February 28, 2019
I am delighted to shine the spotlight on our Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
I have a special and very personal link to the discipline of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. My father was one of the original PM&R physicians, working at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at the Manhattan VA Hospital in New York City. As a young girl, he brought home remarkable and inspiring patient and family stories that I have never forgotten. He was a wonderful clinician, very proud of being the “go to” doctor for complicated diagnostic dilemmas throughout the hospital. I have no doubt that these stories, heard early on, were part of why I wanted to be a physician. So, I guess you could say that my roots are in PM&R.
To celebrate their 25th anniversary, our department hosted a wonderful gathering at the Asia Society Texas Center—a reunion of those who made the department what it is today—founders, faculty, staff, trainees, and friends. The department has seen amazing growth since starting out as a section of the Department of Neurosurgery 25 years ago. Dr. William Donovan, the founding chair, and Jeff Scott, the department’s first DMO, both attended the 25th anniversary celebration. It was wonderful to hear many of the faculty and residents talk about the collegial and supportive environment of the department—a family of like-minded colleagues who are passionate about their work.
Led by Dr. Gerard Francisco, the department is committed to providing outstanding care, educating the next generation of PM&R physicians, and conducting research that has an impact on patients’ lives—with a focus on patients undergoing rehabilitation for brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and other neurologic diseases.
TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) MH Hospital began as a polio clinic established by Dr. William Spencer in 1959. Today TIRR is one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. PM&R and TIRR have had an incredibly productive collaboration over the years. We are very proud to be TIRR’s close partner. The Department of PM&R has been a model of collaboration in the midst of the competitive Texas Medical Center. Dr. Donovan worked with Dr. Martin Grabois at Baylor College of Medicine to create a unique opportunity for residency training. Seventy-eight residents have graduated from the PM&R program to date. In addition to the PM&R residency, the department offers a highly specialized Brain Injury Medicine Fellowship and a Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship.
We can’t talk about PM&R without talking about research. Thanks to a 42,000 square-foot research center at TIRR, competitive research funding, and the innovation and skills of its researchers, our Department of PM&R is making amazing strides. Department faculty collaborate with faculty from other institutions, including Rice and the University of Houston—linking engineering and medicine. I am certain that their innovative new technologies will continue to improve lives.
PM&R is a young department – young but mighty. Dr. Francisco joined the Brain Injury Program at TIRR in 1997. In addition to serving as department chair, he is the chief medical officer of TIRR as well as the founding director of our NeuroRecovery Research Center. As many of you know, Dr. Francisco was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine this past year. Under his leadership, the department has grown to 30 faculty and six staff. He has brought together a wonderful leadership team that includes Dr. P. Jacob Joseph, clinical operations; Dr. Joel Frontera, education; Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, quality and compliance; Dr. Richard Huang, faculty development and wellness; Dr. Dickran Altounian, associate chief resident for resident and fellow wellness; and Kirk Roden, DMO.
Please join me in congratulating the department on their 25th anniversary. We can only imagine what the department will accomplish in the next 25 years—the sky’s the limit.