UW School of Dentistry

School mourns Dr. Philip Worthington, longtime chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Dr. Philip Worthington
Dr. Philip Worthington

Dr. Philip Worthington, who led the School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) to new heights and garnered worldwide acclaim during his two-decade tenure as department chair, died on Aug. 13 in Kirkland, Wash. He was 93.

Dr. Worthington joined the School of Dentistry faculty in 1977 as interim chair of OMS, became permanent chair three years later, and held that post until stepping down in 1998. He remained on the department faculty until his retirement in 2008, when he became Professor Emeritus.

Born in Bebington in England’s northwest Cheshire County, he served in the Royal Air Force and then earned bachelor’s degrees in science, medicine, surgery, and dental surgery at the University of Liverpool. In 1965, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He practiced oral and maxillofacial surgery in North Wales, during which time he was involved in a hospital-based exchange program for American-trained oral and maxillofacial surgery residents.

In 1974, he was invited to be a visiting professor at the University of Washington and went on to become OMS department chair. He won international recognition as a clinician, researcher, and educator and lectured around the world. He also edited or contributed to 13 textbooks.

His honors included election to the Omicron Kappa Upsilon dental honorary society, selection as an extraordinary member of the German Society for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the vice presidency of the International Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Dr. Worthington was one of the early adopters of dental implantology pioneered by Sweden’s Per-Ingvar Brånemark, with the University of Washington chosen to be one of the first four North American sites to employ the new technology. Dr. Worthington went on to publish extensive research on it.

After he retired, Seattle-area alumni and senior School of Dentistry faculty underscored the high regard in which he was held by creating an endowment in his name. It was initially done to support visiting scholars but has evolved to seek a more ambitious goal: to establish the Worthington Chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the school.

“This would be a most fitting memorial to his outstanding career and legacy,” Dean Gary Chiodo said in a message to the school after learning of his death.

At the family’s request, donations in Dr. Worthington’s memory may be made to the Alzheimers Association or to the Worthington endowment.