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RMSTP: Advisory Board
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Current RMSTP advisory board

Click on the name below to view full bios of the RMSTP Advisory Board.

michael boninger

Michael Boninger, MD is a tenured professor and UPMC endowed vice chair for research in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. He is senior medical director for Post-Acute Care for the Health Service Division of UPMC and vice president for Medical Affairs for Community Provider Services. Dr. Boninger holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology, Clinical Translational Science Institute, and McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He is also a physician researcher for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Boninger holds 4 United States patents and has received numerous honors, including being inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. He has mentored over 100 students, ranging from undergraduates to medical students, and doctoral and postdoctoral trainees since joining the department in 1994. His students have won over 50 national awards.

John Whyte, MD, PhD
john whyte Dr. John Whyte received his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College where he majored in biology. He completed an MD/PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, having by then decided to pursue further training in cognitive and neuropsychology rather than biology. His interest in cognitive impairment, neuroplasticity, and recovery of function led him to pursue residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, where he hoped to be able to focus on the process of recovery from brain damage. His graduate research examined automatization of skill through practice, which appeared highly relevant to patients recovering from brain damage, where many previously automatic skills once again require conscious effort.

Dr. Whyte originally planned to work in stroke rehabilitation, because of the parallel to animal models of lesion studies used to study neuroplasticity. However, he accepted a fellowship opportunity to focus on neurotrauma at Tufts University and the Greenery Rehabilitation Center, and never looked back. Although varying degrees of cognitive recovery are typical after traumatic brain injury, the diffuse and multifocal nature of the resulting pathology required a very different research approach to what he had been exposed to in focal lesion studies.

During his time in Boston, Dr. Whyte focused his research on the clinically obvious but difficult-to-characterize attention deficits that are common after traumatic brain injury, and divided his time equally between NIDRR-funded research on these attention deficits and clinical work with patients with TBI many of whom were more profoundly injured and suffered from disorders of consciousness (DOC: the vegetative and minimally conscious states). This clinical work led him to develop an additional research program on DOC.

In 1989 he was recruited to Moss Rehabilitation Hospital (now MossRehab) to continue his 50/50 split between clinical service in TBI rehabilitation and research on TBI-related attention deficits. Mentored by Myrna Schwartz, PhD, he received his first NIH grant in this area. In 1992, he and Dr. Schwartz were appointed founding directors of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), which he continues to direct. Over the next 20 years MRRI grew to include 9 faculty level scientists and a budget up to $6M supported primarily by extramural funding. In the ensuing interval, Dr. Whyte’s research has grown and his clinical work is currently limited to directing the Responsiveness Program, a subspecialty clinical program for patients with DOC.

He continues to study attention and executive function deficits after TBI from many different perspectives, including basic exploration of mechanisms (structural and functional neuroimaging), clinical assessment (development, with Tessa Hart, of the Moss Attention Rating Scale – MARS), and treatment (placebo controlled trials of methylphenidate and other psychoactive medications). In the area of DOC, he developed a clinical assessment approach based on the principles of single subject experimental design (Quantitative Individualized Behavioral Assessment), studied the development of family beliefs about consciousness, and organized an international multi-center research network to study the natural history of DOC. Using this research network, he and Joseph Giacino, PhD, demonstrated the efficacy of amantadine HCl in accelerating recovery in a double blind placebo controlled trial that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. His research has been funded by NIH, NIDRR, the Department of Defense, and several private foundations.

Dr. Whyte has also lectured and spoken extensively about the special challenges posed by rehabilitation research and some of the methodologic strategies for meeting those challenges. His combination of specific research experience and perspective on these larger methodologic problems has led him to assume prominent roles in research training, including co-directing the Rehabilitation Medicine Scientist Training Program (RMSTP) with Michael Boninger, MD, and directing two NIH-funded infrastructure grants to support other rehabilitation researchers.

