Beverly Roberts-Atwater, DO, PhD, has earned a reputation as an outstanding physician educator in the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Now, she has the title and the responsibility to cement her place as a national leader in her profession.
Dr. Roberts-Atwater, Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at EVMS, has been named Chair of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. In that capacity, she will lead the board that oversees initial and ongoing certification for all U.S. osteopathic physicians in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Her new role also includes oversight of subspecialty certification in sports medicine, pain medicine and hospice and palliative care.
She is the first woman and the first African American to hold the position. Her term began in August and runs for two years.
Her promotion to chair comes on the heels of four years of service as an active member of the AOA board, most recently as vice chair. But it is only the latest recognition of her knowledge and skills.
In 2017, James Madara, MD, President of the American Medical Associate (AMA), nominated her to sit on the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Residency Review Committee for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, (ACGME) which certifies all allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) residency training programs in the U.S. Her six-year term began July 2018.
At EVMS she is former Director of the PM&R residency program, stepping down to assume her new roles.
“Dr. Roberts- Atwater has been a rising star at EVMS for many years in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” says Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost of EVMS and Dean of the School of Medicine. “It is wonderful to see her gain her due recognition at the national level, recognizing her academic accomplishments and leadership. She is a superb clinical educator who has gained the respect of all her colleagues in the region and now, by her peers at the national level. We are extraordinarily proud of her efforts in advancing the academic reputation of EVMS.”
Dr. Roberts-Atwater is medically trained just as her MD counterparts. But as an osteopathic physician, her training included an emphasis on a holistic approach to healing.
“Not only do we look at the traditional medical approaches to taking care of our patients,” she says of osteopathic physicians, “we also have in our tool box , tools , whereby we look at the interaction between structure and function and the body’s ability to heal itself.
“This is a very exciting time,” she says. “The osteopathic profession is growing. We have some 33 schools of osteopathic medicine and there are roughly 145,000 osteopathic physicians and medical students in the United States.”
A key focus of her tenure as chair will be to modify the board certification process for physicians. Currently, to recertify, a physician must travel to Chicago for the oral portion of the exam. She hopes to take advantage of technologies such as Skype so a physician can complete the exam without leaving his or her practice.
She is well placed to know about the certification process. She voluntarily has earned and maintains both DO and MD board certification in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Dr. Roberts-Atwater followed a non-traditional path to medicine. She earned a PhD and practiced as a psychologist before returning to school to earn her medical degree. She was in private medical practice for a decade before coming to EVMS, where she takes joy in training the next generation of physicians.
Over the course of her career, she has earned the respect and admiration of many colleagues, including two who she regards as mentors.
Jim Sylvain, DO, Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University, outgoing chair of the AOA board. He says Dr. Roberts-Atwater has the academic credentials, experience and the professional demeanor to handle the job.
“She is willing to listen to all sides of the story before she interjects. She doesn’t react quickly, Dr. Sylvain says. “She thinks about things, and when she comes out with her plans, they are very methodically well thought-out and well-received.
“Ever since she came on the board, she stepped right up,” he says. “From day one, she was involved in the conversation through her interaction and volunteering on committees. I think she has a natural leadership ability in that regard.”
J. Michael Wieting, DO, MA, Med, Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn., has known Dr. Roberts-Atwater since the two worked together at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“She has always impressed me as being incredibly bright. She grasps things very quickly and is very perceptive,” he says. “She’s also a master communicator and has an outstanding reputation as an educator, clinician and program director.
“I’m so pleased to see her take on this role,” he added. “I think she’s going to be amazing. Everything she does turns to gold. She’s just a delightful human being.”