Dr. Robert W. Irwin Named Interim Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Robert W. Irwin, M.D., associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, has been named interim Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He succeeds Diana D. Cardenas, M.D., M.P.H., who became the department’s inaugural Chair in 2006 and retired in September.

Irwin is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain medicine, sports medicine and electrodiagnostic medicine. His research interests are in ultrasound medicine, sports and spine, and medical education. In addition to his clinical practice and research, Irwin has been very active in medical education, especially the musculoskeletal training that is his specialty, and in school administration, guiding and mentoring students, and working with student organizations.

“Bob’s commitment to world-class clinical care is matched only by his commitment to world-class medical education,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth. “The next generation of physicians will benefit greatly from their training, as will their patients. Under his leadership, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation will considerably expand its patient base throughout South Florida.”

“It is my great pleasure to join in announcing Bob’s appointment, as he was one of the earliest faculty I hired,” said Cardenas. “Bob is truly a remarkable person who values family, education, diversity and professionalism, and he demonstrates altruism every step of the way. I have been honored to know Bob and work with him, and I know he will do a terrific job as interim Chair and still find time to reach that balance in life that we all need.”

As interim Chair, Irwin will focus much of his attention on growing clinical capabilities. The Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial Hospital is scheduled to open in 2018.

“That new facility will almost double our number of inpatient beds, from 50 to 90, and we have to begin preparing now,” Irwin said. “Its operation will be a partnership with Jackson, and we will be helping them screen potential patients. Medicare is changing its reimbursement policies, and we need to begin preparing for those changes, too, as we will be seeing many more patients.

“Two years before that, however, will be the opening of the Lennar Foundation Medical Center on the Coral Gables campus, which is scheduled to take place in November 2016,” he said. “That will offer us significant growth in our outpatient treatment capabilities, and we also need to staff up to meet those needs.”

“As Jackson continues its commitment to grow and expand health care for the people of Miami-Dade County, we welcome Dr. Bob Irwin into a leadership role in our rehabilitation hospital,” said Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System. “Dr. Irwin has a longstanding history and reputation of providing our patients at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital with high-quality care that leads to excellent outcomes. In the next few years, Miami will be home to one of the world’s premiere rehabilitation hospitals with the construction of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, and Dr. Irwin will play an integral role in providing excellent patient care, developing our staff and growing our business.”

Not surprising, given Irwin’s commitment to medical education, revamping how residents are trained will also be an early priority.

“Our department is the largest and most respected in Florida,” he said, “and having the highest-quality training program is critical. We want to provide more in-depth training — including for medical students — but we will begin with the residents. We will be restructuring the program so that the instructional portion is more intensive and the residents go on to become the best possible practitioners.”

Irwin earned his M.D. degree at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and did a combined residency in internal medicine and physical medicine at Louisiana State University Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in spinal injection techniques with Charles April, an affiliate of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine. He joined the Miller School of Medicine faculty in 2006 after holding positions at Northwestern University School of Medicine, Louisiana State University and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Irwin has also served as the faculty advisor to the Miller School’s SafeSpace initiative, a training program adopted a year ago to give members of the administration, faculty and staff a greater sensitivity regarding LGBT issues and prepare them to serve as mentors or allies for LGBT medical students. SafeSpace is now part of a newly formed consortium of related initiatives and research projects under the direction of Stephen N. Symes, M.D., Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

“SafeSpace has been limited by my time,” said Irwin. “Now I will have help with training, and we can start disseminating the message more broadly. A group of interested students has written a pathway of emphasis that other students will be able to follow for their four years and become competent at giving LGBT care. We will be training not just faculty and staff, but also students, to make them more aware.”

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