Bergman joined the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics in 1964 and practiced at Seattle Children’s (then known as Children’s Orthopedic Hospital). He was head of ambulatory care at Seattle Children’s for many years before moving to Harborview Medical Center as chief of pediatrics in 1983.

He retired in 2016 as a professor emeritus but remained active in editorial writing and in other advocacy efforts on issues affecting the health of children and the U.S. healthcare system.

A native of Seattle, he attended Reed College and Case Western Reserve Medical School. After his residency, he completed an ambulatory fellowship with Julie Richmond, MD, the former Surgeon General and founder of Head Start.

A pioneer in pediatric policy

Bergman’s accomplishments are legion. Bergman worked closely with U.S. senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Warren Magnuson and Slade Gorton to make changes in children’s health policy. Through them, he helped pass the Flammable Fabrics Act (1967 amendment), which made children’s sleepwear flame retardant; the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (1970), which required medications to be sold in child-resistant containers; and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act (1974), which required the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to sponsor and oversee research on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Bergman was responsible for creating the National Health Service Corps in 1972; the legislative process for the bill and Bergman’s role in it are the subject of Eric Redman’s book, “Dance of Legislation.”

Pediatric programs at home

With trauma surgeon Cliff Herman, MD, Bergman created the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in 1985 and was responsible for the campaign to promote bicycle helmet use. One of his more recent projects involved working with the City of Seattle to provide space for the Seattle PlayGarden, where children with disabilities can play.

Bergman mentored hundreds of pediatricians in his long career and taught them the importance of keeping true to their values, and always with the goal in mind of improving the health of children, says Fred Rivara, MD, vice chair and professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

“He was an iconoclast who pushed us all to do better,” says Rivara.

A celebration of Bergman’s life is being planned.

Originally published by the UW Medicine Newsroom.