November 10, 2011

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department created

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department created

Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., has been named the inaugural chair of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s newly created Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He will join VUMC on April 1, 2012.

Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D.

Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D.

“I am delighted to have been selected as the first chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” Frontera said. “I am very impressed with the quality of academic research and in the quality of the faculty, staff and administrators at Vanderbilt.

“My goal is to help build a team that will place Vanderbilt on the national and international stage for PM&R, creating an environment that will provide our patients excellent care while our students and faculty are empowered to conduct outstanding research.”

From 2006 through 2011, Frontera was professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and served as dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Currently, he is principal investigator for the Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Consortium. He served previously as chief of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the UPR (1993 -1996).

The chair search was initiated after a yearlong strategic planning effort, including consultation with and approval by the Medical Center’s Executive Faculty Committee. The creation of this new department will benefit Vanderbilt’s many existing programs and departments requiring clinical rehabilitation services.

The new department also creates significant opportunities for education and research through strategic programmatic growth and enhanced collaboration across the entire University.

The new Department of PM&R will also bring the potential for further evolution of specialty programs in areas such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and burn care.

As the department’s inaugural chair, Frontera will be responsible for oversight of the research, education and clinical services in PM&R for the School of Medicine, and will oversee Vanderbilt’s clinical and academic services at Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital as medical director for Rehabilitation Services.

The new department will be headquartered within Stallworth.

“As a member of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Frontera is truly one of the pioneers in the discipline of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “As the founding chair for our new department, we have recruited a true leader — highly regarded on the international stage and with a wealth of experience in developing clinical and academic programs.”

In 1996, Frontera was recruited from UPR to Harvard Medical School to establish its first Department of PM&R, and was later appointed the department’s Earle P. and Ida S. Chilton Professor and Chairman. He was also Chief of Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“The successful recruitment of Dr. Frontera places a highly accomplished leader into our midst. This new department will broaden the range of our clinical services and enhance the coordination and delivery of rehabilitation services for our patients,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System.”

he search committee was chaired by Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Other members of the search committee included Gordon Bernard, M.D., P. David Charles, M.D., Andre Churchwell, M.D., Robert Dittus, M.D., MPH, Todd Giorgio, Ph.D., Larry Goldberg, Z. Leah Harris, M.D., Terry Maxhimer, Warren Sandberg, M.D., Ph.D., Herbert Schwartz, M.D., Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D., and Norman Urmy.

“On behalf of the Search Committee, I want to express our delight that Dr. Frontera has agreed to join Vanderbilt in this critical new role,” Sternberg said. “We were impressed with the large number of talented and highly capable people who were serious candidates for this position.

“However, Dr. Frontera stood out as an experienced and savvy leader, an accomplished clinician and scientist and a warm and sincere individual who will be a marvelous colleague. His recruitment to lead our new department is a real coup for the Medical Center,” Sternberg said.

Frontera completed his medical education and residency in PM&R at the University of Puerto Rico in 1983. In 1986 he received a doctoral degree in applied anatomy and physiology from Boston University.

His principal research interests are the study of mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle dysfunction in the elderly and the development of rehabilitative interventions for sarcopenia. His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has identified rehabilitative interventions to slow down or reverse skeletal muscle alterations associated with these conditions.

Frontera is the author of more than 200 scientific publications, including 75 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 10 edited books. Currently, he is editor-in-chief of The American Journal of PM&R. He is also regional vice president of the International Society for PM&R and past-president of the International Federation of Sports Medicine.

In 2008, Frontera was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and in 2009, member-at-large of the National Board of Medical Examiners. He has presented at more than 200 invited lectures in 52 countries and has served as a grant reviewer and graduate research examiner for universities in Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including Best Scientific Research Paper presented by the American Academy of PM&R and the Harvard Foundation Award for his contributions to the field of PM&R.

Frontera will be accompanied to Nashville by his wife Aida Jimenez, Ph.D., who will join Vanderbilt’s Department of Psychiatry as associate professor, where she will focus on family therapy, education and administration. Daughters Mara and Natasha will join them in the future.