Remembering Cynthia Shurtleff

WCAAP members, staff, and leadership were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Cynthia Shurtleff, MEd. Cynthia was a legend in the child health community. Working with March of Dimes, founding Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (which eventually became WithinReach), and volunteering as WCAAP’s first legislative liaison are just a few of her many accomplishments. Her impact on Washington will be felt for generations to come, and we send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dr. David Shurtleff, family, and friends. 

A few members of our WCAAP family shared their memories: 
“Wonderful memories have been flooding back since learning of Cynthia’s passing, such as being at Cynthia’s house in the very early days of HCCY (Health Coalition for Children and Youth) — figuring out what the coalition should look like, who would be part of it, and how to move it forward. Cynthia was instrumental in creating what has become a longstanding, highly regarded advocacy group that has impacted the lives of so many children and families. Cynthia was a key player in all of the groups that met to talk about children’s health issues — she was always incredibly genuine, poised, kind, and brilliant.  

I remember Cynthia trudging around Olympia in her short black, very stylish boots, Cynthia having doors open for her (figuratively and literally!), Cynthia telling me she did what she did on a volunteer basis, how the Chapter’s advocacy effort got off the ground, and the day she, Dr. Barry Lawson and I met at a small restaurant right by Children’s Home Society of WA in Seattle where she said she didn’t want to drive to Olympia so often anymore and could I take over lobbying for the Chapter. I was stunned by the news and at the same time felt incredibly honored to be asked. I definitely did not feel worthy of the position that had been held for so many years by Cynthia and I’m sure made it very clear that the only way I would/could do it is if she continued to be involved. She did and that began what I consider to be the real beginning of our many-year team effort to formalize the WCAAP legislative committee, develop annual policy agendas, bring more and more pediatricians to Olympia, and pass good and kill bad bills (remember vaccine legislation anyone?!). Cynthia was a friend, inspiration, role model, and mentor. I am so grateful for her and the long-lasting impact she made. Thank you, Cynthia, for being the amazing person you were.”
–      Laurie Lippold 

“When I started as an officer of the Chapter in 1981, Cynthia was involved at that time in her work with March of Dimes, and then helped start Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies in 1988, which became what we now know as WithinReach. Before the Academy had an advocacy program, before we had our legislative conference, Cynthia was there for us to introduce us to our state legislators and make arrangements for testimony. Primarily at that point we were working for universal purchase of vaccines. Cynthia was our access on everything. She encouraged us. She told us, “They’re not different, they’re just people. Just tell them what’s happening in your practice.” It allowed most of us some comfort. And she did it by herself for years. Cynthia was instrumental in our success as an AAP chapter.”
–    Dr. Jon Almquist 

“Cynthia was a force to be reckoned with. I referred to her in my conversations with David as “She who must be obeyed!” One simply did not decline a request from Cynthia be it to testify, to speak to yet another roomful of school students on congenital infections or vaccines. How could you plead your plate was full to her of all people? The very thought was shameful because she was truly indefatigable advocate for mothers and babies, children and adolescents, and families. She had a hand all that WCAAP accomplished in Olympia on behalf of children over the past 40+ years. We were so blessed to have her as a colleague and friend and as a steadying hand for her partner of 70 magical years.”
    Dr. Ed Marcuse 

“I first met Cynthia in 2000 when I worked in government affairs for Seattle Children’s Hospital. At every turn Cynthia spoke up for children’s needs and asked what we would do to meet them; it was impossible to say no to Cynthia. When she was so clear about kids’ needs – you could not turn away. Cynthia was a model child advocate for all of us and someone I have always aspired to be like. Now I will redouble my efforts to be even just a little bit more like Cynthia.” 
 Sarah Rafton, Executive Director, WCAAP

One comment

  1. David B. Shurtleff M. D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, university of Washington says:

    Dear Jennifer:
    I am writing to honor publicly Laurie Lippold, Drs Jon Almquist and Ed Marcuse for their public acknowledgement of Cynthia Shurtleff’s contribution to children via her affiliation with the WCAAP. I have thanked them personally for their private condolences. I would also like to acknowledge Abe Bergman, then Chair of the Legislative committee both for his personal acceptance of Cynthia as an adjunct to that committees activities and his verbal recognition of Cynthia’s contributions and my own in his career. Appreciatively, David B. Shurtleff, M. D.

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