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Physicians - Locating Specialists

Provides helpful suggestions for talking with and resources for finding a doctor and/or dentist

1. Physiatrist-(doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation)

1.1. Finding the Right Doctor | Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC)

This brief video describes the role of a physiatrist (Doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) in the health care of someone with spinal cord injury (SCI):  Finding the Right Doctor | Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC)

1.2. What is a Physiatrist?

What is a Physiatrist?

Many people are unaware that there is a special branch of medicine specifically dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of physical disability. Physiatrists are doctors who are certified as specialists in rehabilitation medicine by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Many people are unaware that there is a special branch of medicine specifically dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of physical disability. Physiatrists are doctors who are certified as specialists in rehabilitation medicine by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The area of medicine they practice is called "physiatry." Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) was born in 1946 in response to the challenge to help disabled citizens reach their maximum potential. What is so special about these specialists? After completing medical school and obtaining an MD or DO degree, they study four more years and take two extra examinations, one written and one oral.

The purpose of this extra training is to make sure that physiatrists are focused on the patient as a whole person. Most physicians deal with illness and possible threats to life. The physiatrist deals with functional loss and threats to living fully -- the physical and psychological disabilities remaining after initial medical or surgical treatment.

The physiatrist often coordinates a team of other doctors and health professionals in developing and carrying out a comprehensive rehabilitation plan; s/he may specialize in the care of patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI). The coordinated treatment plan extends beyond hospital walls into the patient's family, community, occupation, friends, and ultimate life style.

This rehabilitation team may include physical, occupational, and/or speech therapies, nurses and doctors from various specialties, including neurology and orthopedics, psychologists, counselors or social workers, rehabilitation engineers and others.

The physiatrist's success comes through a team effort where the patient is an integral part of the team process. Each improvement in function, however subtle, can significantly improve the quality of life of a person living with SCI.

ED: Adapted with permission from the September, 1987 issue of New World for Persons with Disabilities a publication of California Association of the Physically Handicapped, Inc., "The Pair-A .-Docs of Health" by Julie Madorsky, M.D. & Art Madorsky at Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona, California.

All Physiatrists, along with their contact information can be located at: http://www.aapmr.org/patients/findphysician/Pages/default.aspx or listed by sub-specialty at https://www.abpmr.org/physician_search.html

To locate a Physiatrist by phone, contact Spinal Cord Central Information Specialists at (800) 962-9629 M-F, 8:30am to 5:pm, except Federal holidays. NSCIA revised 12/07/2010







1.3. STEP 1-Identify a Physiatrist by sub-specialty (such as SCI)

ABPMR Certified Physician Search select sub-specialty and state from drop-down menu (or utilize additional search criteria)

With the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation website search engine you can search for Physiatrists with a specialty in spinal cord injury medicine in your state (or another specialty such as "Pain Medicine" if you are looking for a pain management specialist).  Unfortunately, this site only provides names and no contact information.  You must do another Internet search or cross reference HERE with the AAPMR 'Find a Physician' .

Please Note: Only those physicians currently certified by the ABPMR will be listed in the search results. Certification information for other specialties can be found on the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) website or by calling the ABMS toll free at (866) ASK-ABMS (866-275-2267)


1.4. STEP 2-Locate a Physiatrist (includes contact information)

Physiatrist locator by state listing board-certified Physiatrists and their contact information nationwide. For information on which of these Physiatrists has a sub-specialty in spinal cord injury, you must cross check this list with the American Board of PMR choosing SCI from the menu. (see sub specialty list under Physiatrist)



2. Finding other physician specialist

2.1. Primary Care Provider

Not only do patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) require the usual health management services of community-based primary care providers (PCPs), but it is also essential for PCPs to consider the unique medical complications secondary to SCI in their health care practice.

2.2. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons    (AAOS) professional association of orthopedic surgeons; publishes various single copy pamphlets, free with self-addressed stamped envelope.  Send to:

6300 North River Rd., Rosemont, IL 60018-4262

Phone:  1-800-346-2267 pemr@aaos.org 

2.3. National Association of Social Workers

Find A Social Worker

There are many places to find professional social workers who provide individual psychotherapy and other forms of mental health assistance, including group therapy and support groups.

HelpStartsHere is featuring a few online directories to help jumpstart your search for the right therapist.   These sites list thousands of clinical social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other licensed mental health professionals.

HelpPro Therapist Finder / Social Worker Finder
NASW partnered with HelpPro in 2005 to launch the first ever Social Worker Finder.   The site has now grown to list more than 5,000 clinical social workers.   Most of the information in HelpPro's Therapist Finder comes from the providers themselves. Each clinician rates her/his level of expertise in area of concern or problem (i.e., specialties), approaches, age groups and specific populations served. Also, each clinician lists credentials, license information, fees, and payment options such as Medicaid, Medicare and health insurance plans. Many clinicians listed in this resource are NASW members.

Psychology Today Therapy Directory
Therapy is interpersonal treatment for problems in living. It involves talking with a trained professional about conditions ranging from depression and anxiety to relationship conflicts and career frustrations. Therapy provides ways to express feelings, understand patterns of thinking, gain perspective on past events and current relationships, set goals, and clarify dreams for the future. Clinical social workers make up more than 40% of the Psychology Today Therapy Directory listings, and many manage blogs that cover a range of mental wellness topics.

