Patient and Family Recognition Award
This award honors clinical faculty whose dedication to the compassionate, respectful delivery of exceptional patient care has garnered the highest degree of patient trust and satisfaction.
The 2023 Winner:
Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery, Neurology, and Radiation Oncology
The most essential quality for any surgeon to possess is expertise in the operating room. But when surgeons combine technical virtuosity with people skills and compassion for patients and family, they are extraordinary. Dr. Toral Patel is that special kind of caregiver.
As Director of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Brain Tumor Program, Dr. Patel demonstrates leadership that emphasizes the importance of patient-centered care. As an individual, she strives to understand each patient’s unique story.
“She is consistently recognized for high-touch relationships with patients and families, which drives deep appreciation and a consistent pattern of referrals from those seeking compassionate care,” wrote one of her nominators for the Patient and Family Recognition Award.
“She is often seen in the surgical waiting area giving hugs to family members who have been anxiously waiting to hear about a relative who has just undergone surgery. Most important, she is reliably seen every morning caring for her postoperative patients, as her job is never finished with the surgery.”
Dr. Patel earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and her medical degree from UT Southwestern. She did her internship in general surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, followed by a residency in neurological surgery, during which she served as Chief Resident. She completed a fellowship in neurosurgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before joining the UT Southwestern faculty in 2014.
She specializes in treating gliomas, meningiomas, and other central nervous system tumors using advanced surgical techniques such as brain mapping to remove tumors in critical language and motor regions of the brain. Another sophisticated technology Dr. Patel uses to treat brain tumors is laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT), which involves placing a small laser inside the brain to thermally ablate a tumor.
A member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UTSW, Dr. Patel also conducts research on methods to improve drug delivery to the brain. She holds a patent on a nanoparticle that can circumvent the blood-brain barrier and deliver drugs to brain tumors.
A woman who recently had two family members treated for neurological conditions at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital (CUH) said Dr. Patel treated everyone with respect, dignity, and kindness in every encounter.
“Our family met Dr. Toral Patel when my mother-in-law suffered a catastrophic stroke,” she said. “Dr. Patel visited her bedside multiple times to check on us and provide comfort. She supported us as we initiated comfort care and allowed our loved one to pass peacefully. At the same time, another family member was hospitalized at CUH for a serious neurological issue. Dr. Patel did not perform his surgery, but she came to check on him and our family during his hospital stay. In both cases, she went above and beyond what we expected.”
A nominator wrote: “Dr. Patel makes each patient feel like she has nowhere else to be but to listen and care for them. She shows empathy through her communication and physical touch, which is so important for patients traveling through a stressful clinical experience … She is committed to supporting patients when they want to continue their fight with cancer, but also to supporting them when the only option is comfort care. She is the physician that all patients want to have care for them.”
Dr. Patel recently received the Department of Neurological Surgery’s Gold Teaching Award, voted on by UTSW resident physicians. “This is likely in large part because she demonstrates the same commitment to compassion and caring to our trainees as she does to our patients,” one nominating colleague said.
In her words: I am honored and humbled by this recognition. It is truly a privilege to take care of patients and their families. With the fast-paced nature of modern medicine, it can be difficult to find time to practice the art of medicine. But it is clear to me that developing empathic, meaningful relationships with patients is sustaining for the physician and healing for patients. As a brain tumor surgeon, I am often entrusted with helping others through some of the worst moments in their lives. It can sometimes feel like a heavy burden, but it is nothing in comparison to what our patients endure. I want to thank the UTSW Brain Tumor Program, my family, and my patients for their support and guidance. I am deeply indebted to each of you.