MN Urology mourns death of pilot who crashed returning from patient care in Moose Lake

Minnesota Urology is mourning the loss of Dr. Thomas J. Stillwell after he was killed in a plane crash yesterday while piloting a plane back from Moose Lake, Minnesota late Wednesday, the organization announced Thursday. 

According to a release from Minnesota Urology, Stillwell had just completed a regularly scheduled day of working with patients at the Mercy Hospital clinic in Moose Lake and was returning to the Twin Cities in his plane when he crashed.

“Dr. Stillwell’s practice was unique in that he focused mainly on providing care to patients in rural communities that otherwise did not have access to a urologic physician and surgeon,” said the release.

Stillwell routinely used his airplane to bring healthcare to rural communities, including to places like Mora, Minn., Onamia, Minn. and Grantsburg, Wis. He did this for more than 20 years. 

“Tom was extremely dedicated to serving the rural communities of Minnesota and Western Wisconsin,” noted Dr. Jeffry Twidwell, a fellow urologist who worked closely with Dr. Stillwell at Minnesota Urology. “He was one of a kind. In today’s world, how many specialty physicians dedicate their professional careers to serving rural areas…and travel to them by piloting their own planes? He was an incredibly generous and caring individual.”

Stillwell's partner, Dr. Dean Tortorelis, said he held out hope that it was not Stillwell who was involved in the crash when they first heard the news. 

"We were very shocked and were hopeful that this was not Tom," he said. "And when the news came out that it was Tom, it's just unbelievable, gut-wrenching news for us." 

According to Minnesota Urlology, Stillwell served as a surgeon with the U.S. Marines Mobile Surgical Hospital in Kuwait during Desert Storm. He was also a resident at the Mayo Clinic and received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"Tom lived life to the fullest," said Tortorelis. "And he really loved to fly. And if anything, as partners know, he loved to fly. He died doing what he loved. He loved going to outreach." 

He was named a Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s Top Doctor in 2019 and in previous years.

“Dr. Stillwell was an outstanding physician, colleague and friend who will be deeply missed,” said the release. “All of us at Minnesota Urology extend our condolences to his family, who remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

Tortorelis described Stillwell as a "very kind man," saying he loved his patients and loved helping those who didn't have access to urologists. 

"Many of these places urologists weren’t able to get to because of the location, and he provided care there, and many times gave patients care they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get because of travel, because of their age, and he did just a wonderful thing," Tortorelis added.