Medical Students


Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Gwen Sowa, MD, PhD, is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Dr. Sowa is internationally recognized for her research in degenerative disc disease, back pain, and the mechanisms of exercise-based treatments.


Brad Dicianno, MD, is Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research and Co-Director of Medical Student Education in the Department of PM&R. Dr. Dicianno is an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh, the School of Medicine, and this department’s residency program, and is committed to matching interested medical students with the right PMR clinical rotations and research projects. As an SOM alum he is well informed of the requirements of the medical school research requirement.

Betty Liu, MD, is Co-Director of the Department's Medical Student Education. Dr. Liu graduated from the Sophie Davis at City College of New York combined medical program with New York Medical College. She was one of the founding faculty in the Area of Concentration (AOC) in Disability Medicine, one of the first AOCs in the school of medicine. Dr. Liu has influenced medical students in broadening their perceptions of disability and PM&R.



PM&R Interest Group
The group allows students interested in the field of physiatry to learn more about this specialty, network with faculty and residents, and attend workshops and social events. For more information contact Dr. Brad Dicianno (
Disability Area of Concentration (AOC)
Disabilities Medicine prepares interested medical students for healthcare careers serving children and adults with disabilities. Disabilities Medicine encompasses the body of knowledge about disabilities at multiple levels of analysis: the biological basis of disability; recommended clinical practices; functional impacts of disability and its treatment; environmental, social, and community determinant of outcomes; and public health. This area of concentration (AOC) promotes the development of skills in person– and family-centered practice, collaborative decision-making, functional assessments, cultural competence, and chronic care delivery. Participants learn about community resources and policies that interact with healthcare to improve clinical and functional outcomes for people with disabilities. Students who participates in the AOC in Disabilities Medicine support the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of community life. Dr. Betty Liu, MD, is the Director of the AOC. Contact Dr. Liu for more information (
Both the AAPM&R and AAP offer membership levels for medical students, as well as opportunities for networking, learning, and career planning.


Clinical Electives
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine offers clinical clerkships for medical students providing opportunities to experience the evaluation and management of rehabilitation patients. These rotations are available to 3rd and 4th year Pitt medical students and visiting 4th year medical students. Course options offer experiences in various rehabilitation settings including:
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury and concussion
  • Disabilities
  • Pediatric disabilities
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Sports medicine
  • PM&R research

Medical Student Summer Clinical Externship (MMSCE) is an eight-week funded externship that exposes medical students to inpatient and outpatient clinical practice. In addition to practical experience, students also participate in mentorship with a clinician-educator at the sponsor site. Students receive a $4,000 stipend and paid travel to attend the AAP’s annual meeting, where they will present a case report form their externship experience.


Alliance for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research and Training
PM&R works closely with AR3T, a program at the University of Pittsburgh that is committed to accelerating progress in this emerging field using a network of national expertise to support research collaborations, education, and technology development. More information can be found at:
Research Electives
The School of Medicine offers unique opportunities for students to engage in research during their studies. The Dean’s Summer Research Project (DSRP) is an opportunity for students between their 1st and 2nd years. Stipend support is available for DSRP participants through the School of Medicine and various external sources (i.e. NIH, professional societies, named fellowships). The Longitudinal Research Project (LRP) is an extended research experience completed over four years under the mentorship of a faculty member.
Externally Funded Research and Clinical Programs
Rehabilitation Research Experience for Medical Students (RREMS) is sponsored by the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) and the Foundation for PM&R. This eight-week summer externship offers first-year medical students experience in scholarly research within the specialty of PM&R. The RREMS was developed for medical students with strong research interests. The program provides a structure research experience while exposing students to some of the most successful and respected faculty mentors in the field. In addition to working with experts in the field, the elected student receive a $4,000 stipend and paid travel to attend and present at the annual assembly.
RMSTP provides 3 years of support for research training, mentorship and career development for those physiatrists committed to building productive careers in academic medicine and research. The ultimate aim of the RMSTP is to increase the number of rigorously trained, extramurally competitive and scientifically productive faculty in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R). The training program is open to eligible residents, fellows and junior faculty.