November 10, 2011

Message from the Vice Chancellor: Chair named for new Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Dear Colleagues,
It is with great excitement that I announce Walter R. Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., as the inaugural chair for the newly created Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R). Dr. Frontera will join our faculty on April 1, 2012.

The search was initiated after a yearlong strategic planning effort, including consultation with and approval by the School of Medicine Executive Faculty Committee. The creation of this new department will benefit Vanderbilt’s many existing programs and departments requiring clinical rehabilitation services.

The new department also creates significant opportunities for education and research through strategic programmatic growth and enhanced collaboration across the entire university.

Serving as the department’s inaugural chair, Dr. Frontera will be responsible for oversight of the research, education and clinical services in PM&R for the School of Medicine, and will oversee Vanderbilt’s clinical and academic services at the Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital as medical director for Rehabilitation Services.

From 2006 through 2011, Dr. Frontera was professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and served as dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Currently, he is principal investigator for the Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Consortium. He served previously as chief of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the UPR (1993-1996).

In 1996, Dr. Frontera was recruited to Harvard Medical School to establish its first Department of PM&R, and was later appointed the department’s Earle P. and Ida S. Chilton Professor and Chairman. He was also Chief of Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Frontera completed his medical education and a residency in PM&R at the University of Puerto Rico in 1983. In 1986, he received a doctoral degree in applied anatomy and physiology from Boston University.

His principal research interest is the study of mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle dysfunction in the elderly, and the development of rehabilitative interventions for sarcopenia. His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has identified rehabilitative interventions to slow down or reverse skeletal muscle alterations associated with these conditions.

Dr. Frontera is the author of more than 200 scientific publications, including more than 75 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 10 edited books. Currently, he is editor-in-chief of the American Journal of PM&R. He is also regional vice president of the International Society for PM&R, and past-president of the International Federation of Sports Medicine. He has presented more than 200 invited lectures in 52 countries and has served as a grant reviewer and graduate research examiner for universities in Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong.

In 2008, Dr. Frontera was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and in 2009 member-at-large of the National Board of Medical Examiners. In concert with his other achievements, Dr. Frontera has received many distinguished awards, including Best Scientific Research Paper presented by the American Academy of PM&R and the Harvard Foundation Award for his contributions to the field of PM&R.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs and George W. Hale Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, for his leadership as chair of the search committee.

I also thank the members of the search committee for their thoughtful commitment in seeking one of the pioneers and worldwide leaders in PM&R to found our new department: Gordon R. Bernard, M.D., professor of Medicine and associate vice chancellor for Research; P. David Charles, M.D., associate professor of Neurology and chief medical officer for the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Institute; Andre L. Churchwell, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and associate dean for Diversity in Graduate Medical Education; Robert S. Dittus, M.D., M.P.H., assistant vice chancellor for Public Health and associate dean for Population Health Sciences; Todd Giorgio, Ph.D., professor and chair of Biomedical Engineering; Larry Goldberg, former CEO of Vanderbilt University Hospital; Z. Leah Harris, M.D., vice chair for Academic Affairs and division director for Pediatric Critical Care Medicine; Terry Maxhimer, president for the MidAtlantic Region, HealthSouth; Warren S. Sandberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology; Herbert S. Schwartz, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation; Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences; and Norman Urmy, vice president for Vanderbilt Health Services.

Dr. Frontera will be accompanied by his wife Aida L. Jimenez, Ph.D., who will join the Department of Psychiatry as associate professor. Daughters Mara and Natasha will join them in the future.

Please join me as I welcome Dr. Frontera and his family to Vanderbilt and into this role as inaugural chair for our new Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
Dean, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine