Philip M. Corboy, M.D. Memorial Award
Philip M. Corboy, M.D. Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to Ophthalmology
Philip M. Corboy (1906- 1992)
Philip Medford Corboy was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1906. He received his medical degree from Loyola University and served hi Eye-Ear-Nose & Throat residency at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary under Dr. Harry Gradle, and later did postgraduate work in Vienna.
Dr. Corboy subsequently practiced Eye-Ear-Nose & Throat in Valparaiso, Indiana and taught residents at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. When Dr. Corboy began his practice in Indiana, he established a suite in a hotel for inpatient and outpatient surgery, an inexpensive alternative to hospitalization during the depths of the depression. His stories of those days were well worth hearing, for this was probably the first non-hospital eye surgery facility in America!
During WWII, Dr. Corboy spent five years in the Pacific theater, first on hospital ships and subsequently as Chief of EENT services at Pearl Harbor. After the war, Dr. Corboy limited his practice to ophthalmology and remained in Honolulu, where he cared for patients, taught students, designed instruments, and raised three fine children with his beloved wife, Cassie.
Dr. Corboy served his community as Commissioner of the Hawaii Statehood Commission, Commander of the American Legion, as French Vice-Consul in Hawaii, and in numerous civic clubs and service organizations. One of Dr. Corboy’s most remarkable accomplishments was linguistics. He spoke ten languages, five of them fluently. “My linguistic abilities were fostered by my repeated trips to Europe studying with European surgeons. I realized the immense value of being able to speak Hawaiian and colloquial Japanese to my non-English speaking patients.”When he retired from his practice, Dr. Corboy decided to keep busy – this time as Honorary Consul for Brazil. This post required him to learn a new language at the age of 76!
In 1982, when Dr. Corboy retired from medicine, he turned his practice over to his son, John. “If there were any disappointments about retiring, they were overwhelmed by the pleasure I felt seeing John following in my footsteps an an ophthalmologist. He is a teacher, an author, but most importantly, a caring clinician who is truly devoted to his patients and his staff.”
Dr. Corboy was an accomplished sailor, an avid pilot, a champion skeet shooter, and a recognized sports fisherman: he held three world records for deep sea fishing on light tackle.
The Philip M. Corboy, M.D., Perpetual Award for Distinguished Service to Ophthalmology became the Philip M. Corboy, M.D., Memorial Award when Dr. Corboy lost his battle with cancer in March 1992.
This award was established in 1986, the 7th year of the Royal Hawaiian Eye Meeting (RHEM), in honor of Philip M. Corboy, MD. Dr. Corboy served ophthalmology from 1933, when he started his first practice, until 1982, when he retired; nearly 50 years as clinician, teacher, and innovator. The PMC award is presented annually at RHEM to an ophthalmologist who typifies a career of excellence in service to his patients and peers, honoring the memory of beloved Dr. Phil.
The Winners of the Philip M. Corboy, M.D. Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to Ophthalmology:
1986 Jerald L. Tennant, MD
1987 Allan E. Kolker, MD
1988 Irving H. Leopold, MD
1989 William H. Havener, MD
1990 David Paton, MD
1991 Norval E. Christy, MD and Dorothy E. Christy, RN
1992 Louis J. Girard, MD
1993* Richard P. Kratz, MD
1994 Malcolm McCannel, MD
1995 Manus C. Kraff, MD
1996 J. Charles Casebeer, MD
1997 Marshall M. Parks, MD
1998 Bernard Becker, MD
1999 Harvey A. Lincoff, MD
2000 Lorenz E. Zimmerman, MD
2001 Norman S. Jaffe, MD
2002 Alice R. McPherson, MD, FACS, FICS
2003 Arthur Jampolsky, MD
2004 Claes H. Dohlman, MD
2005 Bradley R. Straatsma, MD
2006 Robert M. Sinskey, MD
2007 David J. McIntyre, MD, FACS
2008 James P. Gills, MD
2009 Dennis D. Shepard, MD, FACS
2010 C. William Simcoe, MD
2011 Herbert E. Kaufman, MD
2012 Robert C. Drews, MD, FACS
2013 Spencer P. Thornton, MD
2014 I. Howard Fine, MD
2015 Randall J. Olsen, MD
2016 Henry Baylis, MD
2017 Roger F. Steinert, MD
2018 Richard (Dick) L. Lindstrom, MD
2019 Steve Charles, MD, FACS, FICS
*became the Memorial Award in 1993. (Prior to this date, it was the Philip M. Corboy, M.D. Perpetual Award for Distinguished Service to Ophthalmology).
INSIGHT interview with Dr. Philip from 1994
In January 1994, Jan-Michelle Sawyer wrote the following article as a Special Feature to INSIGHT, titled Dr. Phil: “Serving My Patients Was My Greatest Joy”.
Philip M. Corboy, M.D. is a kind and gentle man whose pale blue and deeply clear eyes has looked into the eyes of over 100,000 patients during his 50 years of practicing medicine. Dr. Phil, as he is affectionately called, is a man who has spent his life “looking people right in the eye.”
Dr. Phil was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, in 1906, of parents who were both teachers. Growing up during a time when people worked and looked after one another, Dr. Phil remembers one man, a doctor, who would have a great influence in directing him to go into medicine: “My mother told me once, that when I was six months old I was very ill and my life was saved by our family physician, Dr. William Bohart. Dr. Bohart touched my life at another time while I was in medical school, when he performed an emergency appendectomy on my ruptured appendix and saved my life once again. I remember him as being a man of principle and conviction and he influenced my life greatly when I decided to become a physician.”
