Peers consider her a gender-barrier-breaking woman practicing in a male-dominant profession, but Sue Hollinsworth admits she doesn’t feel like a trail blazer.
Just a compassionate dentist who paved her way with the good graces of the Kent community.
Hollinsworth prefers to be known as someone who was part of a movement that began more than 40 years ago – one of the first, few women to graduate from the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
“I didn’t (think about it) until my young female dentists say that. I feel like I should put on my hat from covered wagon days,” Hollinsworth said with a smile. “Guess when you are going through it, you really don’t look at it that way.
“Only seven women graduated from dental school before my (1978) class,” she added. “I just happened to hit it at the right time, where they were looking for more women and expanding.”
Dr. Sue Hollinsworth is an original, Kent’s first female dentist who opened her family and cosmetic dental practice 40 years ago at the same East Hill office, 13210 SE 240th St., she occupies today. It’s where she put down roots, becoming one of Kent’s most reputable dentists, an active volunteer and a philanthropist to many causes in the area.
“It’s always been important to me to live in the community and give back to the community that supports me,” she said.
Establishing a practice in Kent as a woman was novel and took some doing.
“I didn’t find any hurdles. There were a few bankers and business-type people who thought, ‘Oh, being a woman would be a negative,’ and we said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went elsewhere,” Hollinsworth said. “But it’s been a positive. Most people have really embraced the idea. Whether it’s true or not, they think women have smaller hands, are more gentle and more caring.”
Swiftly passing 40 years, Hollinsworth has decided to retire, her last official day on the job coming in October. She sold her practice in June, passing it on to Drs. Brent Spencer and Kooroush Mansourzadeh, young UW School of Dentistry graduates with family dentistry seasoning.
Hollinsworth said the practice is in good hands. The transition has been smooth.
“Sue has a deep passion for taking care of the community … and treats patients like she treats family,” Spencer said. “Being able to continue that is a great honor. We feel very privileged to carry on what she started.”
Added Mansourzadeh: “We’ve been lucky to inherit a very loyal, long-term established patient base. It definitely speaks to the impact she’s had on the community, the impact she’s had on their lives.”
At 67, Hollinsworth is fit, ready and looking forward to doing other things with her husband, George, her two stepdaughters and grandchildren. Years of leaning over, asking patients to say “ahh” and treating teeth have taken a toll on her neck, shoulders and thumbs.
The fact that three of her original patients recently died from various causes unrelated to oral health has given her pause.
“Life is short,” she said. “When I spend the whole weekend trying to get myself back together to come back to work on Monday, I thought, ‘You know what? It’s time.’ ”
Hollinsworth leaves her mark.
She has been actively involved in the dental profession at the local and state level. She has done her share of research and education at her craft. She also has volunteered her services, helping those who could not afford dental care and mentored students.
Hollinsworth is an affiliate professor with the UW School of Dentistry, serves on the Dean’s Club board and has endowed a scholarship to financially help a dental student. She has been honored for her leadership and extensive service.
Outside the office, Hollinsworth has given back to the community in numerous ways over the years. She serves on the board of Children’s Therapy Center, where she met her husband. She has participated in walks supporting the fight against multiple sclerosis, hunger and cancer. She also has supported the Genesis Project, the Oral Cancer Foundation and KentHOPE.
She and her husband are active at her church. They plan to continue their volunteer efforts in the community.
Hollinsworth will savor the relationships she has had with her patients.
Among her first patients was Kent’s first female attorney, Jennifer Rydberg, who recently retired and sold her practice.
She put in her last full day of work on Sept. 5.
For Hollinsworth, the secret to success is simple.
“You treat people the way they want to be treated,” she said, “by listening to their needs and wants and being flexible and adaptable to work with.”
And leaving everyone with a smile.