Dr. Whyte was a member of two Institute of Medicine policy panels – "Future of Disability in America” (2007) and "Cognitive Rehabilitation after TBI” (2011). He was the 2002 winner of the William Fields Caveness Award, from the Brain Injury Association of America, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s 2007 Coulter Lecturer, the 2008 recipient of the Robert L. Moody Prize for Distinguished Initiatives in Brain Injury Research and Rehabilitation, the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Academician Award from the Association of Academic Physiatrists, and the 2012 recipient of the Joel A. DeLisa, MD Award for Excellence in Research and Education in the Field of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. He is a past president of the Association of Academic Physiatrists.

Pablo Celnik, MD, PhD
pablo celnik Dr. Pablo Celnik is a board certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physician. Originally, he completed residency training in Neurology in Argentina, followed by a fellowship in Neurological Rehabilitation at the University of Maryland and later a research fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Hallett at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH). After this work, he entered the PM&R residency program in Johns Hopkins University where he was ultimately appointed chief resident. After this training, he was awarded a K12 Career Development Award, the "Rehabilitation Medicine Scientific Training Program” (RMSTP), sponsored by the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) and NIH, under the mentorship of Dr. Leonardo Cohen in the Human Cortical Physiology Section of the NIH. At the same time, he joined the PM&R and Neurology Departments at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Currently, he is an Associate Professor in the PM&R, Neurology and Neuroscience departments and is the Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of PM&R.

Dr Celnik’s research has focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying motor learning and motor recovery after brain lesions, and on developing and testing new strategies to enhance motor recovery after stroke. In this area, he has published several manuscripts in highly regarded peer reviewed journals, as well as chapters in prominent books.

Dr Celnik has received numerous prestigious awards. In particular, he received "The 2008 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)”, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. In addition, he was awarded the "2010 Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award” from the American Society of Neurorehabilitation, the "Clinician Scientist Award” from Johns Hopkins University, the "2006 Dennis W. Jahnigen Career Development Scholars Award” from the American Geriatric Society, and the "Young Academician Award” from the Association of Academic Physiatrist for outstanding academic performance. During his training he also received the "1997 Fellows Award for Research Excellence” by the National Institute of Health, the "2003 ERF New Investigator Award” by the Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the "2005 Best Paper Presentation Award” by the Association of Academic Physiatrists, and the "2006 Best Paper Presentation Award” by the American Society of Neurorehabilitation and American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Dr. Celnik has organized numerous courses and seminars, and has been invited to lecture in different universities, and national and international meetings such as the Association of Academic Physiatrists, International Society of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine, Neural Control of Movement, Pan-American Congress of Neurorehabilitation, Society of Neuroscience Argentina, and Meeting of the European Societies of Neuropsychology.

Finally, Dr. Celnik is the Medical Director of the Outpatient Neurorehabilitation Program of Johns Hopkins Medicine, where care is provided in a comprehensive manner to patients with rehabilitation needs due to neurological conditions.

Leighton Chan, MD, MPH
leighton chan Dr. Leighton Chan received his BA degree from Dartmouth College and his MD from the UCLA School of Medicine. He performed residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Washington, where he also obtained an MS degree in rehabilitation science. Subsequently, he completed a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Fellowship, earned an MPH at the UW School of Public Health, and was a Congressional Fellow for the Honorable Jim McDermott (Washington).

Dr. Chan has concentrated his research efforts on studying the health care provided to individuals with disabilities. His areas of focus have been the rehabilitation of patients with stroke, traumatic brain injury and lung disease. In addition, he has engaged in a number of ground breaking population based disability studies analyzing Medicare’s payment systems.

