Physician Features

Volunteer Spotlight - Dr. Ronald Tolchin

This month our Volunteer Spotlight is Ronald Tolchin, DO. Dr. Tolchin is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation through the ABPMR, the AOBPMR (American Osteopathic Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) and also the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He has been a volunteer with the ABPMR for 20 years, contributing his time and unwavering support for the field of PM&R. We were able to sit down with Dr. Tolchin and learn all about his incredible career that spans over three decades.

Can you tell us about your journey to PM&R?

I grew up in Philadelphia, PA and am a proud alumnus of Villanova University. From there I went to Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine with an internship at Largo Medical Center. From there I went to Rutgers University in Newark, NJ for my residency in PM&R. Under the guidance of our Chair, Dr. Joel DeLisa, I was given several opportunities to lead in different ways and get involved with research, publishing, and teaching. It was there that I started in academic medicine, and continued to teach there until I relocated to Miami where I became the first chair of PM&R for Nova Southeastern University-College of Osteopathic Medicine. I then went to Mount Sinai Medical Center followed by Chief of PM&R and Deputy Chief of Staff at the Miami VA, and now I am at Baptist Health South Florida. I am currently the Chair of PM&R and Medical Director of the Baptist Spine Center at the Miami Neuroscience Institute of Baptist Health for the past 11 years. I have a passion for academic medicine and am involved with ongoing research projects, resident and medical student education and in the innovation department developing a new healthcare app that will tie in closely with PM&R. What I am most proud of is my commitment to education and teaching which has been present throughout my 30-year career.

Why did you choose PM&R?

In medical school one of my fellow students came to me and told me about this new specialty and recommended that I should check it out. I completed an additional year fellowship in osteopathic manipulation and biomechanics as I had a love of the muscular skeletal system. Intrigued by PM&R, I did a rotation at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia where I was fortunate to work with Dr. Gerald Herbison. He absolutely blew me away on that rotation and saw the wonders of PM&R. I wrote a paper, and it was accepted for one of the Baruch awards which brought me to the AAPM&R meeting that year. I was able to network and meet so many incredible residents and attendings further peaking my interest in PM&R. I did a second rotation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Going to the AAPM&R meeting as a student and having two great rotations with great leaders was a game changer for me and solidified my desire to enter PM&R.

How did you get started volunteering with the ABPMR?

I’ve been volunteering with the ABPMR for about 20 years now. I started as an exam writer and have been a vignette writer and oral board examiner for the past 10 years. I am a senior vignette writer and observer during the Part II oral exams. I have really enjoyed that role because I’ve been able to meet so many great physicians and leaders in the field as well as assist new board examiners.

Why do you keep coming back after all these years?

I love the way the board functions and the quality of people at the ABPMR. They are so easy to work with, and it’s been a great opportunity for me to give back to the profession that I love so dearly.

How has volunteering with the board impacted your career?

It has kept me involved academically, I am surrounded by people -- like me-- who love to teach and many who have been program directors and chairs of departments. When you are surrounded by quality individuals who have the same motivation and direction academically and educationally, you can’t help but be in that mindset. You must keep up with the latest and greatest in PM&R as it keeps you sharp, relevant, and engaged.

Do you have any advice for newly board-certified physicians?

When you first get out and you’re board-certified and starting to practice, it is important to be available and open-minded. You must work hard all the time. Being board- certified is a high honor and you want to make sure that you represent the field strongly. Don’t lose sight of the mission which is to provide functional improvement in patients’ lives and treat every patient as an individual. Stay the course, don’t waver and love what you do showing your passion every day.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of work?

I’m passionate about music. I’m a guitarist, I play mostly rock music, and I have collected a few guitars. I also like playing tennis and golf. I enjoy working out every day. About 10 years ago I really took charge and started exercising and living a healthy lifestyle, the same way I encourage my patients to do through some of the functional medicine that I utilize. Being in Miami, I love the outdoors and spending time on my boat. My wife Susy whom I met in medical school is also a physician, and we have been married for 32 years and two wonderful children that we love spending time with.

Originally Published: December 14, 2023