Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey ’72 is celebrating her fiftieth Class Reunion this year. She had planned to gather with her classmates on Alumni Day this June, but she was unable to make the trip. Instead, she is honoring her time at The Bush School by creating a lasting legacy in her parents’ name.
Risa recently established an endowment fund in her parents’ name to increase access for students and families whose finances are a barrier to attending The Bush School. The Drs. Blanche Sellers Lavizzo and Philip Lavizzo Fund for Financial Aid will, in perpetuity, make a Bush education in reach for more Seattle children.
Her parents, Dr. Blanche Sellers Lavizzo and Dr. Philip Lavizzo, instilled the value of quality education for all at an early age. Risa is taking this moment to memorialize her parents' care and commitment to education through this fund. Risa explains, "My parents valued education and contributing to the empowerment of individuals and community. They instilled the importance of educational excellence in me which is why I so appreciated my time at The Bush School and all it continues to teach those fortunate enough to attend. Without question, my parents would be thrilled with this fund’s potential to expand the opportunity to experience and benefit from Bush to more students and their families."
Drs. Lavizzo left an incredible legacy in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest through their careers in medicine, but their stories are deeply rooted in education and justice.
Risa’s mother was a pediatrician, and her father was a surgeon. Both left medical practices in New Orleans, Louisiana, to pursue their careers in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Blanche Sellers Lavizzo was the first African American woman pediatrician in the state of Washington. She arrived in Seattle in July 1956 and began her pediatric practice in the Central District. She served as the first medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a program of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her presence and commitment to quality care with dignity was always a source of comfort to concerned parents.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 11, 1925, Dr. Blanche Sellers Lavizzo was a friend and a schoolmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her father was the owner of one of Atlanta’s largest black funeral homes. She graduated from Spelman College in 1946 and from Meharry Medical College in 1950. In 1975 she received a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Washington.
An active force in the Black community, she served on the board of the Girls Club of Puget Sound and as president of the Seattle Chapter of Links, Inc., a national Black women’s service organization. She contributed her time to many other community organizations, including the Seattle Urban League, United Way of King County, and numerous health organizations.
Risa’s father, Dr. Philip V. Lavizzo, was born in 1917 and was one of the first board-certified African American doctors to practice surgery in the Pacific Northwest. He also graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and initially practiced medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Philip Lavizzo was hired as an assistant surgeon in the United States Public Health Service in Seattle.
In 1956-1957, Risa’s father served on the education committee of the Seattle Urban League. In 1965 he was appointed chairman of the personnel committee of the Seattle King County Economic Opportunity Committee (EOC) Board. The King County EOC managed a range of anti-poverty programs and initiatives in the area. Also in 1965, Dr. Philip Lavizzo became one of the eleven founding members of the Alpha Omicron Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.
Although both Blanche Sellers Lavizzo and Philip Lavizzo were committed to education and public service, both died prematurely and never saw the ways their investments in Risa’s education, especially the decision to enroll her in The Bush School, paid off.
Risa’s educational journey and career would certainly make them proud. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, is president emerita and former CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a position she held for nearly 15 years. In March 2017 she was named the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation PIK Professor of Health Policy and Health Equity at the University of Pennsylvania, effective January 1, 2018.
During her tenure at RWJF, Risa spearheaded bold health initiatives such as creating healthier, more equitable communities; strengthening the integration of health systems and services; and ensuring every child in the United States has the opportunity to grow up at a healthy weight. This work culminated in the foundation’s vision of building a culture of health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives.
A specialist in geriatrics, Risa came to the foundation from the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as the Sylvan Eisman Professor of Medicine and Health Care Systems. She also directed Penn’s Institute on Aging and was chief of geriatric medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. In previous years, she worked on the White House Health Care Reform Task Force and served on numerous federal advisory committees.
Risa earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society as well as a former member of the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. She currently serves on the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and several other boards of directors. She and her husband, Robert Lavizzo-Mourey, Ph.D., have two adult children and two grandchildren.
Risa is committed to making a Bush education accessible to as many Seattle children as possible. Through this endowed fund, Risa is not only honoring her parent’s legacy, but also honoring their passion for education and equity.
To learn more about how to establish a named endowment fund at The Bush School, please contact Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives Sharon Hurt at email@example.com
or by calling 206-326-7779.