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Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Life Changing Is ... Goals Within Reach

Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

"Our most important diagnostic test is listening and seeing what people's goals are and how we can help them to achieve those goals."

Many people may take the activities of daily living for granted. But for people living with disabilities or impaired mobility, some of those simple tasks may be more difficult.

At the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, our clinical providers and researchers strive to remove the barriers our patients face in their lives. The goal is to help them set and reach their goals for rehabilitation.

“There's a range of the types of patients that we see, and sometimes the impairment is very apparent, and sometimes it is not," says Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, chair, UPMC Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and director, UPMC Rehabilitation Institute. "Our most important diagnostic test is listening and seeing what people's goals are and how we can help them to achieve those goals."

To help advance the mission of helping patients on their recovery journeys, UPMC opened the UPMC Mercy Pavilion in spring 2023.

The first-of-its-kind facility houses the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and UPMC Vision Institute. The goal is to provide an environment where patients feel at home and that their needs are met.

"We want to be a welcoming environment, where people feel like this is a place that is created for them, not just accommodating them," Dr. Sowa says.

"We really hope that the Pavilion is more than just a medical center. It's a place where people can go for education. They can go to create social networks. They can go to just hang out."

Both clinicians and researchers work at UPMC Mercy Pavilion, allowing for better collaboration and a more holistic approach to care.

Bringing clinical care and research under one roof allows UPMC to translate advances in research to the bedside more easily. That can lead to improvements in care and better long-term outcomes.

"What we are looking to do is make sure that we're doing everything we can to remove the barriers that people have to their recovery by partnering with them to maximize their function," Dr. Sowa says.

Using the latest advances in technology can be key in rehabilitation. But hands-on care and patient-provider relationships are also crucial. Often, UPMC provides care for people at all stages of their rehabilitation journey: from their acute injury to their ultimate recovery.

"We develop a relationship with them, with their families, with caregivers, with other partners," Dr. Sowa says. "And, so, we become part of their community. And that's a really important piece to the healing relationship and outcomes."

Because so much of rehabilitation revolves around patients' goals, it's very rewarding when people achieve their goals, Dr. Sowa says.

“When a patient comes back and shares with me what they've been able to do because of the care that we provided or the research innovation that we've been able to give them access to, and they're so appreciative and thankful for that care, that's really, really fulfilling."

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means helping people reach their goals.

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