January 20, 2011

New department to focus on physical medicine, rehabilitation

New department to focus on physical medicine, rehabilitation

After a yearlong strategic planning effort, including consultation with and approval by its Executive Faculty Committee, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will create a new Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The new department will be headquartered within Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, and will provide clinical oversight for inpatient programs housed there.

Establishment of the new department was prompted by the desire to coordinate rehabilitation services across Vanderbilt's many existing services, and also for the potential education and research opportunities that can be realized through growth and collaboration.

“The creation of the new Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation establishes a new pathway for us to better serve a distinct patient population, and also creates potential for exciting new research and learning opportunities,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Having strong, centralized leadership, and a consolidated structure for rehabilitation services, will improve the breadth and quality of our programs.”

A search committee comprised of Medical Center leadership and representation from an external search firm convened last week to begin the search process to identify the department's inaugural chair.

“Health care reform is emphasizing the continuum of care, and rehabilitation services are an important part of this continuum,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Clinical Affairs.

“This new department will expand our capacity for broader coverage and improve care coordination. This is a renewed commitment to take rehabilitation services to a new level.”

The department brings potential for further evolution with specialty programs in areas such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and burn care.

Research programs will also be developed to leverage partnerships with a range of Schools in the University, such as Engineering. The department also will eventually provide formal training in Physiatry through a residency program.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for use to enhance the delivery and coordination of care for our patients,” said Larry Goldberg, chief executive officer of Vanderbilt University Hospital and the current chair of the board for Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital.

“As we went through the process of assessing the need for a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, it became clear that this is an area where new learning is emerging and better patient outcomes are being achieved. This department will align extremely well with our focus on personalized medicine and the promise of discovery.”

Paul Sternberg, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs and George W. Hale Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is leading the search committee for the new chair, and hopes to have recruitment completed by September. At that time, executive faculty will partner with the new chair to develop the department's strategic vision and business plan.

“We're looking for a strong leader who can unite the various specialists and sub-specialists around rehabilitation services,” Sternberg said. “We expect that leader to make Stallworth one of the nation's flagship rehabilitation hospitals and also develop robust research and education programs.”

The proposal to create a new department came from a nationwide study of successful rehabilitation programs at other academic medical centers.

“A group spent nine months visiting four world-class rehabilitation services, looking into what it takes to have a great rehab service line. The recommendation that came out of that work was to create a department. This is a great opportunity for us to recruit world-class leadership who can pull all of Vanderbilt's rehab entities together and take it to the next level,” said Norman Urmy, vice president for Vanderbilt Health Services.