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Dr. Whitney Wood Addington

Dr. Whitney Wood Addington
  • August 23, 1935 - February 10, 2020
  • Chicago, Illinois

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Dr. Whitney Wood Addington, 84, passed away peacefully at his home in Chicago on February 10, 2020 surrounded by his family. Dr. Addington was a superb physician, healthcare leader, research scientist, and lover of the arts.

He attended Princeton University, followed by medical school and residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University, and completed a Master's of Science at the University of Oklahoma School of Public Health. Dr. Addington served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Public Health Service in Oklahoma City, and at the conclusion of his military service, he became a N.I.H. Postgraduate Fellow in Thoracic Services at the Boston University Medical School before returning to Chicago, where he was recruited to be Chairman of the Pulmonary Division for Cook County Hospital. While there, he built a TB outreach program, a mobile medical care team that went out into some of the most underserved areas of the city to provide onsite TB therapy.

After Cook County he moved to the University of Chicago where he served as Professor of Medicine and Chairman of the Pulmonary Medicine Department. While there he began his lifelong care of cystic fibrosis patients and their families. He then returned to Northwestern University where he once again served as the Chairman of Pulmonary Division and became the President of the Chicago Board of Health from 1989 to 1999. Throughout his career he taught and lectured, and published over 100 papers on pulmonary disease and public health focusing on TB, asthma of patients in the inner city, and cystic fibrosis.

He became committed to health care reform and was one of the leading voices in the fight for universal health care, and social justice and equity in medical care. Because of his long term commitment to issues of public health he served on the Poverty and Health Committee of the World Health Organization in Geneva Switzerland. After retiring from his medical practice, Dr. Addington continued to work in Public Health as a visiting Professor to the London School of Tropical Medicine. During that time he travelled extensively in Africa working on projects to contain and eradicate the spread of Malaria. He loved these trips with younger faculty and continued to learn from his visits to refugee camps where he helped institute point of care testing for Malaria. He was a man of boundless energy, and would regularly return to Chicago after three days of traveling from Africa only to go straight to a CUBS game or a night at Lyric Opera. He was truly a man of the people, a charismatic leader and loyal friend who engaged with great enthusiasm, pretty much anyone who crossed his path.

Gratified by his many career accomplishments and years of fanatic support for Lyric Opera, a passion matched perhaps only by his seventy-six years as a fixture at Wrigley Field, he was clearly most proud of his family, his wife Ada, his four daughters, son-in-laws, and eleven grandchildren. Whitney was utterly devoted to all of them and, along with Ada, played master of ceremonies for an endless parade of adventures, inner-tubing and fishing trips, visits to the opera, Cubs, Bulls and Bears games, parties and weddings at which he always had something loving, inclusive and unwaveringly funny to say. Through all of it he had a gift for making everyone feel loved and important. But for his children and grandchildren, he was the ultimate Grandpa, not only for his own kids, but all their friends and really, for anyone who simply needed a grandpa, a friend or an advocate.

Whitney was born on August 23, 1935 in Chicago, the son of Sarah Wood Armour and James Addington. Whitney is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ada Forgan Addington and daughters; Joanie Addington-White (Peter Addington-White), Sarah Addington Emanuel (Ariel Emanuel), Hilary Addington (Michael Cahill) and Anne Addington; and 11 grandchildren Alexander, Ellery, India, and Emma Addington-White; Ashlee, Noah, Ezra, and Leo Emanuel, Nicholas, Phoebe, and Jane Cahill. He was a source of optimism and hope to all of them and will live in theirs, and many others hearts forever.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in his honor to the Lyric Opera of Chicago or Dr. Whitney Addington Scholarship fund at Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine.

A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Entrance at North Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place, Chicago, IL.

Please visit DR. WHITNEY WOOD ADDINGTON BOOK OF MEMORIES. To express your thoughts or memories in the online guest book, visit or Arrangements by CENTRAL CHAPELS-Chicago, 773-581-9000.