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WesternU pioneer Donald Dilworth, DO, dies

by Rodney Tanaka

January 23, 2015

Read 3 mins

Donald R. Dilworth, DO, who dedicated his life to mission work and was one of the earliest supporters of Western University of Health Sciences, has died.

Dr. Dilworth, who died in early January, served as a medical missionary for 15 years in Ecuador, and then practiced for many years in Escondido, California.

Dilworth, along with fellow WesternU pioneer Ethan Allen, DO, traveled to Chicago to recruit Dr. Philip Pumerantz to move to California and become the founding president of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) in 1977. Dilworth served from 1977 to 1985 as one of the founding members of the Board of Directors of COMP, which became Western University of Health Sciences in 1996.

“He was a very brilliant man. I had good fellowship with him,” Allen said of Dilworth. “He was always interested in helping people.”

Dilworth was born in Hemet, California on April 26, 1919. He attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara for two years, and then continued his undergraduate studies at Chaffey College.

Dilworth earned his DO degree from the College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons in 1944 in Los Angeles. His interest in medical missions led him to practice in New Jersey, where he earned a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

He spent the next 15 years on medical missions in Ecuador, where he helped build three clinics and two radio stations for the Quichua Indians. He and his family returned to California in 1967, where he earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He had a general family practice in Escondido for many years.

Dilworth was certified by the American College of General Practitioners in Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery and was a member of the California Board of Osteopathic Examiners. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California, serving as president during 1976 to 1977.

Dilworth and other leaders of osteopathic medicine began laying the groundwork for opening a college of osteopathic medicine in the Western states in the 1970s. Based on a recommendation from the American Osteopathic Association, Drs. Allen and Dilworth met Dr. Pumerantz at a hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

“He and Ethan Allen came out to offer me a contract, and he encouraged me to accept it and start COMP,” Pumerantz said. “In order to win me over, they bought me a very bright-colored tie. They said since you’re coming from a very conservative background, we wanted you to have this tie to make it easy for you to fit in to the laid-back Western style. Don Dilworth was an inspiration for me to accept the job. I’ve worn this tie at every one of our commencements since 1982.

“Don Dilworth was a visionary, a caring and compassionate doctor, and provided a wonderful role model for me to understand what osteopathic medicine is all about,” Pumerantz said.


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