Heidi Prather, DO, is a Washington University physiatrist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
I chose the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation because as a physician, I wanted to have an impact on people’s lives, holistically.
The first day of medical school, we start physical exam. The first thing I ever examined in medical school, my first day of medical school, was a spine. So it really focuses on how to maintain wellness and how to think of the person as a whole and that kind of fits, obviously, well with the roots of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
I was excited to come to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine because of its expectation for excellence.
I think that the pursuit of the highest quality care is very attractive for people who are seeking to kind of move the field. I want to provide excellent care but I want to see if we can improve upon that for the next generation of patients. You know, you want to solve problems. You don’t want to keep facing the same problem over and over again.
We’re starting to learn more about how our neurological system really is in control of how we move and habits that we have and postures that we have. I’ve been able to visit some other centers where they’re doing a lot of work on spinal cord injury and things we’re trying to do to facilitate that at the basic science level. All of those aspects are here at Barnes-Jewish Hospital associated with Washington University, the researchers here are looking towards that so I think that’s where most of the most exciting advancements will come.
We also know, and it’s becoming more and more evident in the evidence now, that our brain functions differently based on how we’re made, and how we perceive pain and how long we’ve had it.
So when I see somebody who comes to me with, say a spine problem, I need to understand exactly how did this happen? Is there some fear of avoidance or are you a little anxious about that happening again or getting in that situation again. I need to understand how they process pain and we do that differently. A lot of it’s our genetic makeup. And then: how long they’ve had it. Because sometimes we need to talk about, we may change the structure or the structure may have already changed itself but your pain is actually its own entity in and of itself and the neurochemicals within your brain have changed as a result of that.
But I think that’s some of the most exciting things that are coming out in the literature is that the things we kind of saw clinically are now panning out in the medical literature.