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Visiting alum launches Career Medical Specialties series

Guest John Walter, D.O. (’00), speaks about physical medicine and rehabilitation

Sept. 26, 2008

By Richard Heck


Variety, flexibility and a team-oriented approach make physical medicine
and rehabilitation a rewarding specialty, according to John Walter, D.O. (’00).

On Thursday, Sept. 25, Walter’s noon address to first- and second-year students kicked off this year’s Career Medical Specialties (CMS) series. Unlike last year, when the entire series took place in the same week, this year’s CMS lectures will spread out across the academic year, said Jill Harman, M.Ed., director of alumni affairs.

Walter noted that the relatively new specialty started after the end of World War II to deal with multiple traumatic injuries suffered by soldiers returned from battle. Often, he said, veterans suffered from head and/or spinal cord injuries, in addition to other ailments. To deal with such compound conditions, doctors needed a more comprehensive approach to treating the patients, he said.

While the goal of modern medicine is typically adding years to life, physical medicine and rehabilitation “adds life to years,” Walter said. “We make quality of life significantly better. By treating our patients’ physical problems,
it helps their mental state as well.”

Walter said he became interested in physical medicine and rehabilitation for personal reasons. While attending OU-COM, his sister sustained lumbar injuries in a car accident. After observing the various therapies she underwent, Walter began considering the field.

Walter described the post-graduate training required for physical medicine and rehabilitation, including traditional rotating internships as well as specific physical medicine and rehabilitation residencies. He did his three-year residency at the Ohio State University Hospital’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. For this residency, Walter practiced at several different Columbus-area medical facilities, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Riverside Methodist Hospital and Grant Hospital.

“It was nice to move from one place to another to see how different attending (physicians) do things,” he said.

He added that the practice of physical medicine and rehabilitation crosses into a number of other specialties, including Hospice and palliative medicine, neuromuscular medicine, pediatric rehabilitation and sports medicine.

Walter advised students interested in training in the field “to learn to say ‘I don’t know.’”

 “It was hard for me during my third and fourth year because I felt like I had to have the answer,” Walter said. “You don’t always have the answer, so don’t be afraid to say so. People will respect that.” 

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