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Many Jeffersonians from all professional disciplines played important roles in development of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine since earliest traceable origins at Jefferson in 1917.  Heat, light, sound, water, massage, exercise and other applications of physical energy and forces have been part of Jefferson therapy as primary treatment or adjuvant intervention in all specialties of medicine, surgery, and nursing practice.

From a background of wartime experience during World Wars I and II, medical interest in the role of physical factors in disease and disability periodically intensified.  Benefits of physical and physiologic reconditioning, physical exercise, early ambulation, sensorimotor retraining, prosthetic replacement and training gained in importance.  Magee Professor of Medicine, John English Dietrick had researched and published, “Pathophysiology of Immobilization and Bed Rest.” William A. Sodeman, M.D., Magee Professor of Medicine, published a classic text on pathophysiologic mechanisms as a basis for medical practice.  Professor Frank A. Krusen, M.D., a Jefferson alumnus, had established residency training and produced a complete text on Physical Medicine at the Mayo Clinic.  Dr. Krusen teamed with Dr. Howard Rusk at New York University to establish the new specialty of Physiatry in 1947.  

Upon retirement of William A. Schmidt, M.D., as Director of Physical Medicine in 1957, the Jefferson Medical College faculty determined that it was time to formalize practice and teaching in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  Dean Sodeman made that happen.

John W. Goldschmidt, M.D.—graduate of Jefferson Medical College—was recruited as the new Director of a Division of Rehabilitation Medicine within the Department of Medicine.  He was fresh out of residencies in Internal Medicine at Jefferson and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania under William A. Erdman, M.D.

Under the vocational rehabilitation provisions of the Hill-Burton Act and with the cooperation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it was possible for Dr. Goldschmidt to design and have built, during the Jefferson Medical College Presidency of William Bodine, a comprehensive in-patient and out-patient facility for interdisciplinary rehabilitation of severely physically disabled patients and clients.  The facility location was purposely selected on the third floor of the “Old Building” and the “Thompson Annex” between wards for medicine on the floor below and surgery above so as to be in the mainstream of faculty clinical practice and teaching of students in medicine and nursing.  Present at the dedication, as principals, were Mary Switzer, Dr. Frank Krusen, and Senator Lister Hill, whose father was a graduate of Jefferson.

A Teaching and Training grant from Mary Switzer’s U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) supported faculty acquisition, student stipends and teaching materials.  More importantly, it allowed construction of a curriculum concept based on an interdisciplinary, multi-specialty team approach to care.  The bio-psycho-social holistic treatment of the person found its way into teaching and learning and time was allowed in comprehensive rehabilitation medicine.

Transformation of training programs to the academic university level for the health related professions was begun in 1968.  The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine was formally established in 1969 with John F. Ditunno, Jr, M.D., as the first Chairman of the Department.  When the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for the United States Department of Education underwrote the RSCIDV’s first project to develop a model system, Dr. Ditunno was its principal investigator.  A recognized leader in the field of spinal cord injury care, education, and research, Dr. Ditunno was the Chairman until 1997.  He is currently the Emeritus Project Director for the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center of the Delaware Valley at Jefferson.   

John W. Goldschmidt, M.D., in 1976 joined Northwestern University School of Medicine as Director of research and education at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  He later became the Chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Washington Hospital Center of Georgetown University.  He was then appointed as the national director of the Rehabilitation Research and Development Service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992.  He received numerous awards, including the highest honor from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine for his work in cancer and stroke.   He passed away in 2006, but will be remembered for his significant contributions to both development of the Jefferson Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and to the field of PM&R.

(Historical Information from John W. Goldschmidt, M.D. with additions by John A.G. Villanueva, M.D.)
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