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Background on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in the Philippines

Rehabilitation Medicine as a specialty began in 1936 at the Mayo Clinic, USA to treat impairments or disabilities arising from the musculoskeletal and neurological diseases or problems. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) was founded in 1938 and the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation was recognized in 1947. After World War II, as thousands of severely disabled veterans began to return home and looked for ways to lead productive lives, the specialty grew rapidly and focused its mission to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities. In the Philippines, the same scenario prevailed and was further compounded by the polio epidemic in the 1950’s as well as the continuing disabling sequalae of other infectious diseases like tuberculosis and meningitis. These underscored the need for a specialty that should address the needs of the disabled patients. During the mid 50’s , young Filipino doctors who became interested in Rehabilitation Medicine as a specialty left for the United States for further training. Most finished their residency training programs at the Rusk Institute in New York. However, only a few returned home to practice.

A small group of military surgeons interested in the fields of Rehabilitation Medicine were sent to the United States Military Hospitals immediately after the Second World War for training in the care of military injuries and disabilities and formed the nucleus of the specialty in the Philippines during its infancy. Further impetus in the growth of the field was provided by Dr. Henry Kessler who under the sponsorship of the U.S. Armed Forces, visited the National Orthopedic Hospital and conducted several in-service training for the local Physicians.

In 1960’s, a group of physiatrists and orthopedic surgeons interested in the field organized the Philippine Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with Dr. Abelardo O. Inocentes as its first president. The society then had an active membership of less than twenty. In 1974, the organization’s name was changed to the Philippine Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine with Dr. Tyrone M. Reyes as its first president.

The Philippine Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine (PARM) is the national society of physiatrists in the Philippines. Physiatrist ( fizz ee AT trist ) are the physicians who finished residency training program in Rehabilitation Medicine or Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (PRM). With the establishment of four training programs, the academy boasts of more than 350 members – mostly home grown specialists in the field of Rehabilitation Medicine. The academy serves its members and their patients, as well as the other health professionals and society in general by fostering excellence in Physiatric practice, education, research and community service.