February 15, 2018 - Subspecialty Certification
A Seat at the Table: The Opportunities Provided by Brain Injury Medicine Certification
There are several challenges inherent to being a female physician in what is still a male-dominant profession, and these can be compounded even more so being a physiatrist. "What is that? You're a psychiatrist?" (Enter eye-roll emoji here).
But there is something that I have that puts me at the table. I am a board-certified physiatrist with a subspecialty certification in Brain Injury Medicine (BIM). I was part of the first group of physician experts to sit for the subspecialty board exam and become board certified in BIM in 2014. With this designation I am considered an expert in the field. I am invited to research meetings with Neurosurgical departments; I am called upon to be quoted in the lay media; I am invited to be on mayoral public health planning committees in the nation's 4th largest city. Basically, being BIM certified gives me street cred.
I would encourage other physiatrists who see brain injury patients to become BIM certified as well. It behooves us to be the international experts in the field. Per the CDC, there are over 2.8 million traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States each year, the vast majority of those being concussions. PM&R physicians, especially those who practice Sports Medicine, are seeing those patients. We should be the board-certified brain injury experts that patients seek. We are the specialty who actually trained in brain injury medicine and have the most to offer from a physical and neurocognitive perspective.
So, you didn't do a BI fellowship? I have a confession to make: neither did I. I went to the fellowship of hard knocks and now am considered an expert — I am the program director of an ACGME-accredited fellowship at UTHealth, the medical director of the Brain Injury and Stroke Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, and I am leaning in at the table. There are still three exam administrations for those who are not BI fellowship trained to sit for the boards based on their practice experience. I encourage you to lean in and become that brain expert. It will take you places — it's definitely done that for me.
Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, is the medical director of the Brain Injury and Stroke Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Vice Chair of Quality and Patient Safety at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health).
Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez’s primary focus is on the care of outpatients recovering from traumatic brain injury, stroke and neurotrauma. She consults at a Level 1 trauma center and specializes in the management of patients with brain injury, stroke, and spasticity of cerebral or spinal origin.
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