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February 9, 2024

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare launches Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation

Contributed A nurse with a high-tech mannequin in the Linda Morasutti and Robert Lee Nursing Education and Simulation Suite.

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare, a nonprofit healthcare system focused on rehabilitation, on Friday officially opened its new Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation, which includes a home for the state’s first physiatrist residency program.

“We wanted to create a space here at Gaylord where our staff could come together with leaders from the community in biotech research, academia, our own research team, our own physiatry residents,” said Sonja LaBarbera, Gaylord president and CEO. “So we have the first residency program in the state of Connecticut for rehab physicians, where the nursing education, physician education and therapy education merges with cutting-edge research and technology.”

The project launched in 2022 when Gaylord received $1.2 million in federal community project funding. Officials credited U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for his assistance, along with support from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District. The funding helped create a new space for Gaylord’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency Program.

DeLauro, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and state and local officials were expected to attend the opening news conference.

The health system also received private gifts from individuals and foundations, as well as other community donors.

The Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation includes five distinct hubs. The first is The Center for Education, which combines advanced clinical education and training and professional development for Gaylord staff, peer institutions and medical professionals nationwide. The Center for Education includes:

  • The Linda Morasutti and Robert Lee Nursing Education and Simulation Suite, a state-of-the-art space for clinical education and simulation training with “high-fidelity mannequins” that can simulate patient physical ailments. The suite also supports Gaylord Hospital’s nurse residency program.
  • The Center for Clinical Education and Training, an online learning system offering on-demand webinars, lectures, certification classes and continuing education units on rehabilitation medicine to medical professionals.
  • The Gaylord CNA Academy, which prepares students for the state CNA certification exam while they learn advanced skills. Students who complete the certification may be eligible for immediate employment at Gaylord Hospital.

The other hubs include:

  • The Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation, which works closely with Gaylord’s clinical teams who are experts in treating and rehabilitating brain and spinal cord injuries, complex strokes, amputations and pulmonary disease. The health system said the institute provides a collaborative environment for Gaylord’s clinicians to work with the institute’s staff to conduct rehabilitation research, develop new evidence-based practices, integrate state-of-the-art applied technologies into clinical practice, and partner with corporations and foundations to conduct data-driven research.
  • The Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency Program. Created in partnership with the UConn School of Medicine and Hartford Healthcare, the program is the first in the state and one of only 100 in the country. It seeks to help address the shortage of physiatrists, who address the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that produce temporary or permanent functional impairment. The four-year program will accommodate four residents per year, for a total of 16. The first class of residents began rotations at Gaylord Hospital in June 2023.
  • The Office of Integrative Medicine, which offers donor-funded programs focusing on wellness, empowerment and quality of life for patients and staff.
  • The Hope Chapel, a sanctuary for individuals of all faiths, providing space for spiritual well-being and weekly interdenominational services.

“This is a transformative milestone in Gaylord’s history,” LaBarbera said. “For over 120 years, people have turned to Gaylord with the confidence that our team of doctors, therapists, clinicians and researchers will push the boundaries of what’s possible to offer the best chance of regaining their function and enhance their quality of life. The Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation reinforces this legacy.”

LaBarbera added that Gaylord has hired five full-time employees for the institute, primarily researchers.

Dr. David Rosenblum, medical director of the Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation at Gaylord, said the Institute of Advanced Rehabilitation and the physiatrist residency program shows the hospital’s commitment to helping people.

“It’s an amazing space to learn, to collaborate and to grow,” he said. “Residents don’t often get the benefit of this kind of support. So for Gaylord to provide this, to invest in this, to recognize the importance and power of education and what that means for our residents … it’s a powerful statement.”

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