Susan Tolle, M.D.

Susan 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

POLST—I am qualified to serve as Principle Investigator on this project because of my extensive knowledge of the POLST program, track record of published POLST research, and experience in policy development and educational program dissemination. For example, I am a founding member of the POLST program and have been involved in POLST development and research since the 1990 first planning meeting. I have been an investigator on most of the regional and national research projects that have been conducted about POLST. I direct the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care which is the administrative home of the Oregon and National POLST Programs. The Center for Ethics in Health Care plays both Oregon and National roles in dissemination and education. I have a quarter century of experience conducting surveys about POLST and end-of-life care. In collaboration with other members of the National POLST Paradigm Task Force, I have served as a consultant and mentor to other states (e.g. California beginning in 2007).

Using lessons from initial POLST implementing states, California's POLST Program under the remarkable leadership of Judy Citko has rapidly advanced. Judy is currently chair of National POLST Paradigm Task Force (NPPTF) and served as chair of the first National POLST Conference in San Diego in February 2012. Judy Citko and I continue to work closely together.

I serve as treasure of the NPPTF and oversee operations of the National POLST office. I am experienced at grant oversight and currently direct POLST dissemination grants from the California Health Care Foundation, The Retirement Research Foundation and The Oregon Community Foundation.

Scholarship Activities

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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 
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. Tolle SW, Tilden VP. Changing end-of-life planning: the Oregon experience. J Palliat Med 2002; 5(2):311-317.
  12. 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
  13. Tilden VP, Tolle SW, Nelson CA, et al. Family decision-making in forgoing life-extending treatments. J Family Nurs 1999; 5(4):426-442.
  14. 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

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