Elliot J. Roth, MD is the Paul B. Magnuson Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Co-Medical Director of the Brain Innovation Center at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, or RIC).
Originally Interviewed by Dr. Jim Eubanks in January, 2016
How did you become interested in physical medicine & rehabilitation (PM&R)?
When I entered medical school at Northwestern, I had never heard of the specialty. But during medical school, I spent time at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) and enjoyed the interactions with patients who were in great need, the opportunity for long-term relationships with patients, recognition of the importance of holistic care including mental health and social issues, the intellectual stimulation of the problems with which the patients presented, the many research questions raised by these patients’ problems, and the opportunity to collaborate with strong clinical teams.
PM&R’s focus on the functional recovery of patients interests many providers. One of your areas of specialization is patients affected by stroke. Could you tell us a bit about your work in stroke treatment and management as a PM&R physician?
Stroke rehabilitation is a truly holistic and interdisciplinary specialty, involving the application of interesting physical and functional interventions, but also addressing psychological and social issues, including motivation level, mood, social support systems, and other aspects of care. As PM&R physicians, we evaluate the patients, oversee and often directly apply these interventions to address their issues. An important role is to communicate with patients, families, referring physicians, and future care providers. People with stroke often have a number of associated medical conditions as well that require physician evaluation and management.
As PM&R continues to grow, what goals do you have for the specialty? Is there a particular direction you hope this specialty takes in the years ahead, or a role that you think it could serve particularly well in the 21st century healthcare system?
An important role for PM&R specialists is to integrate into the care teams of other specialists and care providers, in order to provide comprehensive and appropriate care for people with a variety of disabling conditions.
An exciting development at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is the 2017 opening of its new, state-of-the-art research hospital, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (SRAlab). With a focus shifting towards greater collaboration between physicians and allied health providers, researchers, patients, and families, what would you like to share with us about the work that will take place at SRAlab?
A central theme of the new building is the closer integration of patient care and research, built into the new structure. This will better enable clinicians and investigators to “rub elbows” with each other, maximizing both the convenience of organized interactions and the likelihood of chance meetings to facilitate more collaboration. This will inform, enrich, make more relevant, and make more compelling, the research activity. It also will enhance the clinical care by making it more “cutting edge,” innovative, and this will all be conducted with a “sense of inquiry.” Another important theme is the heavy focus on the use of rehabilitation practices that are based on scientific evidence.
As the Paul B. Magnuson Professor and chairman of the Department of PM&R at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, as well as Attending Physician and Medical Director of the Patient Recovery Unit at RIC, what advice would you give medical students who are thinking about or currently pursuing PM&R as a career?
PM&R is an ideal specialty for physicians who are interested in holistic comprehensive care, who like to collaborate with others, and who enjoy their interactions with patients and their families. It is valuable to spend time with PM&R physicians and patients during medical school to get a feel for the role and the unique experiences of the people in the specialty.