Meet Michigan Medicine: Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

July 27, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Whether recovering from a life-changing injury or managing a chronic health condition, patients at Michigan Medicine have a specialized group of faculty and staff to help them on their journey.

The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation — or PM&R — is a large and diverse group of employees, made up of physicians, psychologists, nurses, scientists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists, orthotists, wheelchair clinicians and more. The team assists patients once they have been treated by acute-care specialists at Michigan Medicine.

“No matter what role our staff members play, they are committed to helping our patients be the best version of themselves that they can be,” said Linda Grosh, PM&R’s department administrator.

Here’s what you may not know about the Michigan Medicine department that works together to help patients regain their independence.

A broad reach  

PM&R specialists see patients with a variety of conditions and in a wide range of settings.

“We provide non-surgical care to athletes bouncing back from relatively minor injuries, children and adults recovering from spinal cord and other traumatic injuries, older patients overcoming the effects of a stroke and those who are looking to better manage a disability,” Grosh said.

University Hospital houses the department’s inpatient unit, which has 32 beds for individuals who are stable but not yet well enough to go home. There are also 23 outpatient clinics around the region.

All patients first meet with a physiatrist, a physician who assesses the patient and creates a plan to help them maximize their physical, biological and psychological potential.

“Physiatrists focus on the overall well-being of their patients,” said Tony Chiodo, M.D., who serves as the medical director of the PM&R spine clinic at the Burlington Building in Ann Arbor.

Some patients may be recommended for rigorous inpatient physical, occupational or speech therapy; others may be advised to meet on an outpatient basis.

“Any treatment plan is designed to fits every individual’s needs and desires,” Chiodo said.

Therapy isn’t the only field in which PM&R specializes.

Staff members also fit and develop prosthetics and orthotics for patients who need them — including artificial hands, legs and arms — while wheelchair clinicians customize chairs for every individual. Others focus on helping those with visual or hearing impairments.

“Wheelchairs, prosthetics and other types of technology are often seen as ‘limiting’ what patients can do,” Grosh said. “In reality, they are essential tools for people to maximize their independence.”

Assisting in every way

For many PM&R patients, their needs go far beyond physical care.

“It can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with losing the ability to walk or to no longer be able to function the way you’re used to,” Chiodo said. “So we’re careful to ensure that our patients get the mental health care they need from social workers and psychologists.”

Additionally, inpatients get assigned a discharge care manager to help them navigate their rehab when they leave the hospital.

“That continuum of care is what separates us from other types of rehab programs and is a big factor in determining how successful rehab will be,” said Andrea Harris, operations manager for the inpatient unit.

The department also holds a number of fun outings throughout the year, from an annual inpatient picnic to a kayaking program for youngsters.

“Some people may just want to know what it’s like to go fishing again,” Harris said. “Or a parent may want to take their child on a picnic like they used to. We offer them that opportunity.”

Making strides in the lab, classroom and beyond

Faculty and staff are heavily involved in clinical and basic science research — PM&R is the No. 4 rehab program in the country when it comes to research funding from the National Institutes of Health — as well as education, with the department training dozens of residents and seven fellows a year.

“We’re extremely proud of all three aspects of our mission,” Grosh said. “New research, along with the refreshing viewpoints of our trainees, help us truly push the boundaries when it comes to patient care and assisting those in need.”

Harris said watching patients benefit from the latest advancements is the most satisfying part of the job.

“When we can see patients make strides and get closer to the lifestyle they want to live, that makes our work incredibly meaningful,” Harris said. “That’s why we’re all here.”

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