The new residency program is a hidden gem of medicine

The inaugural evaluators of Residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) In the University of Connecticut School of Medicine They are the pioneers of the new program that started in July.

While the program is a first in Connecticut, it is not a new major. At the start of World War I and expanding during World War II, the US Army provided support for physical medicine as a medical specialty. As injured soldiers returned home for treatment, physicists promoted a comprehensive approach to restoring a soldier’s abilities. It has also been used to treat pain and disability caused by polio.

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physical medicine, aims to enhance and restore the functional ability and quality of life of those with physical disabilities or disabilities that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Unlike other medical specialties that focus on medical ‘treatment’, the goals of a physiotherapist are to increase patients’ independence in activities of daily living and to improve quality of life.

“Physicians are experts in designing comprehensive, patient-centered treatment plans for patients with disabilities or disabilities to improve their function and quality of life,” says Dr. Joseph Walker, associate professor of orthopedics at UConn Health.

The residency is a dynamic, multi-hospital categorical program sponsored by UConn College of Medicine and in partnership with Hartford Health Care as primary site, Gaylord Hospital as secondary site, and UConn Health.

The first residents of the four-year program began their transitional training year in internal medicine last July at UConn Health and Hartford Hospital. PM&R courses in inpatient rehabilitation will begin at Hartford Hospital and Gaylord Hospital in July 2023. Residents will also move through Special Care Hospital, Children’s State of Connecticut, and Newington VA.

Says Dr. Subramani Sitarama, Program Director, Chair, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Medical Director, Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network and THOCC Spine Center.

Dr. Gage Hurlburt, Resident at PM&R

Residents are happy to be pioneers in this new programme. Dr. Gage Hurlburt of Martinsburg, West Virginia wanted to complete his residency program in New England after graduating from West Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He and his fiancé’s husband match at UConn Medical School.

“I was impressed with the amazing program that Dr. Sitarama was able to craft that provides exposure to so many different areas of PM&R with a strong curriculum,” Hurlburt says. “I knew it was very relevant when I felt the mission and goals of the program and I liked the outreach component of the program.”

Coming to UConn Medical School was like coming home to Dr. Priscilla Mapelli who is originally from this CT area and did her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and attended Turo College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, New York for Medical School.

“I am very impressed with the amount of cooperation and work that went into creating this residence,” Mapelli says. “The beauty of the new program is that it is still being formed and Dr. Seetharama is responsive and receptive to feedback.”

Neither Hurlburt nor Mapelli had heard of PM&R until medical school, but once they did, they both knew it was an area they wanted to explore.

Dr.. Priscilla Mapelli, PM&R evaluator

“Once upon a time, learning about PM&R and being able to combine my interests outside of medicine with my interests in medicine, I became fascinated by this specialty,” Mapelli says. “Spinal cord rotation in the medical school strengthened the decision.”

“I had a great interest in anatomy and find neuroscience and neuroscience fascinating, and along with my passion for sports, it was just the right fit,” Hurlburt says. “PM&R is like leading a ship and working with many professionals to reach a common goal, I thrive on a team approach.”

Some of the common diagnoses and subpopulations seen by internists include spinal cord injury, brain injury (traumatic and non-traumatic), stroke, multiple sclerosis, polio, burn care, and pediatric musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Physical internists are often trained using collaborative team skills and work with social workers and other allied health therapists (for example, physical, occupational, and speech) to manage these problems.

Outpatient physical therapists treat non-surgical conditions including orthopedic injuries, spinal related pain and dysfunction, occupational injuries and overuse syndromes, spasticity management, and chronic pain.

Hurlburt and Mapelli agree that the most interesting part of PM&R is helping people thrive and improve their careers.

An important part of the residency is the community programs set up by Seetharama. Residents of clinics in inner city Hartford will volunteer to serve the homeless and clinics serving the New Horizons community with disabilities. Residents will also have opportunities to participate in global health programmes.

“I’m excited to be a part of this strong program, and now that it’s finally here, it’s fantastic and I can’t wait to see what the next four years bring,” Hurlburt says.

“This has been a great experience so far, very long hours and days and the workload has been adjusting, but I’m learning a lot,” Mapelli says.

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