Who’s Who: Joseph Toland OD ’54, MD (1931-2016)

Joseph Toland 1972“A true icon, advocate, activist and leader who played a pivotal role in ensuring optometrists were able to practice at the levels at which they were being taught,” Dr. Michael H. Mittelman, ’80, president of Salus University, said about Dr. Joseph Toland upon his passing in 2016.

During the turf wars between optometry and ophthalmology in the early ‘70s, Dr. Toland led the political challenge to medicine in support of expanding the scope of optometric practice to include the treatment of disease. His advocacy was central to the therapeutic profession that optometry is today. 

As president Mittelman noted, “Without his courage to stand up to organized medicine back in the 1970s, it might have taken years for PCO to establish the current medical model for which it is renowned.”

Dr. Toland, a United States Air Force Captain and United States Navy Lieutenant, graduated from the then Pennsylvania State College of Pennsylvania in 1954 (the name was later changed to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) in 1964) and Hahnemann Medical College in 1963. In 1970, he was asked by Dr. Lawrence Fitch to join the faculty as a professor of Ocular Pathology. Throughout his career, Dr. Toland ran his own ophthalmology practice in the Olney section of Philadelphia, and served as director of Ophthalmological Services at The Eye Institute (TEI) and Clinical Instructor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He was a member of the Holy Redeemer Hospital staff for 35 years and also served on the Pennsylvania Drug, Device and Cosmetic Board.

Dr. Toland, wife and Dr. ODr. Toland mentored thousands of optometry students and residents during his 45 years of service to the University’s Doctor of Optometry program. His personal characteristics of kindness, compassion, and loyalty were not only admired, but also emulated. Dr. Toland’s gentle and humble teaching style made him an effective teacher and mentor, ensuring his students were enriched through each interaction they had with him.  

Dr. Toland’s accolades were many. He was named PCO Alumnus of the Year in 1974 and a 75th Anniversary Medal recipient in 1995. In 1982, TEI’s Module 3 was dedicated and named in Dr. Toland’s honor.

In the more recent past, a group of PCO alumni – spearheaded by Dr. Susan Oleszewski, ’76 - organized a donor campaign and surprised Dr. Toland with their intent to dedicate the now Toland Classroom at TEI, which was unveiled in October 2014. “The amazing tributes and stories from the audience that day about the impact that Dr. Toland had, and the warm, from the heart comments were truly a gift to those of us that were there,” Dr. Oleszewski wrote to the University community at the time. “The roasting, reminiscing, and reflections represented a wonderfully important chapter in our institution’s history with Dr. Toland as the protagonist.”
{Dr. Toland's Speech at the Classroom Dedication

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The following year, in 2015, Dr. Toland celebrated his 45th year of service at Salus University and the Joseph C. Toland Memorial Scholarship Fund – awarded annually to a worthy third year optometry student (or students) who demonstrates a distinctive ability for providing competent and compassionate care to his/her patients - was established.

Dr. Toland passed away on December 4, 2016. He is survived by his wife Helen (nee Metzing), son Joseph E., daughter Therese O'Brien, and grandchildren Billy, Olivia, Morgan, Joseph, and Kevin.