Dr. Chan assumed the role of Chief, Rehabilitation Medicine Department (RMD), NIH Clinical Center in January, 2007. As the Chief of the department, he oversees more than 50 clinicians who provide clinical and phenotyping services to 70 separate protocols in the NIH intramural program. These protocols all originate outside of the department. Dr Chan is also a tenured Senior Scientist in the NIH Intramural Program, with overall responsibility for all research that originates inside RMD. In this capacity, he supervises a tenure track scientist, a staff scientist, two biomedical engineers and more than 25 other research support staff. The RMD research teams are actively engaged in over 25 separate protocols and projects.

Dr. Chan focuses most of his time on the following projects:

  1. 5 year cohort study of 300 acute TBI patients linking imaging, biomarkers and extensive phenotyping
  2. 1 year cohort study of 280 stroke patients comparing outcomes from various post acute care sites
  3. Randomized trial of Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Pulmonary Hypertension and IPF
  4. SSA-RMD Collaboration to Improve the Disability Determination Process
  5. Analysis of Medicare data:
    • Determining the costs of disability transitions
    • Analyzing Medicare utilization of epidural steroids for low back pain
Dennis Matthews, MD
dennis matthews Dr. Dennis Matthews, Professor and Chairman, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver Colorado; Fischahs Endowed Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, The Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Center.He received his undergraduate education at Regis College in Denver, Medical Degree at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Minnesota. Dr Matthews specializes in Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and Neuromuscular Medicine.

His research interests include: 1) Neruomuscular Diseases: clinical trials in DMD (steroids, PTC, etc); biomarkers in SMA; CDC MDSTARNet: surveillance and identification of DMD, natural history; 2) Gait and Motion Analysis: CP gait, upper extremity motion capture; 3) spasticity management: botulinum toxins, ITBP, SDR

Dr. Matthews has written and lectured extensively on the Rehabilitation Management of Children and Adolescents. Dr. Matthews is currently funded through grants from NIH, NIDRR, MDA, CDC and industry (clinical trials).

Dr. Matthews is active in the AAPMR, AAP, ACPDM and Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society. He is the immediate past Chairman of the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Kevin Means, MD
kevin meansDr. Kevin Means received the Doctor of Medicine degree from Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC in 1982 and completed a residency program in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago of Northwestern University in 1985. After residency, he came to Little Rock, Arkansas as one of six founding faculty members of the newly created Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Since 1985, Dr. Means has been involved in virtually every aspect of the department and residency program. Dr. Means founded the PM&R Department's research program and developed a mandatory educational experience in research for the PM&R residents in 1996. In 1997, Dr. Means became the second Chairman and the third residency Program Director in the history of the UAMS Department of PM&R. He was promoted to professor of PM&R in 2005. Dr. Means has held several national, state and local advisory positions and he is an active member of and has served in leadership roles in several professional societies. Dr. Means holds PM&R leadership positions on the medical staffs and actively practices in four of the five UAMS PM&R-affiliated hospitals.

Dr. Means' area of clinical expertise is in geriatric rehabilitation. His research interests include developing and applying rehabilitation and prevention strategies to older persons with balance problems in order to prevent falling and fall-related injuries. Dr. Means has successfully obtained funding as a principal investigator from NIH and he also has been a principal investigator on merit review research grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Rehabilitation Research & Development Service. Dr. Means has served as an editor or reviewer for several scientific journals. He has authored and edited several publications and has given numerous scientific presentations. Dr. Means has received several honors and awards for his work as a researcher, a clinician and an educator.

He has been named as one of Arkansas’ Best Doctors. He was presented with the Chancellor’s Teaching Award during the 2008-2009 Academic Year.He is a leader and/or member of several professional organizations including:

  • National Medical Association
  • American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Association of Academic Physiatrists
  • American Geriatrics Society
Leslie Morse, DO
leslie morse Dr. Leslie Morse, DO is Associate Director of Research and Director of SCI research in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School and Director of Spaulding’s Bone Health Research Program.

Her research, as well as her clinical focus, is the care of individuals with SCI, with a long-term goal of developing mechanism-based therapies to prevent and treat SCI-induced osteoporosis. To that end, she is studying the relation of adiposity and bone health (R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health); the impact of FES-adapted rowing on the bone health of people with SCI (a clinical trial supported by the Department of Defense); and the mechanisms of rapid-onset, SCI-related osteoporosis.

