New Rehabilitation Medicine Center to focus on translational research

Mayo Clinic is pleased to announce the formation of the Rehabilitation Medicine Center (RMC). Drawing upon the strong clinical practice, research and education efforts in rehabilitation medicine and surgery already present at Mayo Clinic, the new center will focus on the discovery, translation and application of new knowledge to provide hope and improved quality of life to all people with disabilities.

"The Mayo leadership has long recognized the value of rehabilitation in integrated health care," explains Carmen M. Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "As our nation's population ages, we expect to see an increased burden of disability from chronic musculoskeletal and neurological disease. One of this center's goals is to help identify better solutions and care models to make sure those affected by disabilities maintain optimal function and quality of life."

The RMC's stated mission is to advance the science of rehabilitation medicine through research (discovery and translation), education and innovative clinical practice. Many of the resources required to accomplish this mission are already in place at Mayo Clinic. The center will support a large rehabilitation practice that includes more than 60 physiatrists and a full team of psychologists; nursing specialists; physical, occupational, recreational and respiratory therapists; speech pathologists; social workers; and technicians.

Staff work closely with providers in other specialties to care for patients in the acute care setting, in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit and in more than two dozen outpatient specialty areas.

Centerwide programs will focus on three key areas:

  • Assistive and restorative technology
  • Functional outcomes
  • Muscle-cartilage regeneration

Clinical research will be aligned with three clinical themes, each with multiple corresponding disease-oriented foci: neurological, musculoskeletal and medical rehabilitation. "These themes were carefully chosen to augment current research and to advance science that promises to improve the health of people with disability," says Ralph E. Gay, M.D., a Mayo physiatrist in Rochester, Minn., who has been the center's acting director during the initial planning and development stages.

All three areas will rely on expertise that exists at Mayo and in new expertise that will be recruited to the center. "Organizing the center around these themes will lead to natural collaborations between investigators and will also provide new research questions that will arise from relationships between clinicians and scientists working in related areas," explains Dr. Gay.

Many of the faculty that will be working in the RMC are established Mayo scientists and physicians who are already collaborating on numerous projects. They include investigators in many areas such as neurology, orthopedics, rheumatology, health sciences research and biomechanical engineering. The RMC will also work closely with several other strategic initiatives and research centers at Mayo Clinic, including

The RMC organization and these collaborations will further organize Mayo Clinic's rehabilitation research efforts to increase efficiency.

These efforts are designed to continue Mayo's efforts to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical application. "We are excited to see what this new center will generate. Our patients will be the first to benefit from scientific advancements that lead to clinical trials and subsequent adaptation of new treatments," says Dr. Gay.

Christopher Evans, Ph.D., directs RMC

The RMC has been officially approved by the Mayo Clinic Research Committee, and initial funding has been provided by Mayo leadership. Christopher H. Evans, Ph.D., a leader in the field of gene therapy in the treatment of arthritis, has been recruited as the RMC director.

Dr. Evans comes to Mayo Clinic from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School in Boston. In his previous post, Dr. Evans served as director for the Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies and was named the Maurice Mueller Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Originally from Great Britain, Dr. Evans holds a bachelor's degree in genetics and microbiology, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wales, a master's degree in history and philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a D.Sc. from the University of Wales.

Mar. 13, 2014