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2020 Winter Edition

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Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency at TIRR Memorial Hermann Takes Off the Training Wheels

Dickran Altounian, MDDickran Altounian, DO, MS, is in his fourth and final year of physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “Our rotation at TIRR Memorial Hermann is about half of our residency experience,” says Dr. Altounian, who is administrative chief resident and associate chief of wellness for the residency program. “Our Case Mix Index is very high, and most patients who are referred to TIRR after stroke, brain injury, cardiac issues or for neuromuscular disease have comorbidities. That high level of complexity allows us to explore all the factors that affect recovery and long-term prognosis. Our experience as residents here is second to none.”

Residents at two Houston medical schools complete rotations at TIRR Memorial Hermann. McGovern Medical School has 16 PM&R residents, with four new residents each year, and Baylor College of Medicine has 24 positions, with eight new residents per year. Residents at both medical schools also rotate at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Shriners Hospital for Children, Texas Children’s Hospital, Harris Health System including Ben Taub Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and in private practices.

Joel Frontera, MD“Each year we receive about 400 applications for our four residency spots,” says Joel Frontera, MD, associate professor, residency program director and vice chair for education in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UTHealth. “Those who match with us work hard and learn a lot. Graduates of our program are well prepared to continue their education with a fellowship or begin private practice.”

Alexander Wu, MDAlexander Wu, MD, is in his final year of residency and serves as academic chief resident for McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. “In earlier rotations we rely more on the hospital’s attending physicians. When you start your rotations at TIRR, the training wheels come off,” he says. “Being the only doctor in house at night is an enormous responsibility, but this helped me grow a lot as a physician.”

Residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School is a four-year program with the first year of internal medicine built in. “Dr. Frontera worked to get the opportunity for medical school graduates to do their internship here if they match,” Dr. Altounian says. “This provides them with a strong advantage because they’re already familiar with the information systems we use to collect and store patient data, which provides an easier transition into PM&R.”

Both Dr. Altounian and Dr. Wu say they’ve learned from all members of the TIRR Memorial Hermann house staff. “There’s passion and pride at TIRR,” says Dr. Wu. “Everyone I’ve worked with here is approachable, knowledgeable and very well trained. They’re all teachers who care about patients first and foremost.”

Dr. Altounian was looking for a challenging residency program and found it. “McGovern Medical School PM&R was one of my top choices because of the diversity of patients at TIRR Memorial Hermann and the focus on neurorehabilitation and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. To a certain extent you shape your own experience as a resident. The more you involve yourself, the more you’re part of the team.”

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