Susan Tolle, M.D.

TolleSusan Tolle, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics

Education and Training

B.S., Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, 1970-1973

Medical Degree:
M.D., University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, Portland, Oregon, 1973-1977

General Internal Medicine, University of California Hospitals, San Diego, 1977-1980
Chief Resident in Internal Medicine, University of California Hospitals, San Diego, 1980-1981

Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago-Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, Chicago, 1988-1989


Susan W. Tolle, M.D. is Director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at the Oregon Health & Science University, a practicing internist, a Professor in the School of Medicine and Adjunct Professor in the Schools of Nursing and Dentistry. Susan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Lewis & Clark College and Oregon Health and Science University. With an initial gift from Madeline Nelson and grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, she established the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health Sciences University in 1989.  As the Center's Director, she has since achieved both local and national recognition as an innovative teacher, champion for compassionate patient care and for her ability to bring together individuals and institutions' representatives with diverse opinions and policies in order to improve care giving, especially at end of life.


Internal Medicine, 1980

Research Interests

Dr. Tolle has over two decades of experience in conducting research about the Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Program (POLST) and end of life care more broadly. In recognition of the National impact of her work she was awarded the MacLean Center prize in Clinical Ethics and Health Outcomes in 2014.

Selected Publications

  1. Schmidt T, Zive D, Fromme E, Cook J, Tolle S, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): Lessons Learned from Analysis of the Oregon POLST Registry, Resuscitation 2014 Apr;85(4): 480-5.
  2. Fromme EK, Schmidt T, Zive D, Cook J, Tolle S, Associate between POLST scope of treatment orders and in-hospital death in Oregon, JAGS,62:1246-1251, 2014.
  3. Schmidt TA, Olszewski EA, Zive D, Fromme EK, Tolle SW. The Oregon POLST Registry: A Preliminary STudy of EMS Utilization. J Emerg Med 2013, 44(4): 796-805.
  4. Fromme, EK, Zive, D, Schmidt, TA, Olszewski, E, Tolle, SW, POLST Registry Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders and Other Patient Treatment Preferences. JAMA 2012, 307(1): 34-35
  5. Fromme, EK, Stewart, TL, Jeppesen, M, Tolle, SW. Adverse Experiences With Implantable Defibrillators in Oregon Hospices Am J Hosp Palliat Care August 2011 28: 304-309
  6. Hickman SE, Nelson CA, Moss AH, Tolle SW, Perrin NA, Hammes BJ. The Consistency Between Treatments Provided to Nursing Facility Residents and Orders on the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Form. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2011: Article first published online: 22 OCT 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03656.x 
  7. Fromme  E.K., Smith M.D., Bascom, P.B., Kenworthy-Heinige, T., Lyons K.S., Tolle S.W.,  "Incorporating Routine Survival Prediction in a US Hospital Based Palliative Care Service" J Palliat Med 2010, 13(12) 1439-1444
  8. Hickman, S, Nelson C, Perrin N, Moss A, Hammes B, Tolle S.. "A Comparison of Methods to Communicate Treatment Preferences in Nursing Facilities: Traditional Practices Versus the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Program." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2010 58(7): 1241-1248.
  9. Hickman S, Nelson C, Moss A, Hammes B, Terwillger, A, Jackson A, Tolle . Use of the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Paradigm Program in Hospice Setting. J Palliat Med 2009; 133-141
  10. Dunn PM, Tolle SW, Moss AH, Black J.  The POLST Paradigm: Respecting the Wishes of Patients and Families. Annals of Long-Term Care 2007; 15(9):33-40
  11. Fromme EK, Bascom PE, Hansen LI, Smith MD, Osborne MO, Tolle SW. Survival, mortality, and location of death for patients seen by a hospital-based palliative care team. J Palliat Med 2006.
  12. Schmidt TA, Hickman SE, Tolle SW, Brooks HS. The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment program: Oregon emergency medical technicians' practical experiences and attitudes. J Am Geriatr Soc 2004; 52(9):1430-1434
  13. Hickman, SE Tolle, S.T., Brummel-Smith, K., & Carley, MM . Use of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Program in Oregon nursing facilities: beyond resuscitation status. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2004; 52(9):1424-1429
  14. Tolle SW, Tilden VP. Changing end-of-life planning: the Oregon experience. J Palliat Med 2002; 5(2):311-317.
  15. Tilden VP, Nelson CA, Dunn PM, Donius M, Tolle SW. Nursing's perspective on improving communication about nursing home residents' preferences for medical treatments at end of life. Nursing Outlook 2000 (June); 48(3):109-115
  16. Tilden VP, Tolle SW, Nelson CA, et al. Family decision-making in forgoing life-extending treatments. J Family Nurs 1999; 5(4):426-442.
  17. Tolle SW, Tilden VP, Nelson CA, Dunn PM. A prospective study of the efficacy of the physician order form for life-sustaining treatment. J Am Geriatr Soc 1998; 46:1097-1102

Patient Care Locations

General Internal Medicine Clinic, Physicians Pavilion

Back to OHSU GIM Faculty Listing