When people ask Juan Cabrera what
kind of doctor he is, there is almost always a moment of awkward silence after
he replies, followed by more questions.
Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation? So you’re a physical therapist.
“No, but I work closely with them.”
Physiatry is the other term for
his specialty, but that causes more confusion.
“People think we’re
mispronouncing it. They’re sure we mean psychiatry or podiatry.”
Even colleagues get it wrong,
often calling it PMNR, with four letters, rather than the correct abbreviation
So any opportunity to talk about his
chosen but often misunderstood field, Dr. Cabrera jumps at it.
He’s also happy to elaborate on
the role PM&R will play at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Frisco when it
opens Dec. 3. Plus his views on concussions and youth sports, Texas pride, the
“I Heart Rehab” button he wears, and what it will be like to work alongside his
wife, “The Smarter, Better-Looking Dr. Cabrera.”
First things first: Can you
“A lot of us say we’re The Rehab Doctors,
but that’s an oversimplification. I usually tell people, whatever unfortunate
or catastrophic injury can happen, whether it’s a stroke, a traumatic brain
injury, a fall with multiple fractures, there’s a period of time when you’re
not as good as you need to be. Rehab’s job is to coordinate a team to get you
back there. Whether that’s getting you back to where you were before or getting
you to a new normal.
“We cover the entire spectrum of
life, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and the entire spectrum of health, from
super healthy athletes to critically ill patients. And we work closely with everyone
else involved, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech
pathologists, rehab psychologists, and neuropsychologists, to give people the
keys they need to get their life back.”
What drew you to PM&R and
specifically brain injury rehabilitation?
“When I was a medical student, I
thought I was going to be a surgeon, but it didn’t fit my personality. I liked
pediatrics, internal medicine, neurology, and orthopedics. As I was reading
about all of those, I discovered PM&R and realized that I could still see
all of those same patients without giving up any of them.
“After undergrad at Notre Dame
and med school in Mobile, Alabama (at University of South Alabama), I did a
rotation at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio and I really fit with the specialty. I also liked
taking care of patients with brain injury, specifically acute trauma rehabilitation.
I continued focusing on that at Vanderbilt Medical Center, where my wife was
doing an orthopedic surgery fellowship.”