Dr. Phil Tolley recognized with 2018 Ho Din Award

Dr. Phil Tolley

Dr. Phil Tolley is a disciple of doing as much as he can as well as he can. Turns out, the Canadian turned Oregonian has an uncanny ability to do a multitude of things very well.

In his teens, he was a top student and three-sport athlete who played a year of collegiate football before transferring to Oregon State University. At OSU, he maintained a 4.0 GPA while also serving as an athletic trainer.

At UT Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Tolley balanced family life while fully throwing himself into school and campus activities. He has been a leader of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Interest Group, a full-time teaching assistant for Anatomy, and most recently President of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society campus chapter. And not surprisingly, given his sports background, he’s been a member of multiple intramural squads – winning at dodgeball with the Seldin College team and earning a coed basketball championship with his “Nothing but Netters” teammates.

“It’s just part of my personality. I like to be involved with everything,” he said. “It comes down to time management and discipline.”

Dr. Tolley’s academic and athletic success, however, wouldn’t be complete without the support of his wife, Elisse, and their 16-month-old son, Braxton.

“My wife has definitely been very supportive,” he said. “Elisse’s undying support and love has helped get me through Medical School, and my son has provided me the motivation to always be the best version of myself I can be.”

At Commencement ceremonies, Dr. Tolley will be recognized with the Ho Din Award and the Rohrich Family Excellence in Plastic Surgery Award.

Established by Trustees of Southwestern Medical Foundation in 1943, the Ho Din is the oldest and most prestigious student award at UT Southwestern Medical School. The award includes a certificate, a medal, and a $10,000 scholarship. This year’s award will be presented by Foundation Trustee Jere W. Thompson Jr.

“It is a remarkable highlight each year as we award the Ho Din,” said Kathleen Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “Our winners’ achievements always inspire us. Phil Tolley represents the rare combination of great medical wisdom and human understanding, and it is our honor to present the 75th Anniversary Ho Din Award to such a deserving candidate.”

Dr. Tolley said receiving such a prestigious award was both humbling and unexpected.

“I don’t chase awards; I just try to do the best that I can,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with anything but my best, but you have to balance that with a healthy amount of realizing there’s only so much you can do.”

The young family will soon relocate to the Seattle area, where Dr. Tolley will begin his six-year integrated plastic surgery residency at the University of Washington affiliated hospitals.

“Phil is not only an exceptionally smart individual with a fantastic capacity to absorb new material and apply it, but also an extremely hard worker, with a fantastic work ethic, and natural emotional intelligence,” said Dr. Shai Rozen, Professor of Plastic Surgery and a mentor. “He has the ability to adjust quickly to new situations, interact comfortably with both his seniors and juniors, and create a very calm and enjoyable environment for those around him.”

The youngest of five siblings, Dr. Tolley was 5 years old when his family moved from southern Alberta, Canada, to Oregon. He played football, basketball, and baseball all four years at West Salem High School.

At OSU, he majored in exercise and sports science-athletic training, spending countless hours as a student athletic trainer for the Beavers football and women’s basketball teams. His undergraduate recognitions included induction into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and receiving the Drucilla Shepard Smith Scholastic Award for maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout all of college.

Before his senior year, he married Elisse, a dual major in apparel design and merchandise management at OSU whose career has transitioned to communications and design with Hilton. It was her brother, Dr. Matthew Harrison (UTSW Class of 2012), who encouraged the future Dr. Tolley to consider UT Southwestern during his medical school applications.

Next up, his plastic surgery training beckons. Dr. Tolley said he is drawn to reconstructive surgeries, particularly either microsurgeries of the hands or pediatric craniofacial procedures.

“As a plastic surgeon, a large majority of patients come to you with severe injuries/deficits and you are the one to ferry them along a journey to give them back as much as possible of what they have lost,” he said.

Rohrich Family Excellence in Plastic Surgery Award

Dr. Tolley’s selection for the Rohrich Family Excellence in Plastic Surgery Award recognizes his superior dedication and achievement in research and clinical work. The award was created to honor Catherine and Claude Rohrich – the parents of the Department’s former Chair, Dr. Rod J. Rohrich.

“The award was originally dedicated to my parents, Katie and Claude, who exemplified that success is always possible to those who are focused on becoming excellent and work hard to attain that goal,” Dr. Rohrich said. “Phil truly exemplifies both of these characteristics.”

Dr. Tolley said that being recognized by the UTSW faculty in his chosen specialty was a special privilege.

“Even to be considered for this award is an honor,” he said. “The whole UT Southwestern Plastic Surgery Department has built something so special and to be honored by them is truly humbling.”

His future career aspirations are to eventually secure a faculty position at an academic institution.

“I have a passion for teaching and would love to be able to someday teach residents. I want to give back to the medical community that has given me so much and will no doubt continue to do so throughout my training,” he said.