The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at The Mount Sinai Health System has a long history, beginning in 1910 with the establishment of the Department of Physical Therapy, headed by Heinrich Wolf, M.D. In 1935, William Bierman, M.D., was appointed director. He was, at that time, one of the leading physicians of physical therapy in the United States, and a prolific researcher, writer and clinician.

In 1948, the name of the department was changed to the Department of Physical Medicine, reflecting the newly established specialty of the Board of Physical Medicine.

In 1959, Lawrence Wisham, MD, was appointed chairman, and shortly thereafter, the name of the department was changed to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

In 1986, Kristjan T. Ragnarsson, MD, became chairman of the department, and shortly thereafter an inpatient rehabilitation medicine service was established and outpatient services expanded.

Since that time, rapid growth has occurred within the department, particularly in delivery of clinical services and research. The role of rehabilitation medicine in the delivery of clinical services to people with temporary or permanent disability is now well established, but efficient and effective delivery must be ensured in the current and future healthcare environment.