January 13, 2003

Cleland returns for CRM's 25th anniversary

By Janet Christenbury

Reprising a role he played during the Carter administration, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland returned to campus Dec. 9 to help the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (CRM) celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Cleland, then at the head of the U.S. Veterans Administra-tion, was on hand for the dedication of the CRM in 1977. Seriously wounded during the Vietnam War, losing both legs and his right arm, Cleland was impressed by the building’s accessibility when it opened.

“Rehabilitation starts with the idea of treating the whole person and the individual’s sense of who he is and where he is going,” he said then. Today, he is still a staunch supporter of the words he uttered 25 years ago.

“I’ve always believed in the concept of a rehabilitation center, one focused on new life,” Cleland told an audience gathered at the CRM the morning of Dec. 9. “Modern medicine has created the need for rehabilitation medicine. The better we do in medicine, the more we need rehabilitation medicine.”

Cleland headlined a schedule that included brief presentations from CRM staff about the center’s programs. The anniversary celebration also featured tours of the facility, as well as a discussion led by Frances Curtiss—who co-chaired the anniversary celebration along with fellow CRM advisory board members John and Beverly Mitchell—on how community involvement can help the CRM continue its quarter-century of work.

“For 25 years, rehabilitation medicine specialists at Emory have kept one foot grounded in medicine and science and the other in social implications and patient practicality,” said Dale Strasser, associate professor and chair of rehabilitation medicine in the School of Medicine. “The care and treatment we provide to patients are measured by their performance.”

“Rehabilitation medicine is eminently practical and function oriented,” said medical Dean Tom Lawley. “All of the key elements of rehabilitation medicine are provided at the CRM, including medical management, therapy, support and encouragement.”

The CRM is a freestanding, outpatient and inpatient facility, consisting of 56 beds. Compre-hensive rehabilitation services include treatment for individuals who suffer from stroke, neuromuscular disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, arthritis, orthopaedic conditions, musculoskeletal disease, neuromuscular disease and other injuries or conditions that cause loss of function or ability.

Seven physicians staff the center, along with the help of a dozen physical therapists and occupational therapists, four speech language pathologists, four therapeutic recreation therapists and more than 60 nurses.

“As rehabilitationists, we are specialists in function,” Strasser said. “Our unique skills emerge from specialized knowledge in such diverse areas as the musculoskeletal system, neurosciences, exercise physiology and psychology. We also treat many patients with more common disabling conditions like low back pain and sports injuries.”

In the 1970s, the idea of a barrier-free rehabilitation center was revolutionary. Built following a $7.5 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation, the six-story, concrete building was considered state-of-the-art. It featured ramps, wide doors and switches and light fixtures at the proper height for those in wheelchairs. The center was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act had been created, so many of these accessibility designs were cutting-edge technology.






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