Physiatrist Explained - Isaac Cohen, MD
My name is Isaac Cohen MD. I’m a spine and musculoskeletal physiatrist at the Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Center. In my practice people often ask me what is a physiatrist? And I answer them the following – that a physiatrist is a practitioner of the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. It’s a relatively new field that was granted medical status by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 1947. A cardiologist treats heart problems. An orthopaedic surgeon treats bone problems. A physiatrist treats function. So, the overall emphasis of the specialty is to improve the patient’s function regardless of their condition and thus their quality of life. A physiatrist is a physician who is graduated from medical school and has gone on to have one year of internship in either internal medicine or surgery and three years in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Many physiatrists choose to pursue specialty training in certain areas. So, as for myself, I pursued fellowship training in spine in musculoskeletal training in Boston. And now I see patients with spinal conditions as well as those with musculoskeletal conditions. There are several features that set aside physiatry from other specialties. One feature is that of emphasis on function. When I go through my day I think about what is holding this patient back from performing better. So, we try to think about that and try to remove physical and even mental obstacles towards better performance. The other emphasis is on patient education. In order to maximize someone’s functioning and thus independence it’s very important to educate the patient on what they have and make them independent in self-care. And perhaps most importantly, the field of physiatry allows us a broad background across multiple medical specialties such as neurology in orthopedics as well as biomechanics and physical therapy. And this allows us to provide more comprehensive care to the patient in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Very importantly, it allows out-of-the-box thinking. What that means is that we can consider alternate diagnoses that have not yet been considered or even present treatments that have not yet been presented. This is helpful particularly for complex patients in whom the diagnosis remains unclear and have not responded to treatment thus far.