The creation of the Theodore J. Phillips Endowed Professorship in Family Medicine was a joint endeavor between the Department of Family Medicine and the Washington Academy of Family Physicians Foundation (WAFPF). It recognizes the accomplishments of the founding chair of the department, Dr. Theodore J. “Ted” Phillips, and highlights the strong links between the academic department and the community physicians from whom it draws its inspiration and sustenance.
The professorship reflects the commitment of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians (WAFP), and its philanthropic arm, the WAFPF, to the future of family medicine by supporting excellence in family practice; education at the medical student, resident and practitioner levels; and community-based research programs. The purpose of this professorship is to support a faculty member with strong clinical, educational and research ties to the community who will foster the values that Dr. Phillips established as the foundation of the department: education of students in real-life community settings, strong collaborations with community physicians, and research that helps to improve the delivery of primary care to real patients in real practices.
The creation of the professorship was initiated by Dr. Bill Mead, a family physician and leader in the Washington Academy of Family Physicians and other local medical professional organizations. He also was a dedicated faculty volunteer with the Department of Family Medicine and the Division of Cardiology as well as a committed philanthropist to the University of Washington. Dr. Mead helped spearhead the WAFPF’s and the Department of Family Medicine’s fundraising efforts for the professorship, and it is widely acknowledged that his perseverance and leadership were central to its success.
The professorship is named to honor Dr. Theodore J. “Ted” Phillips, who was the first chair of the Department of Family Medicine. Ted Phillips’ family practice career began on a small island in southeast Alaska and ended on an even smaller island — Lopez Island in the San Juans. After completing his general practice residency at the University of Colorado, Dr. Phillips served for two years as an Indian Health Service physician at the Mt. Edgecumbe Alaska Native Hospital in Sitka, Alaska. Finishing his tour of duty there, he established a solo private practice in Sitka.
Dr. Phillips then took a 20-year detour into academics before rejoining the practice world. He served as a faculty member at the University of Rochester for one year and was lured back to the Northwest in 1970 to become the first chair of the newly launched Department of Family Medicine in 1971. Working closely with the architects of the five-state WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) program, he created the infrastructure for the Department of Family Medicine that endures today, with its strong reliance on a collaborative, multi-state, community-based approach.
After establishing the department, Dr. Phillips stepped down as chair in 1976 to devote his efforts to developing the department’s research division. He secured a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to establish (with much help from the School of Public Health) one of the first fellowship programs in the country to train academic faculty in family medicine. He then went on to major leadership positions in the medical school, serving as associate dean for academic affairs from 1979 to 1987, and as acting dean of the School of Medicine twice during the same eight-year period. After 20 years in academe, Dr. Phillips returned to his first passion — community practice — and worked in Anacortes and on Lopez Island as a family doctor.
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