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On August 1, 2023, Janna Friedly, MD, MPH, became chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UW School of Medicine. As a physiatrist, physician-scientist and accomplished leader, Friedly has a vision to expand the department’s fruitful collaborations and internationally recognized research leadership.

After visiting for a rotation as a medical student, Friedly applied to the UW Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency program. Friedly completed her residency in 2005 and has been on the faculty ever since.

“Our mission keeps me here,” Friedly says. She is passionate about improving the health of the public through discovery, learning and dedication to care.

Why did you choose rehabilitation medicine?

I was drawn to physiatry because I could care for people with disabilities. I’ve always believed you can never fail in rehabilitation medicine. You can always make people’s lives better.

Rehabilitation medicine is an essential part of providing holistic care. We work with patients through their whole healthcare journey and across the entire health system. We work with people to prevent and manage disabling conditions, prepare for surgery and recover afterward.

What motivates you to remain with the department?

The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine has a great sense of community. Our faculty and staff are extremely collaborative and support one another.

Our combination of teaching, research and clinical care sets us apart as leaders in the country and internationally. The Multiple Sclerosis Center at UW Medical Center – Northwest is a shining example of how we align teaching, research and clinical practice to create an integrated program. Experts in rehab and neurology partner in our multidisciplinary MS clinic, where we continually collect data and conduct research to improve patient care.

What’s something you’re most proud of?

In 2020, I cofounded the Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic to care for people with post- COVID-19 symptoms. We’ve seen thousands of patients in the clinic and reach out to underserved populations in our region. Other clinics around the country have adopted our model.

Our rehabilitation psychologists research techniques for patients to manage their symptoms through peer support sessions. Patients now meet in weekly group sessions to learn skills for handling fatigue, stress and anxiety; coping with long-term symptoms; and improving sleep.

What is your vision for the department?

Our department is growing and has been a longstanding leader among rehabilitation medicine departments. My vision is to build on that growth by better integrating clinical programs, teaching and research.

Another goal is to foster collaborations with other departments and services. Rehabilitation services are needed for patients across a wide range of diagnoses and at all levels of care — from acute care to long term care. We are trained to work in interdisciplinary teams to improve outcomes for patients and this teamwork is the heart of what we do to improve function and quality of life. and One of my most important goals is to expand our collaborations to improve patient care.

I’m also excited to support our faculty and help with their career development — helping the people in our department shine. I see my role as helping them reach their career goals.

What do you enjoy doing in your personal time?

I have five children, ages four to 22. So I’m very immersed in children’s sports. I watch a lot of soccer.

I also love to run, read and have recently picked up crocheting. My grandmother taught me when I was little. Lately, I’ve been making crocheted stuffed animals for my kids.