History

The department’s roots can be traced back to 1862, when Simon Baruch — “the father of hydrotherapy in America” — graduated from the Medical College of Virginia before becoming a noted surgeon during the Civil War. In recognition of his father’s accomplishments, philanthropist Bernard Baruch formed the Baruch Committee on Physical Medicine at MCV in 1940. Clinical physical therapy had been initiated at MCV in 1935 and services increased significantly after 1940 when Drs. Frank H. Krusen and John S. Coulders visited the institution. The committee granted $250,000 to MCV in 1944 to initiate a program of research and education in the area of physical medicine, with special emphasis on spa therapy, hydrotherapy and climatology. This marked the official formation of the department as the Baruch Center of Physical Medicine, with Dr. Frances A. Hellebrandt as the center’s first director. Hellebrandt became the first chair of PM&R when the center achieved departmental status in 1947.

From 1952 to 1960, Dr. Herbert Park, who specialized in industrial medicine and the care of amputees, led the department and continued to be involved with resident education as a clinical professor until his death in 2004. He is recognized with a department endowment fund focused on the growth of academics in industrial medicine and amputation rehabilitation. Under Park’s leadership, the department transitioned from a predominantly physical medicine-based service to a comprehensive physical medicine and rehabilitation program.

In the mid-1980s, Paul Wehman, Ph.D., joined the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to team up with Jeff Kreutzer, Ph.D., (1984) and Chairman Henry Stonnington, M.D., (1983-88). This partnership contributed to VCU becoming an international leader in brain injury and neurosciences rehabilitation. Continuing academic and clinical relationships also were established during this time with the rehabilitation programs at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, under the leadership of Charles Lamb, M.D., and Janice Cockrell, M.D., respectively.

William McKinley, M.D., took over the role of residency director in 1990 and has been the guiding force in its steady growth to one of the premier training departments in the nation. At MCV Hospitals, all rehabilitation services were consolidated under the academic purview of the Rehabilitation and Research Center in 1992, and David X. Cifu, M.D., became its first medical director that year. Herman J. Flax, M.D., a 1940 MCV graduate and an international leader in the field of PM&R established the department’s first endowed professorship in 1997. Cifu, who joined the department in 1991, succeeded as chairman in 1998, and became a Herman J. Flax, M.D. Professor in 1999. Cifu also has been responsible for consolidating the department’s position in the community into a program that complements the strong academic mission of the department.

The growth of the department has been the result of ongoing efforts from a multitude of faculty and staff, and it has included clinical and/or academic involvement in programs at Retreat Hospital, Cumberland Hospital for Adolescents and Children, VCU Stony Point, VCU Spine Center and multiple area nursing homes. The department has fully integrated into the McGuire VA Medical Center and has helped to establish nationally renowned clinical and academic programming for the care of veterans and servicemembers in the areas of polytrauma, TBI, amputation, spinal cord injury, electrodiagnosis, assistive technology, interventional spine care, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, protein rich plasma therapy, prolotherapy and more.

The department has expanded its funded research expertise to include cancer, stroke, ADA, cultural issues, spine care, Parkinson’s disease and amputee rehabilitation, while maintaining a strong national and international leadership position in brain and spinal cord injury. In 1998 U.S. News & World Report first listed the department among the top 25 PM&R programs nationally and repeated the honors in 2008 through 2011.

Timeline

1845

The Egyptian Building, designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas S. Steward, was completed.

1862

Simon Baruch, M.D. — “the father of hydrotherapy in America” — graduated from the Medical College of Virginia before becoming a noted surgeon during the Civil War.

1935

Clinical physical therapy had been initiated at MCV.

1940

In recognition of his father’s accomplishments, philanthropist Bernard Baruch formed the Baruch Committee on Physical Medicine at MCV.

1944

The Baruch Committee granted $250,000 to MCV to initiate a program of research and education in the area of physical medicine, with special emphasis on spa therapy, hydrotherapy and climatology.

1947

PM&R achieved departmental status at MCV.

1952

Dr. Herbert Park became chairman of the department. The department transitioned from a predominantly physical medicine-based service to a comprehensive physical medicine and rehabilitation program.

1953

An occupational therapy section and an audiology and speech training area were opened.

1975

The department began to achieve increased national exposure under the leadership of Dr. Ernest Griffith.

1992

At MCV Hospitals, all rehabilitation services were consolidated under the academic purview of the Rehabilitation and Research Center in 1992, and David X. Cifu, M.D., became its first medical director that year.

1998

U.S. News & World Report first listed the department among the top 25 PM&R programs nationally and repeated the honors in 2008 through 2011.

1999

David X. Cifu, M.D., becomes the Herman J. Flax, M.D. Professor and chairman of the Department of PM&R.