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The Department of PM&R has a rich history of independent and collaborative research through three of its core, long-standing, federally funded grants (NIDRR/NIDILRR). The UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System (SCIMS) was one of seven SCIMS initially funded 1972. At that time, the UAB SCIMS was led by Dr. Samuel Stover, who was one of architectures of the Model System program established to fund institutions that are national leaders in medical research and patient care. Since Dr. Stover’s retirement in 1994, the UAB SCIMS has been led by Dr. Amie (Jackson) McLain (1994-2021), Dr. Ceren Yarar (2021-2022), and Dr. Rachel Cowan (2022-), who is the first person living with spinal cord injury to lead the UAB SCIMS. The UAB SCIMS is currently funded through 2026 and stands as the oldest and only SCIMS continuously funded since the program’s inception. Today, the SCIMS studies the course of recovery and outcomes of persons with spinal cord injury through a coordinated, multidisciplinary system of care, conduct research that contributes to evidence-based rehabilitation interventions and clinical practice guidelines. Additionally, the program continues to generate new knowledge that is used to improve outcomes of persons with spinal cord injury.

In 1983, UAB began a fee-based data management service for the SCIMS, which had then grown to sixteen SCIMS throughout the United States. In 1984, UAB was federally funded (NIDRR/NIDILRR) to establish and manage the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. Led by Dr. Michael DeVivo (1983-2005), the Center’s original purpose was to evaluate the efficacy of the SCIMS. Now led by Dr. YuYing Chen (2005-), the SCIMS Database serves eighteen SCIMS and is the largest and longest SCI research database in the world. It is used to study trends over time in the longitudinal course of the physical and psychosocial well-being of people with SCI, serve as the base of knowledge to improve rehabilitation standards, and promote research.

The Traumatic Brain Injury Model System (TBIMS) program was established (NIDRR) in 1987 to demonstrate the benefits of a coordinated system of neurotrauma and rehabilitation care and to conduct innovative research on all aspects of care for those who sustain TBI. The UAB TBIMS program was initially funded in 1998 under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Novack (1998-2019) after the original number of TBIMS’ was expanded from 5 to 16. Dr. Robert Brunner (2019-) now leads the UAB TBIMS program, which is currently funded (NIDILRR) through 2027. Over the span of UAB TBIMS, project staff have sponsored or participated in research activities focusing on describing outcome following TBI, therapy interventions, pharmaceutical interventions, scale development, and program development.