Donald Whorton, M.D., of Oakland died at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley on Sunday, Jan. 27, after a two-year struggle with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease
While never an employee of the Laboratory, Whorton was a valuable contributor to the Lab’s knowledge of the health of its employees. During the mid-1970s, routine periodic medical examinations by Laboratory physicians revealed an unusual number of cases of employees with malignant skin melanoma.
As a follow-up to many of the studies that arose from that finding, as well as to develop targeted prevention and early detection programs, DOE’s Office of Health Programs Epidemiology Surveillance Programs funded a report that studied the rates of different cancers among Laboratory employees from 1974-1997.
The Lab’s Health Services Department called upon Whorton — an articulate, internationally acclaimed occupational health physician with a specialty in workplace epidemiology — to spearhead the analysis. Whorton made many contributions to the scientific literature, and his studies on the effects of the pesticide DBCP on male fertility were groundbreaking.
Tall, trim and sporting a wiry crop of grey hair known to thwart a comb, the white-coated Whorton was well liked by staff and well known for pulling from his pocket a clipped comic strip, to share its poignant humor with colleagues or friends.
He is survived by his physician wife, Dr. Diana Obrinsky; children Matthew, Laura and Julie; and three brothers Jerry, Bob and David. A memorial service was held Feb. 2.