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Remembering Richard “Dick” Behrman, MD, pediatrician, educator, and tireless advocate of child well-being

Visionary leader was instrumental in the transformation of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford into one of the nation’s best

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health (LPFCH) fondly remembers Richard “Dick” Elliot Behrman, MD, who passed away on May 17. He was a champion for children’s health and a pivotal figure at LPFCH, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (Packard Foundation).

Behrman died peacefully in Santa Barbara, surrounded by family. He was 88. His complete obituary appears in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Recruited by David Packard to the Bay Area in 1989, Behrman helped plan Packard Children’s Hospital, which opened in 1991, and directed the Packard Foundation’s new Center for the Future of Children, an interdisciplinary team that conducted research and grantmaking on children’s issues and launched the journal The Future of Children. A visionary leader and generous colleague, Behrman went on to serve as Senior Advisor for Health Affairs at the Packard Foundation.

“Dick was a tireless advocate for children’s health here and across the country,” says Susan Packard Orr, daughter of David and Lucile Packard and a board member at the hospital, Packard Foundation, and LPFCH. “His efforts led to monumental change in policies and practices and improved the futures of generations of children.”

Behrman was instrumental in the early days of growth for Packard Children’s Hospital. He served as board chair of the hospital and LPFCH, and was clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco. From 2000 to 2002, Behrman served as Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs at LPFCH, providing oversight to the Children’s Health Initiative, a groundbreaking $500 million philanthropic investment to transform care, training, and research in children’s health. As a result, Packard Children’s Hospital was able to add five Centers of Excellence, recruit dozens of top pediatric specialists, and advance world-class care for children with serious illnesses.

“In his roles with the Packard Foundation and LPFCH, Dick was the architect and overseer for the Children’s Health Initiative,” says longtime friend and colleague, Harvey Cohen, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, who was formerly chair of pediatrics and chief-of-staff at Packard Children’s. “This resulted in the transformation of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital from a very good community hospital to one of the leading innovative children’s hospitals in the world. The implications for the health of children, both locally and internationally, has been profound, and continues to this day and into the future.”

Behrman was an early leader in seeking insights from diverse disciplines, a commitment reflected in the range of interests of his colleagues and mentees, including perinatal medicine, pediatric intensive care, pediatric palliative care, children’s health and social services, and related issues of public policy and ethics.

Carol Larson, who was first hired by Behrman to join the Center for the Future of Children, fondly recalls that Behrman wanted an interdisciplinary staff with doctorate level degrees. “I was brought in as a lawyer, and we also had a developmental psychologist, a health policy expert, and an epidemiologist,” says Larson, who later rose to become president and CEO of the Packard Foundation. “We all knew Dick as a gentle, passionate, thoughtful, and unflappable man. He was a tireless worker and a very generous mentor to all of us who worked with him. I owe so much to him.”

In 2002, in recognition of Behrman’s many contributions to children’s health, the Packard Foundation and LPFCH established the Richard E. Behrman, MD, Professorship in Child Health and Society at Stanford University School of Medicine, as well as the Richard E. Behrman Lectureship at Packard Children’s Hospital, which continues to bring renowned child health scientists and advocates to the Stanford campus each year.

Behrman inspired and guided many generations of pediatricians, including Paul Wise, MD, MPH, the inaugural holder of the Behrman Professorship. “As I got to know Dick, what surprised me most was that while he had held many senior academic positions, he was a bit of a rebel,” Wise says. “He was a mentor who hated complacency. With warmth and a sparkle in his eye, Dick never failed to provoke and inspire us to reject the status quo and attempt to break new ground. This was a special kind of mentorship and I, like many, will be forever grateful.”

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation still bear the hallmarks of Behrman’s dedication to the well-being of children and families in our community and beyond. We express sincere condolences to the Behrman family and deep gratitude for the legacy he leaves behind.

Celebration of life arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Behrman’s honor to the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health (details below) or to the children’s health organization of your choice.

Online gifts

Visit (please check the box to make a memorial gift).


Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health
Attn: Development Services
400 Hamilton Ave., Suite 340
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Please include a note that the gift is in memory of Richard Behrman.