Dr. Phil was barely 17 years old and he tried his hands at boxing and completed in the Chicago Golden Gloves competition in 1923. “I barely finished the first round,” remembers Dr. Phil. “I had been an amateur boxer and thought I might pursue boxing seriously. But after that contest, I retired my thoughts of ever boxing again and decided to find a new career! Along that same time I watched the funeral procession of President Harding in Marion, Ohio. I was a youngster then and I remember the colorful sights of watching the Pennsylvania railroad train pass through the town with is coach draped in flags and banners honoring the president.”
Dr. Phil receive his medical degree from Loyola University and served his eye-ear-nose and throat residency at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. He completed his postgraduate work over a period of four years, during which time he studied with the best European surgeons from Germany, Austria, Greece and Italy. “I was very grateful to study medicine with the best surgeons of that time,” states Dr. Phil. “These men were generous in sharing their knowledge and I came back to the United States with an edge in experience and technique that placed me ahead of most of my colleagues.”
Dr. Phil started his medical career in 1933 in his home town of Valparaiso, Indiana. “I can remember my first patient. I was painting the office one Sunday afternoon and I hadn’t even officially opened for business. But this guy came in with an abscessed tooth and he was in pain. So, I stopped painting and fortunately had the knowledge and skill to remove that painful tooth of his right then and there. I guess that completed my practice in dentistry!”
“I was the first and only eye surgeon established in that city,” continues Dr. Phil. “The hospital there really wasn’t a hospital of any standards, so I established a suite for inpatient and outpatient surgery in a hotel on the fifth floor. It was an alternative to hospitalization during the depression and it worked out great for everyone. The patients got a room, three meals a day and round the clock nursing care for just $20.00 a day. After about three years, the city finally built a new hospital of which I was in charge of the eye department, so I didn’t need my hotel suites any longer.”
In 1936, while travelling in Tahiti, Dr. Phil met his future bride, the former Clarice (Cassie) Matthewson of New Zealand. Theirs’ was an “instant fell in love” experience and after corresponding with each other for one year the couple would finally meet again in Honolulu on May 1, 1937. “The happiest day of my life was meeting Cassie,” states Dr. Phil. “I knew she was the gal for me. She arrived on a Saturday in Honolulu and the following Saturday we were married at the St. Augustine Church in Waikiki. I was 31 years old and Cassie was 26 years old and we have been happily married for 54 years. I think that it takes lover, prayer and sharing to make a marriage work. Ours has been a complete joy to me and very rewarding.”
While the young Corboys were vacationing in Acapulco, Dr. Phil was called to active duty with the Naval reserve, one year prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. During WWII, Dr. Phil spent five years in the Pacific theater, and was in charge of the eye departments on several hospital ships. Dr. Phil saw active duty in the Coral Sea battle and the battle of Midway. Following the battle of Midway, Dr. Phil was transferred to Pearl Harbor and was in charge of the dispensary at Pearl Harbor and was stationed at the naval hospital at Barbers Point. At the conclusion of WWII he stayed in Honolulu where he felt that he could best serve his patients and opened his first office on Oahu at the Young Hotel building in downtown Honolulu and then later in Waikiki.
“My practice in Waikiki was very active,” recalls Dr. Phil. “It wasn’t uncommon for me to see 40 to 60 patients a day with only a support staff of four. And at the same time, Cassie and I were busy raising a family. Our first child was John, followed two years later by our second boy, Robert and finally by our third child Sally. All of our children have made Cassie and me feel very proud and of course I am pleased that John followed my career in medicine by becoming an accomplished and internationally acclaimed ophthalmologist. “
Over the years while practicing medicine, Dr. Phil was able to utilize his extraordinary talents in linguistics. He speaks seven languages, four of them fluently. “My linguistic abilities were fostered by my repeated trips to Europe studying with European surgeons. I realized the immense value of being able to speak Hawaiian and colloquial Japanese to my non-English speaking patients. It was just another way that I was able to give more service to my patients. After all, I was devoted to the security of my patients. They came first, last and always with me and my staff. We all felt like one close family and I still get letters from the people that worked for me, as well as from former patients. It means a lot to me to be remembered.”
“I’ve had some interesting medical cases,” continues Dr. Phil. “In 1942 while our naval hospital ship was stationed in Tonga, I performed eye surgery on the Queen of Tonga and saved both her life and eye sight. My son John continues to serve the people of Tonga and the Queen’s son, who is the King now, still remembers me. Another patient I remember fondly is the 27 game winner and baseball player Don Nucombe. In 1955 Don had acute glaucoma and I operated on his eye and saved his sight. He’s now in the Baseball Hall of Fame!”
In 1982 Dr. Phil retired from medicine and turned his medical practice over to his son John. “If there were any disappointments about retiring,” states Dr. Phil, “they were overwhelmed by the pleasure I felt in seeing John following my footsteps as an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon. Of course, I like to think that I’m still serving the people of Hawaii through my son and serving them well.”
It’s only been nine years since Dr. Phil left his office in Waikiki on Royal Hawaiian Avenue. During these past years Dr. Phil has been active as Honorary Consul for Brazil. The post required him to learn a new language at 76 years of age. Dr. Phil and his wife Cassie still live in the house that they moved into over 40 years ago. “I’ve watched the city grow and my life and family grow. I’m grateful for the love of good friends, loving family and the remembrances of patients whom I served over the years. If Dr. Bohart could see me now, I hope that he would have been proud of my work in serving others. He taught me the value and importance of always looking people right in the eye.”