History of AAPM&R

About Us


On September 12, 1938, the Society of Physical Therapy Physicians was founded during the annual meeting of the American Congress of Physical Medicine at the Palmer House in Chicago. The group elected Walter Zeiter, MD, as executive director, a position he held for 22 years. John S. Coulter, MD was elected as the first president.

Membership was limited to physicians with at least five years’ experience in full time practice of physical therapy, with a teaching appointment in a medical school or the director of a department. Membership was by invitation only and was limited (until 1944) to 100 doctors. Dues for the newly formed organization were $5 a year, a rate that continued until 1956.

In 1939, the Society was formalized in New York and had 40 charter members.

Beginning in 1958, the Academy assumed the responsibility for continuing medical education (CME) for members. Since that decision, formal CME has always been offered at each annual meeting.

The name of the organization continually evolved. What began as the American Society of Physical Therapy Physicians in 1938 became the American Society of Physical Medicine in 1944. In 1951, the words “and Rehabilitation” were added. The present name, “The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, was adopted in 1955.

Notable Dates for AAPM&R:


Due to national emergency, membership requirements lowered from five years' experience to three years' experience. (The requirements went back up to five years in 1947.)


Membership opened up to diplomates of ABPMR.


President’s Award established - awardee receives a certificate and $50 (funded by an anonymous donor); dues raised for the first time since 1938 from $5/year to $10/year.


Board votes that Academy should have a separate scientific program at Annual Session from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.


AAPM&R membership tops 500; First accreditation given by CARF.


Self-assessment exam for residents created by Academy’s Graduate Education Committee; Krusen Award established.


The Committee on Graduate Education distributes the “First Annual In-Training Examination in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” to PM&R residents - the first physiatric self-assessment exam. That exam evolved into what is now the Self-Assessment Exam for residents and practitioners (SAE-R and SAE-P).

This was also the first year that Academy members presented scientific papers at the Annual Assembly and that the Academy presented its first Frank H. Krusen award. (The unanimous choice for the first awardee was Dr. Frank Krusen himself.)

Academy and Congress agree to joint Editorial Board for Archives.


Professional Standards for PM&R published by ad hoc Academy Committee and was used by AMA in its overall guidelines for medical practice standards of PSROs; scientific presentations at Annual Assembly were first accredited for Category I CME credit.


“Syllabus” is produced for the first time to provide members with an at-home study program; the PM&R-Education and Research Foundation is established.


Self-Assessment Examination combined with the Syllabus to form the Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program (MKSAP).


Membership tops 1,000.


Separate self-assessment examination developed for practitioners.


Inaugural issue of The Physiatrist published and distributed to membership; membership tops 2,000.


The Residents Physician Council (RPC) holds its first meeting of 40 members during the Annual Assembly.


Membership tops 3,000; the Academy celebrates its 50th Anniversary.


Eighty members participate in the first Congressional Visitation program; the Academy and the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine enter into a separation agreement and the Academy became solely responsible for all obligations under its lease agreement.


Membership tops 4,000.


Academy commissions a PM&R Workforce study. It projects that the supply of PM&R physicians will double by the year 2017, and the demand for these medical specialists will keep pace with that growth.


Academy establishes a World Wide Web site.


The Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is established.


Academy launches Online Advocacy Center and Facebook page.


acadeME debuts as the Academy’s online educational portal for earning continuing medical education. Later that year, Academy members begin receiving AAPM&R Connection, a biweekly e-newsletter.


PM&R, the purple journal, begins publication as the Academy’s official, peer-reviewed, scientific journal. AAPM&R Member Councils are also introduced this year.


PhyzForum is introduced as the Academy’s online peer networking tool.


AAPM&R membership exceeds 9,000 members. The Future Leaders Program is established (formerly the Academy Leadership Program) to identify young member leaders and prepare them for specialty leadership and volunteerism.


AAPM&R celebrates its 75th Anniversary.


PM&R BOLD launches, an initiative to advance a new mission and vision for the specialty and to help position physiatrists for success across key practice areas. The organization also begins development of a PM&R-focused data registry.


The Academy responds to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing resources and guidance through its Physiatrist Member Support and Resource Center to support the physiatric community.


AAPM&R releases the first dashboard that shows how many million Americans are estimated to be experiencing Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC or Long COVID) symptoms. Three Long COVID guidance statements are also released.