UW News

November 10, 1997

New endowed professorship will enhance community-focused teaching and research in family medicine.

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

A newly established endowed professorship — the first for the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine — will further enhance the already strong links between the academic department and practicing physicians throughout the region.
The professorship is named in honor of the founding chair of family medicine, Dr. Theodore J. Phillips. The holder of the professorship will continue Phillips’ groundbreaking work in moving medical education and health-care research from the university into the community.

As a boy in Depression-era Ohio, Phillips had accompanied his father, a surgeon and general practitioner, on house calls. Later, as a medical student at Johns Hopkins University, he remained determined to practice general medicine, despite a climate of increased specialization. He moved West, first to Colorado to complete a residency in general practice, and then to Sitka, Alaska, and practiced for seven years.

When universities approached him to start new generalist training programs, he was at first unwilling because he enjoyed Alaska. He resisted until a friend convinced him it would be a way to help reduce the physician shortage in remote places.

Within months after his recruitment to the UW in 1970 to create a family medicine department, Phillips worked with practicing physicians to establish clinical teaching sites in small towns. There, medical students experienced first-hand a broad range of patient care.

Several years after, Phillips turned over the administration of his department to concentrate on building a research section for scholarly studies in family medicine. He went on to become associate dean for academic affairs and was twice acting dean of the medical school. In 1988, he returned to community practice.

“It was important to me to return,” he said, “since that is what I had set out to do when I graduated from medical school in 1959.” He practiced in Anacortes and on Lopez Island for six years, while teaching medical students part-time. He retired in 1994, and is now involved in health and community service issues.

Today, the UW department he founded is nationally recognized as a leader in training new physicians where they are most needed: in primary-care practices in small towns or inner-city neighborhoods, or working with other populations that have difficulty obtaining medical care. The department is also noted for its research to improve the delivery of health care.

The department puts its teachings and research into practice in the form of direct public service, through such efforts as Programs for Healthy Communities, which helps rural towns strengthen their health-care systems, and the Community Health Advancement Program, whereby health professional students carry out volunteer projects with social service agencies.

The Washington Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, together with the Deparment of Family Medicine, led the successful campaign to endow the Phillips Professorship. Family physicians from throughout Washington state contributed a major portion of the funding. A major bequest also came from the estate of late Seattle attorney Bryant Dunn. More than 200 individual, corporate, foundation and community hospital donors from around the region and the nation participated as well.

Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, has appointed a selection committee for the Phillips Professorship. The committee, composed of community physicians and UW physicians, is headed by Dr. John Geyman, former chair of the Department of Family Medicine.

Other search committee members are: Drs. Laura-Mae Baldwin, associate professor of family medicine; James R. Blackman, assistant dean for regional affairs and rural health and clinical medical education coordinator in Boise; William Doyle, clinical instructor of family medicine in Colville, Wash.; and William Marsh, a family physician in Puyallup, Wash. The committee will consult with Dr. Peter McGough, recent past-president of the Washington State Medical Association, and will work closely with Dr. Ronald Schneeweiss, professor and chair of family medicine. The first Phillips Professor could be named by early next year.