Feature

Stephen Wegener, PhD, takes the helm of Rehabilitation Psychology at a critical time. The collaborative care model long followed by the specialty — joining up with a team of health-care providers, with the patients as active participants — is being adopted across health care. Rehabilitation psychology research is in huge demand as thousands of service members return from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, musculoskeletal injuries and amputations. In addition, more people are living longer while beset by chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, chronic pain and arthritis. The number of survivors of motor vehicle crashes who need rehabilitation continues to grow as advances in emergency medicine mean more people survive injuries that would have killed them in the past.

“It’s a very exciting for rehabilitation psychology to see some of these ideas seeping out into the broader health-care community, and seeing other psychologists adopt our model of being part of a physical health-care team,” says Wegener, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He also holds a joint appointment in the department of health policy and management at the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To address the growing need for rehabilitation psychology research, Wegener plans to:

  • Publish more articles. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are significantly increasing funding for rehabilitation research. That means more high-quality, longitudinal studies with larger cohorts on post-traumatic stress disorder, amputation care and brain injury will be available for publishing.
  • Help translate research into practice. Each journal issue will include at least one review article, including reviews of evidence-based treatments to help practitioners choose more effective interventions. Wegener will also ask lead authors to write an “Impact and Implications” section at the beginning of each article describing what their research adds to existing knowledge and what their work might mean for practitioners and policymakers.
  • Provide quicker feedback. If an article isn’t suitable for the journal, either because the content doesn’t fit the journal’s mission or the research isn’t high quality, authors will be notified within two weeks after submission. Authors who have written articles with a chance of publication should hear from the journal within four weeks, Wegener says.

Besides publishing more research, Wegener wants to disseminate rehabilitation psychology’s insights as widely across the health-care community as possible.

“That’s a challenging mission in a world full of information, but I think we have something to say that the broader community can benefit from,” Wegener says.