David R. Gater, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., will join UHealth and the Miller School of Medicine on June 1 as chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Dr. Gater comes from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, where he has been the inaugural Rocco Ortenzio Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation since 2013.
In his new position, Dr. Gater will be responsible for making the department one of nationally recognized excellence by leading faculty development, translational research, innovative education and training programs, and service to the community.
“Dr. Gater is considered a leader in his field, and I know he will make important contributions to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and to our academic medical center,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “We are proud to have a physician-scientist of his stature joining our faculty.”
Dr. Gater’s initial exposure to his field was as an injured athlete.
“I was a pole vaulter, and I had significant knee injuries,” he said. “Through my own experiences, I was exposed to different aspects of rehabilitation. When I was in graduate school doing work in cardiac rehabilitation, I was inspired by how motivated the patients were to make lifestyle changes. The whole field of physical medicine and rehabilitation really resonated with me, and I felt compelled to help people improve their quality of life.”
Dr. Gater looks forward to collaborating with other areas of excellence at the Miller School and UHealth.
“I have watched research at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis closely, and I know a number of their investigators,” he said. “I want to establish collaborations with other excellent programs at UM, as well — neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics and a variety of medical subspecialties. I look forward to working with medical students and expanding the residency program to include specialty fellowships in areas such as brain injury, cancer, sports medicine, pain medicine, palliative care and pediatrics. Having the fellowship opportunities there will help position Miami as one of the premiere cities in the world for people with disabilities. I also want to expand our services so we can offer them to able-bodied people who want to improve their health.”
Dr. Gater earned an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s degree in exercise and sports science, a Ph.D. in physiology, and an M.D., all at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, electrodiagnostic medicine, and the subspecialty of spinal cord injury medicine. He has published more than 100 articles in academic journals and made hundreds of local, departmental and conference presentations.
Before accepting the position at Penn State, Dr. Gater held faculty appointments at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Kentucky, along with clinical appointments at their associated Veterans Health Administration hospitals.
“I look forward to Dr. Gater joining UHealth. His leadership skills and clinical expertise will strengthen our service to our patients,” said Edward Abraham, M.D., executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth. “I also would like to give sincere thanks to Dr. Robert Irwin, who has served as interim chair, for his multiple contributions to the department and medical center, and to the Selection Committee for their dedication to finding the right leader to take the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to the next level.”