University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency:
Letter from the Chiefs


Thanks for visiting the UW Rehabilitation Medicine website.

group photo of residents on a hike in the North Cascades

We're proud to be part of this department and fortunate to participate in its great tradition. The department has a 50 year history and continues to grow and develop as one of the premier Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation departments in the country. As residents, we benefit from the excellent patient care practiced by our attendings, as well as learning from superb clinical and research faculty in a wide array of rehabilitation sciences.

The University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine participates in five model systems: Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Burns, Multiple Sclerosis, and Knowledge Translation. PM&R at the UW enjoys strong ties with other subspecialties, including Neurology, Orthopedics and Neurosurgery. We have many opportunities to work closely with these services, learn from them, and provide comprehensive care for our mutual patients.

Residents rotate through 4 major hospitals in the Seattle area: the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), Harborview Medical Center (HMC), Seattle Children's (SCH), and the Veteran’s Administration Puget Sound Health Care System (VAPSHCS). Each hospital provides unique patient populations and exposure to varied aspects of Rehabilitation Medicine.

At HMC, including the Sports and Spine Center, we care for trauma patients and become very comfortable managing patients with acute spinal cord injury, brain injury, orthopedic trauma, stroke and burns. As part of the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) program, HMC serves as the Level I trauma center through these five states, encompassing 27% of the US land mass and its citizens, and provides a variety of cultures and backgrounds in the patients we care for. The outpatient clinics at HMC add exposure in electrodiagnosis, amputation, spasticity management, sports medicine, spine care, and joint injections.

UWMC, including the Sports Medicine Clinic, is a specialized quaternary care center where we care for patients with transplants, cancer, brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, post-polio, and orthopedic conditions. The outpatient specialty clinics add exposure in electrodiagnosis, multiple sclerosis, spasticity management, neuromuscular conditions, sports medicine, spine care, musculoskeletal ultrasound and injections. The UW also hosts a clinic for young adults transitioning from pediatric to adult care.

At SCH we care for children with disabilities, both acquired and congenital, due to brain injury, spinal cord injury, cancer, stroke, rheumatologic disorders and other medical and neuromuscular conditions. Seattle Children’s is a premier tertiary pediatric hospital with coordinated interdisciplinary outpatient clinics that specialize in pediatric neuromuscular disorders. Our pediatric rehab attendings see a vast array of pediatric disorders, including cerebral palsy, arthrogryposis, congenital myopathies and general pediatric rehabilitation issues such as spasticity management, adolescent sports medicine and mild TBI/concussion.

The VA hospital is another center for coordinated care for a special population. The VA has a large spinal cord injury unit, which admits patients with both acute and chronic spinal cord injuries. There is also a general medical rehabilitation unit with exposure to patients with amputations and strokes. The outpatient clinics add exposure in electrodiagnosis, amputee care, spine and musculoskeletal care, multiple sclerosis, spasticity management and general rehabilitation.

After three years of training, our residents are well prepared to care for a wide variety of patients from unique backgrounds and conditions.

View of Elliot Bay and Olympic Mountains at sunset.
Elliot Bay & Olympic Mountains

Residents in our program have protected elective time to pursue further training in specific areas of interest within our department, other UW Medicine departments, and select private practice physicians. Some residents also pursue dedicated time for research. Many of our residents participate in rehab-related volunteer activities in the Pacific Northwest such as being the medical staff for local road races, game coverage for local high school football teams, and providing sideline medical coverage at wheelchair rugby and basketball tournaments.

On Applicant Interview Day at the University of Washington, you'll meet Dr. Peter Esselman, our department chairman and Dr. Jenn Zumsteg, our Program Director. Dr. Barr was recruited to the University of Washington 13 years ago and her understanding of the depth and breadth of our program is only surpassed by her enthusiasm to keep our training experience strong. From a resident’s perspective, we could not have a better chairman or residency director. Along with our attending service chiefs, the leaders in our department are excellent physicians and administrators, and are committed to providing us with the best educational experience possible.

Resident didactics cover the full spectrum of PM&R topics and include musculoskeletal anatomy, neurorehabilitation, biomechanics, orthotics, electrodiagnostics, prosthetics and amputee care, musculoskeletal medicine, academic and scholarly activities as well as practice management. Each clinical site has weekly to thrice weekly didactic sessions. In addition, there is a robust departmental lecture series, including Grand Rounds, Musculoskeletal Conference and Electrodiagnostic Conference. The classes, lectures, our clinical experiences, and the Board Review course during the R4 year prepare us well to take the boards and be excellent clinicians. Over the history of the program, we have a high rate of passing board exams.

Now on to the fun stuff!! We are an active bunch of residents – partly because that's who we are, but mostly because it's really hard to live in Seattle and not be active. Our residents hike (in the mountains or around the city), camp, cycle, ski, snowboard, kite and participate in local races from running to triathlons as well as local soccer and kickball teams. Outside of organized sports, there is no place more beautiful than Seattle on a clear day (which are greater in number than you may think)! The views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound will inspire you.

For those of us who like good food and entertainment, Seattle hosts premier restaurants, excellent professional sports teams (Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Reign, and Storm), great live music, and outdoor concerts. We also have unique museums, theaters, zoos, and the largest ferry system in the US to take you to the numerous islands in Puget Sound and to our wonderful state and national parks.

Group picture of intramural soccer team 2016.
Intramural Soccer Team

As a resident community, we enjoy a number of regular social events together. From frequent Happy Hours, a Whistler ski weekend, a 4th of July BBQ, Holiday parties, beach bonfires, and many other impromptu gatherings we are a close-knit and supportive group. We are proud to be a large program (8-11 residents per class) with a diverse group of residents: some are married, some single, some older, some younger, some with kids, some without. From our perspective, having smart, interesting, enthusiastic and personable residents is just one of the many great things about the UW PM&R program. We believe in supporting one another during challenging days but also celebrate each other’s achievements with enthusiasm.

We are proud to be residents at the University of Washington and to share our residency training experience with you. Please feel free to contact us any time with questions!


Anna Coles, MD:
Stephanie Hendrick, MD:
Chief Residents

To learn more about the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation residency program, please explore the links below:

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