Dr. John Whyte, MD. PhD, FACRM recently received the Gold Key lifetime achievement award from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM). The Gold Key, awarded by the ACRM Awards Committe and Board of Governors, is the ACRM's highest honor.
Dr. Whyte is a physiatrist and psychologist, and founding director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) in Elkins Park, Pa which is devoted to improving the lives of individuals with neurological disabilities (stroke, brain injury and other central nervous system disorders) through research. Dr. Whyte now serves as Institute Scientist Emeritus for the MRRI.
Throughout his career, Dr. Whyte's research has focused on assessment and treatment of patients with traumatic brain injury, including those with disorders of consciousness and he has been an active participant in the key research, policy, and ethical developments addressing this patient population. Trained as a medical specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and as an experimental psychologist, his first rehabilitation position, in the fee-for-service era, was in a facility that provided care to approximately 80 patients at a time with a DOC. There he became interested in the great variation in recovery among seemingly similar patients, in the lack of tools to objectively assess their level of consciousness, and in the frequent arguments between staff and family members and even among staff about a given patient’s actual state of consciousness.
Despite the subsequent research obstacles described, he continued to pursue these interests at the MRRI until the present time, and has been involved in all of the following milestones:
Although these developments took many years to achieve, in the last year they have reached a “tipping point”: for the first time, an evidence based clinical guideline, produced by the American Academy of Neurology, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research’s (NIDILRR’s) Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, has concluded that the combined weight of this research mandates changes in clinical care and healthcare policy for this patient population.
Among other things, this guideline supports access to specialized multidisciplinary rehabilitation for patients with DOC, the use of Amantadine in traumatic DOC, and notes that the pessimism that drives early withdrawal of care is not warranted by the longitudinal data. These system changes, however, have yet to be achieved, and the caregiver’s task of balancing hope and acceptance has never been more challenging.
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