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In Memoriam: J. William Hollingsworth, M.D.
Nationally Known UCSD Physician Leader Was ‘An Extraordinary Mentor


September 04, 2008  |  

Former UCSD School of Medicine faculty leader and rheumatology expert J. William Hollingsworth, M.D., 82, passed away on July 30 in Charlestown on the Caribbean island of Nevis. Born on January 14, 1926, in Mount Airy, North Carolina, he was laid to rest in Nevis on Saturday, August 2, 2008.

Dr. Hollingsworth moved his family to La Jolla when he joined the UCSD School of Medicine faculty in 1978.  He served as a professor of medicine and vice-chairman of that department, and as chief of medicine at the VA San Diego Medical Center until his retirement in 1991. He was Acting Dean of the School of Medicine from 1980 to 1981, and was president of the Association of Veterans Affairs Chiefs of Medicine from 1985 to 1987. He was also active on a number of UCSD School of Medicine and VA Medical Center committees, including the School of Medicine Academic Senate and the VA Clinical Executive Board.


J. William Hollingsworth, M.D.

"Bill was a nationally known academic physician who brought to UCSD a wealth of experience from leadership positions at Yale and at the University of Kentucky,” said Helen Ranney, M.D., UCSD professor emeritus and former chair of the UCSD Department of Medicine. “He emphasized, by example and by teaching, the importance of excellent patient care. Bill had remarkable talent for identifying the strengths of young physicians and will be remembered by many as an extraordinary mentor."

“Bill had a special wisdom in recruiting and retaining colleagues. He always looked for those with the art as well as the science of medicine,” said Gordon Gill, M.D., Dean for Scientific Affairs for UCSD Health Sciences. “He valued humanistic qualities in faculty physicians, not just their intellect. Bill had a sense of the role of mentors in medicine. He worked with both Gene Stead and Paul Beeson, two of the leaders of American medicine in the 20th century. He helped to preserve their conversations about teaching medicine and to distill their insights for the next generation of faculty.”

Dr. Hollingsworth had a longstanding interest in the consequences of nuclear war and devoted tremendous personal and professional energy to efforts against nuclear proliferation. He lived in Hiroshima from 1958 to 1960 as chief of the medical service for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, an expedition sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, during which he studied and treated atomic bomb victims. He did this because he felt it was his duty to help the United States learn of the medical effects of nuclear war. Later he founded and was first president of the San Diego Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nationwide organization established to explain the medical horrors of nuclear war.

After retiring, he and his wife, Dorothy Hollingsworth, M.D., who also served on the UCSD faculty as a professor in the departments of Reproductive Medicine and Medicine, traveled extensively. They fell in love with the island of Nevis, one of the Leeward Island chain in the West Indies, and in recent years made their home there.

Dr. Hollingsworth earned his medical degree from Duke University in 1947. After completing internship and residency training in medicine and hematology, he entered military service and served at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the rank of captain.  In 1954 he joined the faculty of Yale University School of Medicine, and from 1968 to 1978 was professor and chairman of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.  He pursued research in the fields of hematology and rheumatology, and published two books and numerous scientific articles, and contributed several book chapters based on his studies.

He was a member of several professional societies, including the Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and the American College of Rheumatology, which named him an ACR Master, conferred on members who have made outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Nevis.  He is also survived by daughters Beth Tripp of Castro Valley, CA, Ann Hollingsworth of Half Moon Bay, CA, and Susan Reycroft of Davis, CA, and seven grandchildren.

The family suggests memorial donations be made to the Hollingsworth Fund for Medical Student Merit Scholarships at UCSD. Checks should be made payable to UC San Diego Foundation, with “Hollingsworth Fund” in the memo line, and sent to Health Sciences Development, 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0853, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0853.

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Media Contact: Leslie Franz, 619-543-6163,

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