Texas physician to head new UNMC program in physical medicine and rehabilitation

March 01, 2016

Image with caption: Samuel Bierner, M.D.

Samuel Bierner, M.D.

Samuel Bierner, M.D., a Texas physician with more than 25 years of experience in the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation, has been selected as professor and founding chair of the new PM&R program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The announcement today by Bradley Britigan, M.D., dean of the UNMC College of Medicine, marks the culmination of a nationwide search for the position. Dr. Bierner’s appointment is effective April 1, pending approval by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

PM&R is the medical specialty that cares for adults and children who experience disabling conditions including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and impairments from stroke, musculoskeletal and neurological diseases. PM&R physicians also are known as physiatrists.

"We are delighted to land a physician of Dr. Bierner’s stature," Dr. Britigan said.  "He has an incredibly strong background in physical medicine and rehabilitation and has worked in an academic medicine setting for the past 12 years. He stood out among all the candidates we interviewed and was undoubtedly our top choice. We look for him to provide outstanding leadership as we launch our PM&R program."

Since 2004, Dr. Bierner (pronounced Burner) has served on the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. A professor for eight years, Dr. Bierner was named distinguished teaching professor in 2013. Since 2005, Dr. Bierner has been director of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s PM&R residency program.

In terms of size, the Southwestern PM&R program ranks in the top 20 percent of PM&R programs in the country. The department includes 36 full-time physicians who provide care at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Parkland Hospital, Children’s Health and the North Texas VA Healthcare System. The categorical residency program  has 33 physicians.

"The biggest attraction for me to come to Nebraska is to be a part of establishing a brand new program at UNMC," Dr. Bierner said. "It’s a great opportunity for me to have an impact that would put a capstone on my career."

Noting a sparsity of PM&R residency programs in the upper Midwest, Dr. Bierner thinks the UNMC program could have a major impact.

"I look for the future PM&R physicians we train to spread out from Omaha and practice in the surrounding heartland area," he said. "Our department will be able to leave a mark that will continue for decades to come."

UNMC's PM&R program will partner with the new Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital - Omaha Campus that is being built in the Village Pointe area near 180th and Burt Streets. The new facility is expected to open in October. In addition, Dr. Bierner hopes to extend PM&R services to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the VA Medical Center. 

"Madonna has a very high class operation," Dr. Bierner said. "It is highly ranked nationally among PM&R facilities. I’m thrilled to be associated with this great organization."

Dr. Bierner’s first order of business when he gets to UNMC will be recruitment of new PM&R faculty, so that Madonna will be staffed when it opens in October. His goal is to have four inpatient physicians practicing at Madonna and three to four other physiatrists practicing on the main UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus. He expects that a residency program can be started within three years and can train three to four resident physicians each year.

"We are excited about Dr. Bierner’s appointment. He is a highly-respected physiatrist who brings a wealth of clinical knowledge and academic excellence to lay the foundation for the new PM&R residency program," said Paul Dongilli Jr., Ph.D., FACHE, president and CEO of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.

"This hire signals a milestone in creating the first PM&R residency program in Nebraska and in a larger five-state region. Dr. Bierner will have a key role in training the next generation of PM&R physicians, all while improving patient outcomes and rebuilding patients’ lives."

A native of Dallas, Dr. Bierner was a summa cum laude graduate in chemistry from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1980. He earned his medical degree in 1983 from the University of Texas Medical School in San Antonio and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. In 1988, he completed his master’s degree in rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington Graduate School in Seattle.

He completed his PM&R residency training at the University of Washington (Seattle). He was co-chief resident at the University of Washington and then undertook a fellowship  in clinical neurology at the Human Motor Control Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

After completing his fellowship, Dr. Bierner returned to Dallas where he was medical director of physical medicine at the Methodist Medical Center for two years, then practiced with an orthopaedic group for five years. He was director of PM&R services for seven years with Concentra, a national health care company providing occupational medicine, urgent care, physical therapy and wellness services. 

Among his numerous honors, Dr. Bierner is a three-time recipient of the Physician’s Recognition Award from the American Medical Association and a three-time recipient of the Teaching Attending of the Year from the UT Southwestern Medical Center PM&R Department.

He was selected by his peers as a fellow of the Southwestern Academy of Teachers, and has served on national committees for the American Academy of PM&R and the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. He holds board certification in pain medicine and neuromuscular medicine in addition to PM&R.  

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