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December 9, 2002


Emory's Center for Rehabilitation Medicine Celebrates 25th Anniversary, Senator Cleland Serves as Guest of Honor

Emory University Hospital's Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (CRM), rich in history, tradition, and success, celebrates 25 years of helping patients to overcome their disabilities today. A ceremony will be held at 10 am at the CRM to commemorate the center's 25th anniversary. Since 1977, the CRM has been committed to achieving excellence through research, education and clinical services alike, a mission that has remained intact throughout the years.

"For 25 years, rehabilitation medicine specialists at Emory have kept one foot grounded in medicine and science and the other in social implications and patient practicality," says Dale Strasser, M.D., associate professor and chairman of rehabilitation medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. " The care and treatment we provide to patients are measured by their performance. At the CRM, we are responsible for providing medical and rehabilitative management, counseling and support. Instruction in therapeutic exercises, compensatory strategies, and the use of adaptive equipment round out our treatment program. Then we evaluate our work by watching and assessing our patients as they blend back into the community and into an outside setting," Dr. Strasser explains.

Rehabilitation medicine promotes the functional recovery of individuals who have suffered from a variety of serious disabling conditions such as stroke, hip fracture, amputation, Parkinson's Disease and severe trauma, including head injury. "As rehabilitationists, we are specialists in function," according to Dr. Strasser. "Our unique skills emerge from specialized knowledge in such diverse areas as the musculoskeletal system, neurosciences, exercise physiology and psychology. We also treat many patients with more common disabling conditions like low back pain and sports injuries."

In the 1970s, the idea of a barrier-free rehabilitation center was revolutionary. Built following a $7.5 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation, the six-story, concrete building was considered state-of-the-art. It featured ramps, wide doors, and switches and light fixtures at the proper height for those in wheelchairs. The center was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act had been created, so many of these accessibility designs were cutting-edge technology. Completed in the fall of 1976, the center opened to patients in January 1977. It was one of the first dedicated rehabilitation centers in Georgia.

U. S. Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), then at the head of the U.S. Veterans Administration, helped Emory dedicate the CRM in 1977. Seriously wounded during the Vietnam War losing both legs and his right arm, Cleland was impressed by the building's accessibility when it opened. He then said, "Rehabilitation starts with the idea of treating the whole person and the individual's sense of who he is and where he is going." Today, he is still a staunch supporter of the words he uttered 25 years ago. Senator Cleland, an Emory graduate, will be the guest of honor at Monday's ceremony.

The Center for Rehabilitation Medicine is a freestanding, outpatient and inpatient facility, consisting of 56 beds. Comprehensive rehabilitation services include treatment for individuals who suffer from stroke, neuromuscular disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, arthritis, orthopaedic conditions, musculoskeletal disease, neuromuscular disease and other injuries or conditions that cause loss of function or ability. Seven physicians staff the center, along with the help over a dozen physical therapists and occupational therapists, four speech language pathologists, four therapeutic recreation therapists and more than 60 nurses.

Over the past quarter of a century, the CRM has grown in the community. Rehabilitation services are also provided at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Wesley Woods Center, Grady Memorial Hospital and AtlantaVeterans Affairs Medical Center.

"We like to think of ourselves not only as a hospital and health care facility, but also as a resource to the community for those with a major disabling event," says Dr. Strasser. "Through simple technology, such as constraint-induced therapy where stroke patients are taught to regain use of their impaired arm by limiting the use of their good arm, to high-technology, such as virtual reality therapy where participants interact with a computer-generated, three-dimensional virtual world, we can help patients achieve a well-being so they can safely go home and function again in the outside world."

The CRM also includes a variety of unique programs, including The Dizziness and Balance Center, a model Head Injury Center, a Special Studies Center for Quality of Life and Rehabilitation and an Intensive Treatment Program for Aphasia. Cutting-edge research includes exploring the use of testosterone supplements to improve strength in older men who are becoming frail and creative approaches to enhancing immune responses to exercise without the use of medicines, to name a few.

"Rehabilitation medicine is eminently practical and function oriented," says Thomas J. Lawley, M.D., dean of Emory University School of Medicine. "All of the key elements of rehabilitation medicine are provided at the CRM, including medical management, therapy, support and encouragement."

The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine has taken some top honors for its education and training methods. U.S. News and World Report ranked Emory's physical therapy program in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine third in the nation in 2000. The department has the only neuropsychology program in Georgia accredited for pre-doctoral internships and post-doctoral fellowships. Residents in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have had an unprecedented 100 percent pass rate on specialty boards during the last four years.

In the near future, Dr. Strasser says he sees research expanding in areas such as stroke, brain injury, geriatric rehabilitation, orthopaedics rehabilitation, innovative strategies to regain motor skills and more effective ways to improve rehabilitation service delivery. "This center is much more than bricks and mortar," Dr. Strasser says. "With the incredible strength and support of Emory and the community, we have no where to go but up!"


Fact Sheet for the Emory University Hospital Center for Rehabilitation Medicine

  • Freestanding, outpatient and inpatient facility built in 1976
  • Opened to patients in January 1977
  • 56 inpatient beds
  • All entrances/exits have automatic doors
  • Timing of elevators is slowed to allow independent use by patients
  • Bathrooms, sinks and mirrors are wheelchair accessible
  • Cafeteria has wheelchair accessible-height tables
  • Outside Mobility Garden constructed for gait and wheelchair training on a variety of surfaces
  • Center owns an adapted van and bus which are used for community integration outings
  • Staffing
    * 7 physicians
    * 12 physical therapists
    * 12 occupational therapists
    * 4 speech language pathologists
    * 4 therapeutic recreation therapists
    * 63 full-time nurses
  • Specialty Services
    * Seating and Mobility Clinic
    * Dizziness and Balance Center
    * Intensive treatment Program for Aphasia
    * Driver Evaluation and Training
    * Assistive Technology Lab (in collaboration with Georgia Tech)
  • Rehabilitation Research
    * Model Head Injury Center
    * Constraint-Induced Therapy Trial
    * Special Studies Center for Quality of Life and Rehabilitation
    * Imaging of muscle and brain function to understand the capacity for change following neurologic dysfunction
    * Biomechanical analysis of movement
    * Exploring the uses of testosterone supplements to improve strength in older men who are becoming frail
    * Attempting to reduce sickness and death in older adults by enhancing immune response to influenza vaccine
  • Educational Accomplishments
    * U.S. News and World Report ranked Emory’s physical therapy program in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine third in the nation in 2000
    * Only neuropsychology program in Georgia accredited for pre-doctoral internships and post-doctoral fellowships
    * Residents in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have had an unprecedented 100 percent pass rate on specialty boards over the last four years.

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