National Rehabilitation Awareness Week: Look How Far We’ve Come

Eric GarrardWhen considering blog topics for our first Emory Rehabilitation post, I felt it would be appropriate to begin during National Rehabilitation Awareness Week. This week has been designated to educate people on the benefits and impact that rehabilitation medicine has made on the lives of patients and their families.

Part of the education includes helping people understand the history of rehabilitation and how it has progressed over time. Physical rehabilitation traces its origins back to ancient times when agents like heat, cold, water, and massage were the very first modalities used for injuries. But it really became far more recognizable as a field in the early 20th century as the benefits of rehabilitation was applied to World War I veterans, polio survivors, and others disabled by trauma or disease. In the 1930’s a small group of physicians and nurses became more and more specialized, establishing a curriculum and research trials that incorporated electrotherapy and radiotherapy. When WWII ended, the field had emerged into a comprehensive therapy that included the healing of both the physical and emotional abilities.

By the 1950’s, twenty-five hospitals nationwide had established fellowships and residencies in physical medicine and rehabilitation. In the 1960’s and 70’s, rehabilitation medicine achieved newfound respect as a vital component of patient care. This led to further specialized rehabilitation providers in physical, occupational, speech, and even recreation therapy. Rehabilitation also expanded to a number of different patient care settings, such as specialized rehabilitation hospitals (like the Emory Rehabilitation Hospital), nursing homes, outpatient centers and day programs. Today, rehabilitation professionals are sought out by patients of all ages and functional abilities. From newborns, to stroke survivors, to elite athletes, our society is benefitted daily by the contributions of these incredible professionals.

I am very proud to be part of the rehabilitation provider community, and even more so to be associated with the incredible team of rehabilitation specialists affiliated with Emory. Please join me this week in thanking all of the therapists, nurses, social workers, physicians, and others practicing now and throughout history who have dedicated their professional lives to the cause of rehabilitation. They are a very special group of people.

Happy National Rehabilitation Awareness Week!

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