About Us

A Brief History of the Department

By William H. Donovan, Founding Chair, 1993-2008

“In 1992, as managed care came on the scene in Houston, Texas, and rehab hospitals were still exempt from reimbursement by diagnosis related groups (DRG), The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), noticed a decrease in the referral of patients with catastrophic diagnosis such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke and amputations — diagnoses for which TIRR had become famous for treating. They noted this decline in referrals, especially from what was then Hermann Hospital, one of the two level-one trauma centers in Houston.  The reason was quickly apparent. Other hospital systems recognized an opportunity to improve their financial position by treating these patients who were insured and they began to compete with TIRR by setting up their own rehabilitation units.  Therefore, TIRR wished to establish a stronger relationship with Hermann Hospital to “capture” patients with these diagnoses so they could come to TIRR and receive the best specialized care.

Around the middle of that year, 1992, Dr. Guy Clifton, professor and chair of neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School approached me when I was medical director of TIRR, and chief of service at Hermann Hospital, to start a PM&R service at Hermann Hospital. Simultaneously, UT saw the opportunity to establish a PM&R Department, which had eluded them thus far. I was subsequently appointed chair of the new department. The PM&R Service began at Hermann Hospital in January of 1993 and and PM&R at McGovern Medical School began as a section of Neurosurgery until it was approved by The University of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board later that year to become a full department servicing Hermann Hospital, TIRR and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Hospital.

Department Vision and Mission


Through the integration of skills, knowledge, curiosity, and advocacy for quality, the department will be a premier center for academic physical medicine and rehabilitation and the home of world-class faculty and staff that provide outstanding rehabilitative care, conduct innovative scientific inquiry, and lead initiatives that influence public policy.



To provide excellent rehabilitative services through advances in clinical care and discovery of knowledge those promote recovery, functional restoration, and community re-integration of individuals with limitation in function and activity participation due to injury or disease. Further, the department seeks to promote collaborative efforts across health-related disciplines, support patient advocacy, and train future care providers and leaders in patient care and research.