The Story Behind Philip M. Corboy, M.D. and the Memorial Award Given in His Name - Eye Mission of the Pacific

The Story Behind Philip M. Corboy, M.D. and the Memorial Award Given in His Name

Each year, the Philip M. Corboy award is presented during the annual Hawaiian Eye Meeting. This 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.

The PMC award is given each year to an ophthalmologist who typifies a career of excellence in service to patients and peers. The award honoring the memory of beloved Dr. Phil was created in honor of his son, John M. Corboy in 1986, the 7th year of the Royal Hawaiian Eye Meeting.

It has been presented each year since. It will again be awarded at the 2022 meeting by his son and grandson, Mathew Corboy.

Who Was Philip M. Corboy?

Philip M. Corboy M.D. began practice as an EENT in 1933 and eventually settled on ophthalmology. He retired in 1982 after he had served nearly 50 years as a clinician, teacher, and innovator.

Originally from Valparaiso Indiana, Philip Medford Corboy received his medical degree from Loyola University and then completed a residency in Eye-Ear-Nose & Throat at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary under the great Dr. Harry Gradle. He completed his postgraduate work over a period of four years, during which time he studied with the best European surgeons in Germany, Austria, Greece, and Italy.

“I was very grateful to study medicine with the best surgeons of that time,” stated 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. Corboy subsequently practiced in his hometown of Valparaiso and taught residents at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. Realizing the need for an inexpensive alternative to hospitalization of patients during the trying times of the depression, Dr. Corboy established treatment and care suites in a local hotel for inpatient and outpatient surgery. There is strong evidence to support that this was the first non-hospital eye surgery facility in America.

In 1936, while traveling in Tahiti, Dr. Phil met his future bride, the former Clarice (Cassie) Matthewson from 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. One week later, they were married.

The Experiences that Made Dr. Corboy Such a Great Ophthalmologist

A year prior to the advent of WWII, Dr. Corboy, a reserve officer was activated with the U.S. Navy Medical Services and then spent five years in the Pacific theater during the war. He saw active duty in the Coral Sea battle and the battle of Midway.

Following this, and after serving on several hospital ships, he became Chief of EENT services at Pearl Harbor and Barbers Point Naval Hospitals. At the end of the war, Dr. Corboy remained in Honolulu and began a practice limited to ophthalmology opening his first Oahu office in the Young Hotel building in downtown Honolulu and later in Waikiki.

Not only caring for his patients, but Dr. Corboy also taught students, designed ophthalmic instruments, and raised three children with Cassie.

Dr. Corboy also served as a commissioner of the Hawaii Statehood Commission, Commander of the American Legion, French Vice-Consul in Hawaii, and numerous civic clubs and service organizations. And 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 became the Honorary Consul for Brazil. This position required him to learn yet another language and at the age of 76, he became fluent in Portuguese.

When Dr. Corboy retired, he turned his practice over to his son, John M. Corboy M.D. At the time, Dr. Phil said, “If there were any disappointments about retiring, they were overwhelmed by the pleasure I felt seeing John following in my footsteps”.

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 using light tackle.

An Award in Honor of a Great Man

Philip M. Corboy, M.D. was a kind and gentle man whose pale blue and deeply clear eyes looked into the eyes of over 100,000 patients during his 50 years of practicing medicine. Dr. Phil, as he was affectionately known, was a man who spent his life “looking people right in the eye.”

And each year prior to his death, Dr. Philip and Cassie Corboy attended the annual Hawaiian Eye Meeting. This elegant couple, walking hand in hand spent time visiting the exhibitors and thanking all for their support of this great meeting. They introduced themselves to attendees and their families. And they attended the events and helped present the award given in his name.

The board of Eye Mission of the Pacific along with its founder, John M. Corboy is honored with the legacy of presenting the Philip M. Corboy M.D. Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to Ophthalmology in 2022.