Dr. Morse completed her medical training at the University of New England and her residency in PM&R at Boston Medical Center. She is a Clinical Associate at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Staff Physiatrist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of PMR at Harvard Medical School. Author of more than 20 publications, she has received several national best-paper awards and presented her work nationally and internationally.

Research interests: spinal cord injury and osteoporosis, therapies for bone health in SCI, affect of FES-rowing on bone and cardiac health in SCI, markers of bone health in SCI.

Carmen M. Terzic, MD, PhD
carmen terzicDr. Carmen M. Terzic, MD, PhD is Chair of the Department of Medicine and Rehabilitation with a joint appointment in the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She is associate medical director of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation program and holds the academic rank of associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Dr. Terzic received the M.D. degree at University Centro Occidental Lisandro Alvarado, Venezuela. She completed a residency at University Hospital in Barquisimeto and a fellowship at Inter-American Bank of Development and Venezuelan National Council of Research, Science and Technology. She received the M.Sci. degree in physiology and biophysics from the Venezuelan National Institute for Research and the Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology from Mayo Graduate School. Furthermore, Dr. Terzic completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular research, an internship in the Department of Internal Medicine and a residency in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation – all at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Terzic has received numerous honors and awards during her training and career, such as the Earl Elkins Award for outstanding Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident and the Outstanding Senior Research Presentation Award from Mayo Clinic; the Young Investigator Award and the Antonio Jose de Sucre Award for academic excellence from the Ministry of Science, Government of the Republic of Venezuela; and chancellor’s recognition as the top graduate of the medical school class from Lisandro Alvarado Mid-Western University. Dr. Terzic received the Distinguished Academician Award from the Association of Academic Physiatrists in April, 2011.

She holds professional memberships in organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the Association of Academic Physiatrists. In addition, Dr. Terzic serves on Mayo Clinic committees and as a teacher and mentor. She has given several invited presentations around the world. She serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Her clinical interests include cardiovascular and neuromuscular rehabilitation, and her research focuses on regenerative medicine and stem cell-based cardiac repair, nuclear transplant, intracellular calcium homeostasis and myotonic dystrophy. As a principal investigator and co-investigator, her work has been funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the American Heart Association, among other organizations.

In her personal time, Dr. Terzic was a competitive fencer. She enjoys reading and art — and often visits the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center and the Ordway Theater.
NIH Program Official: Ralph Nitkin, PhD
ralph nitkin Dr. Ralph Nitkin is the Deputy Director for the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), which is located within the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the NIH. He received his undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the area of biological sciences, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in cellular neurobiology. His postdoctoral studies at Stanford University and later work as an assistant professor at Rutgers University focused on the cellular and molecular basis of nerve-muscle synapse formation.

For the past 22 years he has worked as a science administrator at the NICHD, first in the area of mental retardation and developmental disabilities and for the last eleven years in the area of medical rehabilitation. Within the Rehab Center, he is also active in the area of training and career development.

Michelle Johnson, PhD

Dr. Michelle Johnson ( is currently Assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania.  She has a secondary appointment as an Assistant professor in Bioengineering and is a member of the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics graduate group. She has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis in mechatronics, robotics, and design, from Stanford University.  She completed a NSF-NATO post-doctoral fellowship at the Advanced Robotics Technology and Systems Laboratory at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy. She directs the Rehabilitation Robotic Research and Design Laboratory located at the new Pennsylvania Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. The lab is affiliated with the GRASP Lab. The lab specializes in the design, development, and therapeutic use of novel, affordable, intelligent robotic assistants for rehabilitation. Dr. Johnson’s research currently focuses on using robotics to understand arm dysfunction and recovery after brain injury.  

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