Christopher Dawes

Longtime CEO of Packard Children’s Hospital dies at 68

Christopher Dawes, who served as chief executive officer of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for 18 years, died June 29 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 68.

Christopher Dawes, who retired as CEO of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in 2017, was beloved by the hospital community for his leadership, warmth and humble nature; his advocacy for children’s health; and his ability to listen. (Photo Courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford)

Dawes guided the hospital during its formative years into a renowned center for advanced children’s care. He was beloved by the hospital community for his leadership, warmth and humble nature; his advocacy for children’s health; and his ability to listen.

He directed a $500 million program to build centers of excellence in several medical specialties; developed Stanford Children’s Health — a regional network of care for children; and oversaw an expansion of the hospital into a technologically advanced, 361-bed facility that opened in 2017.

“We went from being a very lovely community hospital, nicely designed and family-friendly, to a world-class children’s hospital drawing patients from across the United States and around the world,” said Susan Packard Orr, a longtime member of the hospital’s board of directors and daughter of hospital founder Lucile Packard.

Dawes was also an advocate at the national level, ensuring safe and healing environments for children and helping to create guidelines for coverage of children under the Affordable Care Act.

“Chris was a tireless advocate for children’s health. Through his passion and dedication, he helped bring extraordinary advances in clinical services to our young patients.”

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said Dawes will be remembered for his enormous contributions to maternal and child health. “Chris was a tireless advocate for children’s health. Through his passion and dedication, he helped bring extraordinary advances in clinical services to our young patients,” Minor said.

Dawes, Minor and David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, collaborated to create the Stanford Medicine integrated strategic plan. “It was wonderful to partner with an outstanding leader like Chris as our two hospitals and the medical school worked in concert to determine our collective future direction and how best to get there,” Entwistle said.

“Beyond his effective leadership, what I will remember most about Chris are his kindness and dedication to the mission of helping children in need,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD.

“He was very approachable and warm,“ said David Stevenson, MD, senior associate dean of maternal and child health at the School of Medicine. “He had a fatherly disposition that was very welcoming and supportive. His hardest problem was saying no. He always wanted to be helpful and responsive.”

A native of Great Britain, Dawes grew up in California. He earned a bachelor’s in public administration from San Diego State University and an MBA from the McLaren School of Business at the University of San Francisco. He was in senior positions at Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center in San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose and Stanford Health Care before joining Packard Children’s as chief operating officer in 1995. He became CEO of the hospital in 1997, and retired in 2018.

Paul King became CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital-Stanford Children’s Health in January. “He understood at a fundamental level the profound difference that we could make in the lives of children and families when we come together in teams to share better ideas and better practices — that when applied consistently create the magic and miracle of healing,” King said.

Dawes’ survivors include his wife, Elizabeth (Beth) Dawes; sons Matthew and Scott Dawes (daughter-in-law Brittney Dawes); and daughter Sara Dawes Hughes (son-in-law Caleb Hughes).

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