The decision to see a therapist is a very personal decision. Many times, people choose therapy during times of stress and emotional pain, and it may also be when you want to grow and mature. The decision to call a therapist may be a difficult one but is viewed as a strength—not knowing the answers to all your life questions is normal. Whatever your reason for seeking therapy, a therapist will listen to your concerns and help you decide upon the most appropriate course of action. This site allows visitors to research many different mental illnesses and to conduct easy geographic searches for therapists.

Other ways to find the right therapist for you:
  • Talk to trusted friends, family, or clergy about professionals they may know
  • Ask another health care provider, such as a family doctor, for a recommendation
  • Ask your health insurance company for a mental health provider list
  • Use a referral service from a national professional organization for therapists
  • Contact a local or national mental health organization or national medical society
  • Look in the phone book under "social service organizations" and "mental health"

2.4. American Psychological Association Practice Organization

Welcome to the Psychologist Locator, a service of the American Psychological Association Practice Organization. The Psychologist Locator makes it easy for you to find practicing psychologists in your local area. Psychologists are trained to help people deal effectively with many of life's problems and can help improve physical and mental health for you and your family. The Psychologist Locator lets you consider many factors in searching for psychologists, including their areas of specialization, gender, insurance accepted, languages spoken and much more.

Click here to go to the Psycholgist Locator

2.5. American Academy of Neurology

Find a neurologist  this link allows you to search both in your area or for a specific name of a neurologist.

2.6. American Association of Neurological Surgeons

American Association of Neurological Surgeons  (AANS)  The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to promote the highest quality of patient care.

Phone: 888-566-2267  Email: info@aans.org

2.7. American Society for Surgery of the Hand

American Society for Surgery of the Hand- is the oldest medical specialty society in the United States devoted entirely to continuing medical education related to hand surgery.

Why visit a Hand Surgeon - learn about conditions that can be treated and/or managed by a hand specialist

Find a Hand Surgeon

2.8. American Urological Association Foundation

The American Urological Association Foundation (AUAF) is the leading professional association for urologists.  With a goal to promote the advancement of urologic patient care, the AUA provides an on-line directory service for patients to use when looking for an urologist.  All of our active members are certified by the American Board of Urology, which is an important distinction of the urologist's commitment to continuing education and patient care.

Find A Urologist

Contact information:  Phone: 1-800-828-7866   Email: auafoundation@auafoundation.org 

2.9. Find a spine specialist

Find a spine specialist is a resource for finding a neurosurgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, chiropractor, physical therapist, or pain management specialist who specializes in treating persons with back and back pain health issues.

2.10. Locating a Sex Therapist

The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT)

Some psychologists and other therapists may specialize in sex therapy or couples counseling. Sex therapists in the United States are credentialed by The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, (AASECT). This association provides a referral service by calling 1 (804) 644-3288 or by connecting to their we. You might also get information and a referral from your primary care doctor, urologist or gynecologist.

3. Finding a dentist

3.1. Dental Referral Service

Dental Referral Service     offers variety of selection criteria to find a pre-screened dentist; includes option, when a listing is unavailable, for the person to call for toll free assistance at 1-866-639-7444

3.2. Find a Dentist

Find a dentist  

Locate a pre-screened dentist in your area; includes searchable section to learn if they accommodate persons who use wheelchairs.

Contact toll free 1-800 Dentist (1-800-336-8478)

3.3. Donated Dental Services

Dental Lifeline Network , through the generosity of volunteer dental services, provides dental care for persons who are living with at-risk health conditions and who cannot afford dental care.  Dental Lifeline services are available nationwide.  Services in some areas and/or states include 'donated dental housecalls'

Contact information and online request 

Phone  (303) 534-5360 or 1-888-471-6334


3.4. Special Care Dentistry Association

What is Special Care Dentistry

 The Special Care Dentistry Association [SCDA] is a national organization of dental practitioners. SCDA provides a forum for an exchange of clinical ideas, patient management techniques and a network of colleagues across the US and Canada.

Find a Special Care Dentist with an online application


3.5. Oral Health Searchable Database- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living and Office on Women's Health

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Community Living (ACL), and Office on Women's Health (OWH) have launched their first website focused on helping communities to promote the oral health of older adults. Users will be able to find nearly 200 community-based oral health programs through the site's searchable database at:  https://oralhealth.acl.gov/find4.

4. Additional Physician resources

4.1. You and Your Doctor

You and Your Doctor   "A guide to your rights and responsibilities" provided by National Rehabilitation Hospital, a Rehabilitation and Research Training Center on Spinal Cord Injury.

4.2. Changing or Choosing Your Doctor

Changing or choosing your doctor  Advice for selecting a doctor with SCI/D experience from Craig Hospital.

4.3. Preparing for and Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

Visting your doctor needs to have successful outcomes. For this to happen, you need to be prepared!  The Aging with a Disability site, now based at University of Washington, provides tips, tools, guidelines to help you prepare for a successful visit to your doctor.

4.4. Interacting with your Doctor

Interacting with your Doctor   Wanted: Team Work! You and your doctor can work as a team along with other health care providers. You can contribute to each other's understanding of SCI. (from Craig Hospital)

4.5. Preparing for an Office Visit to Your Neurologist

Preparing for an Office Visit to Your Neurologist  The American Academy of Neurology offers this excellent guide to help you prepare for a doctor's visit.  Following the various suggestions, provided in this guide, will help the doctor better offer a diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan for you.

4.6. Living Well - Shopping for a Doctor


Living Well – Shopping for a Doctor  Explains why you need to know what you can expect of a physician, how to choose one wisely, and what's expected of you. In short, it helps you learn why "you need to take an active role in your care".  Taken from Paraplegia News, October 2000