Lauren Chambers, DO, is a PGY4 Physiatry Resident at Carolinas Rehabilitation in Charlotte, NC. She will be entering a Sport and Spine Fellowship at OSS Health in York, PA.
Interviewed by Brandon Barndt, OMS-4
A little bio: where are you at in your career? What is your current position? Any organizational involvement, PM&R or otherwise? Anything else that is unique about you that would be good for readers to know, such as passions within PM&R?
I am a PGY4 resident at Carolinas Rehabilitation and the Resident Council President for the American Osteopathic College of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AOCPMR). After residency I will matriculate into a sport and spine fellowship at OSS Health in York, PA. The most fulfilling aspect of my day involves finding ways to restore function and improve patients’ quality of life. I plan on practicing outpatient musculoskeletal medicine and interventional physiatry to help my patients maintain their desired lifestyle.
I am interested in incorporating the use of MSK and nerve US, interventional techniques, regenerative medicine, and integrative medicine into my practice. I have a special interest in outcome monitoring and the diagnosis and treatment of brachial plexopathies and peripheral nerve injuries.
As we introduce more medical students, physicians and healthcare professionals to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R)—also known as physiatry—could you tell us how you became interested in the field?
My path to PM&R began in high school while volunteering at a school for children with significant handicaps and special needs. The teachers and therapists had an enviable ability to instill peace and hope to a challenged group of children and their families. Witnessing the teamwork displayed in providing complex medical care inspired me to consider a career working with this population. I had the good fortune to shadow a pediatric physiatrist after my college advisor introduced me to the specialty of PMR. This experience allowed me to witness firsthand how the specialty of PMR could positively impact a patient’s quality of life, and I immediately began pursuing a career in this field.
During residency I discovered that my professional and personal and experiences influenced my interests and shaped my future goals. Throughout my medical training I found the most fulfilling aspect of my day involves finding ways to restore function and improve patients’ quality of life. As a former competitive soccer player, personal trainer, and someone still active in fitness, I have a personal passion for optimizing health. My experience recovering from 2 ACL injuries gave me insight into the psychosocial aspects associated with a loss in function and the process of rehabilitation. Musculoskeletal medicine became the specific area of PMR with which I most identified.
As the President of the AOCPMR Resident Council, how has your experience been in your position?
I first joined the AOCPMR in 2010 and have served in various leadership positions at both the local chapter and national levels, culminating in my current position as resident council president. I have always enjoyed my experiences with the AOCPMR. Initially I was attracted to the organization’s strong spirit of camaraderie and I appreciated that despite being a first-year medical student, my presence was welcome and valued by the organization. However, it is due to the unique resources devoted to student and resident education that I have been able to participate in numerous opportunities that have supplemented my formal medical training and furthered my professional development. In my current role as president, I most enjoy facilitating the implementation of our members’ visions as they are dedicated to improving the student and resident experience through the development of new resources.
Why do you recommend medical students and residents get involved with organizations like the AOCPMR?
Joining a professional organization allows one to stay informed about advances in medical knowledge and changing healthcare policy, participate in advocacy for the procession, and to network and meet others with similar interests. Involvement can also aid in career fulfillment. Pursuing leadership opportunities within your professional organization is a great way to further develop your professional skills while also giving back.
Whether you are looking for mentorship, academic, professional or personal growth opportunities you will find a home at AOCPMR regardless of your allopathic or osteopathic background. Most importantly you should select an organization that inspires you and aligns with your personal interests.
What advice would you give medical students interested in the field? Are there particular experiences that you would suggest they seek out during their medical education?
PM&R is a broad field of practice and during medical training it is important to develop a solid foundation in human anatomy and internal medicine. There are several opportunities for specialty board certification, and the number of sub-specialties in which a physiatrist can focus further expands if you include those areas that do not currently have an option for formal board certification. See below for a list of examples.
Examples of Board Certifications:
-TBI, SCI, Hospice & Palliative Care, Neuromuscular, Pediatrics, Pain, Sports
Examples of other areas for sub-specialization:
-Stroke, Cancer, Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Subacute care, Musculoskeletal, Occupational medicine, Prosthetics & Orthotics, Electrodiagnosis, Wound care
During your PM&R rotations, seeking exposure to both inpatient and outpatient practices will help you broaden your insight into what the field of PM&R offers. Students may find electives in neurology, radiology, geriatrics, urology, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery helpful in preparation for a career in PM&R.
From your experience, what are the qualities of an excellent Physiatrist (PM&R physician)?
The excellent physiatrist provides sound medical management and acknowledges the biopsychosocial needs of the patient. It is important to be a physician leader who works as part of a team to provide compassionate, patient-centered care. Rehabilitation patients have multi-disciplinary needs, and a wise physiatrist is knowledgeable of their community resources and able to practice appropriate systems-based care. Formal monitoring of patient outcomes in response to the care delivered provides invaluable feedback to both the patient and practitioner. Utilization of a practice style that affords the provider the ability to monitor outcomes will provide them with an edge in clinical decision making and durability in a changing healthcare system. Lastly, though not specific to physiatry, curiosity and a commitment to continued education are characteristics of quality a physician.
7) As physiatry continues to grow and becomes more integral to the nature of the 21st century healthcare system, do you see any future changes or would you advocate for any? What goals do you have for the specialty?
In 2016, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association released the first ever stroke rehabilitation guidelines which state that rehabilitation should take place at an inpatient rehabilitation facility rather than a nursing home due to the ability for rehabilitation to improve patient outcomes. The ability for rehabilitation to improve outcomes is increasingly gaining recognition and I anticipate continued recognition of the value provided by physiatry services for an expanding number of medical conditions.
The ability to deliver value-based care and demonstrate quality of care to both patients and third parties are topics of national conversation. Monitoring patient outcomes can be used to assess whether value-based, quality care is being delivered while also providing information that can be useful for conversations between patients and providers to help direct patient care. As physiatrists, we should be leaders in the development and utilization of outcome measures to monitor patient response to treatment, facilitate conversations with third party payers and assess quality.