Dr. Robert Toohill, long-time faculty member, former Chair of Otolaryngology and alumnus, dies at age 78

Dec. 31, 2013 College News - Robert Toohill, MD, Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences from 1985-1996, died Dec. 29 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 78.  Dr. Toohill was integral in helping grow the clinical and research efforts of the department, and served as a mentor to many otolaryngologists.

“Dr. Toohill was so many things to so many people here at MCW over the years,” said Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Dean of the Medical School and Executive Vice President. “He was the consummate academic surgeon and truly a quadruple threat as a clinician, researcher, educator and administrator - making substantial contributions in each of these arenas. On a personal level he was a wonderful mentor and I will miss him greatly.”

Dr. Toohill joined the Marquette faculty in 1967 as a Clinical Instructor of Otolaryngology, and in 1978 was appointed Associate Professor. He was promoted to Professor in 1984, and named Chair in 1986. At the time, there were just three full-time faculty members in the department. When he stepped down as Chair 11 years later, there were 13 full-time faculty members, and they had become a leading referral center for otolaryngology in southeastern Wisconsin.

“Bob Toohill was a legendary leader in otolaryngology, a skilled physician, a devoted husband and father, and a beloved friend and colleague,” said John S. Rhee, MD, MPH, John C. Koss Professor and Chairman of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences. “He will be missed greatly, but his legacy and imprint on all of us will last forever.”

Much of his research focused on the diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux, and he was one of the first to discover that reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus can lead to vocal and sinus problems. His other research expertise was in nasal and sinus diseases, laryngeal and swallowing disorders, and head and neck cancer.

Dr. Toohill not only served his alma mater as a distinguished faculty member, he also served the Medical College of Wisconsin/Marquette Medical Alumni Association as a very active volunteer. He served on the Alumni Association Board from 1987 to 1993 and as President in 1990-1991. Most recently, Dr. Toohill served as a Director Emeritus.  He and his wife were members of the Walter Zeit Fellowship and Dr. Toohill served as a leader for all of his Class of 1960 reunions. In 2000, he was honored by the Alumni Association with its Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Toohill received his undergraduate degree from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, IA, in 1956, and his medical degree from the Marquette University School of Medicine (which later became the Medical College of Wisconsin) in 1960. He completed a residency in general surgery at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago in 1962, and a residency in otolaryngology at the University of Illinois Research and Education Hospitals in Chicago in 1965.

From 1965-1967, he served as a Lieutenant Commander at the Chelsea Naval Hospital outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Kay, and his children Carol, Kathleen, Robert Jr., Andrew, and Patrick, nine grandchildren, and many other family members, friends and colleagues

There will be a visitation held on Thursday, Jan. 2, from 4-7 p.m. at Becker Ritter Funeral Home, 14075 W. North Ave., in Brookfield.  Additional visitation will be held at Becker Ritter on Friday, Jan. 3, from 10 a.m. until the memorial service at 11a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be directed to the Medical College of Wisconsin, the House of Peace or Family Unity International.

Full Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obituary

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