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Kim Anderson-Erisman,PhD, research faculty in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and the Center for Rehabilitation Research at MetroHealth, is among the newest class elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

Dr. Anderson-Erisman, who joined MetroHealth in 2018, is Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) based at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute and operated with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). She is also a Professor of PM&R at CWRU School of Medicine. The Department of PM&R at CWRU is based at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute.

Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

“It’s humbling to be considered in the company of all these other people who are outstanding in their fields. I’ve never done anything with the goal to be outstanding. It’s always just been the goal of doing research to help people living with spinal cord injury,” she says. “Twenty years ago, people didn’t really feel that this research was valid science. But I kept doing it. I’m incredibly honored and fueled to keep doing what I’m doing on a bigger stage.”

Founded in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), NAM is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) in the United States.

New NAM members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, healthcare and public health.

“To be a top-notch scientist is the minimum requisite,” says fellow NAM member John Chae, MD, MetroHealth’s Senior Vice President, Chief Academic Officer. “But you need more than that. It’s more than simply accomplishments. Is this person going to change the world? Dr. Anderson has done that and will continue to do that.”

Dr. Anderson-Erisman was 17 years old when she sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident. Her research has focused on translational investigations and bridging the gap between basic science, clinical science and those living with spinal cord injury. The work is informed by her own perspective of living with a spinal cord injury. In 2021, she received the Neilsen Visionary Prize awarded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, one of three people honored by the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, education, clinical training and programmatic support in the U.S. and Canada. The honor was accompanied by a $1 million unrestricted prize.

Dr. Anderson-Erisman’s research also has received significant funding support over the years, including a four-year, $3.06 million Department of Defense (DoD) clinical trial grant awarded in 2022 for research she is conducting with PM&R and MetroHealth Center for Rehabilitation Research colleague Robert Hoey, PhD.

The Northeast Ohio Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) program, which Dr. Anderson-Erisman leads with Co-Director James Wilson, DO, Director of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, is one of only 18 federally designated Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Centers in the nation. The NORSCIS is operated with CWRU.

Membership in NAM “brings validation that people recognize how important it is to include the perspectives of people living with spinal cord injury in research,” says Dr. Anderson-Erisman. “I hope it opens the door to opportunities that I can’t even imagine are out there. This will shed a spotlight on the work and importance of it. I hope that encourages other people to start doing this work as well.”

The exclusive recognition is a fitting one for someone with such strong commitment to improving the lives of those living with spinal cord injury, said Richard Wilson, MD, Interim Chair, PM&R, and Co-Director, MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute.

“She has been integral in changing how research is conducted by prioritizing the goals of those who might benefit from the research,” he says. “This is a well-deserved honor.”

There’s agreement from MetroHealth’s top leadership: “Dr. Anderson-Erisman’s incredible achievement is a testament to her important work in the field of spinal cord injury research,” says MetroHealth President & CEO Airica Steed, Ed.D, RN, MBA, FACHE. “Recognition by the National Academy of Medicine also is reflective of MetroHealth’s talent throughout the PM&R team. It speaks to the impact of our research, the care we give to our patients and our environment that fosters the next generation of scientists and clinicians.”