David Steinberg's Path to Leadership
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David Steinberg’s Path to Leadership

David Steinberg, MD, MMM is Chief of the Division of PM&R at the University of Utah and Executive Medical Director at the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital. He is also the Secretary/ Program Director for the AAP’s Chair Council. Discover David’s path to leadership – in his words.

David Steinberg HeadshotLike many in healthcare I was influenced by both personal and family events to pursue medicine and ultimately physiatry. As an adventurous kid, I was injured in a bike accident that resulted in injuries, surgery and a prolonged hospital stay. I recall getting up for the first time after surgery and falling flat on my face due to my legs being so weak that they couldn’t hold me. Another important factor was my sorrow at witnessing the decline and ultimate nursing home placement of my wonderful grandparents. Seeing their struggle with Parkinson’s and debility broke my heart. I became interested in brain science, to a large extent due to my father’s work as a physiology professor. Neurobiology fascinated me. An additional factor was the teamwork and comradery evident in my chosen sport of rowing. While in medical school, I discovered that physiatry aligned my neuroscience interests with that same team-based mindset. PM&R was an ideal specialty for me. I went on to complete my training at RIC where I found mentors in Jim Sliwa, DO and Elliot Roth, MD and marveled at the leadership of the late Henry Betts, MD. RIC was a great example to me that a pre-eminent institute could deliver exceptional, team-based rehabilitation care and also advance the field of PM&R.

Following residency, I joined a thriving group physiatry practice at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. This teaching hospital delivered remarkable care and patient experience. I was surrounded by colleagues and leaders who built a supportive culture marked by esprit de corps and mentorship.

My work at St. Joe led me to healthcare leadership, first as a Medical Director for Rehabilitation and then into other progressive hospital roles including Vice Chair for the Internal Medicine Department and ultimately Chief of Staff. Along the way I obtained a Masters in Medical Management through Carnegie Mellon University. Over time, our program developed a strong relationship with the University of Michigan’s Department of PM&R. I am grateful for the mentorship of their former Program Director, Cathy Spires, MD, and Chair, Ed Hurvitz, MD. In addition, their Department Administrator, Linda Grosh, provided inspiration and guidance. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Linda was integral in the development of the AAP Chair Council.

After 23 years of life in Ann Arbor, my wife and I moved to Salt Lake City in late 2018 for my “dream job” in medical leadership at the University of Utah Division of PM&R. This position combined my love of physiatry and resident education with my desire to build a rehabilitation program in the image of RIC. The University was searching for someone both to serve as PM&R Division Chief and also to lead their soon to be completed Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital.

Now part of a thriving academic medical center and university, I’m constantly stimulated by an amazing faculty. Our residents motivate us to be teachers as well as learners. Our patients motivate us to deliver exceptional care and to create innovations and discoveries that may someday transform life with disability. As a new PM&R academic leader, I’ve found the AAP to be a continual source of knowledge and support. I’ve received terrific mentorship and guidance from fellow academic PM&R leaders around the country. They are a continual source of wisdom and inspiration, particularly as we face the challenges presented by COVID-19.

As a member of the AAP Chair Council, I hope to strengthen and lead our field through the challenging environment of the early 21st century. Our world is changing rapidly as we face the greatest upheaval experienced in generations. This is a time for PM&R programs to support each other. Our academic programs are a cherished source of innovation, enthusiasm and vision. Together we can achieve more and ultimately help our patients, their families and our communities thrive despite the challenges before us. I hope to foster a greater appreciation for leadership development, professionalism, quality and safety. Through the Chair Council, I will work to bring underrepresented groups to physiatry, and strive to enhance the capabilities and opportunities for future PM&R leaders.

The University of Utah is a thriving, collaborative environment, and the new Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital provides our PM&R program with unprecedented opportunities. I’m grateful for the AAP Chair Council and look forward to working with my fellow physiatry leaders in helping shape the future of rehabilitation care, discovery, and training.