Meet Dr. Jennifer Yang Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist in Dallas
Jennifer Yang, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is one of a small group of physicians in the United States with board certification in spinal cord injury medicine. She helps people regain movement, function, and independence after spinal cord injury and other medical conditions that affect mobility.
“A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician looks at what happens after the diagnosis, after the surgery – how to get folks back to living their lives,” she says. “We focus on non-surgical treatment of diseases affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, muscles and ligaments, and how these illnesses affect activities of daily living, mobility and quality of life.”
From Surviving To Thriving
Dr. Yang explains that spinal cord injuries “get into the nitty-gritty of living your life,” and she works with each of her patients to address the complications that can arise: paralysis, stiffness, or spasticity in the muscles; loss of bowel and bladder control; and pain or loss of sensation.
Whether a person’s injury is related to trauma or to a disease process, Dr. Yang emphasizes that every injury is unique, so her care is always tailored to the individual, based on what he or she needs to preserve the remaining function and to address any limitations.
“We make sure you have the right equipment, whether it’s a wheelchair, crutches, or a specialized toilet,” she says. “We keep up with your equipment, and we look at any new issues that are arising, such as pressure sores or changes in bowel and bladder habits.”
A person’s needs also change over time, Dr. Yang notes.
“One of my patients has had paraplegia for a few decades, and he uses his arms and hands to propel his wheelchair, as well as using his hands extensively for work. He recently developed wrist pain and neck pain, so we switched him from a manual wheelchair to a power (electric) wheelchair so that he doesn’t have that strain on his neck and arms and he can keep working.”
Maintaining and restoring a patient’s function is Dr. Yang’s main goal. She collaborates with physicians in neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, neurology, anesthesiology, and the Wound Care Clinic, as well as physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, psychologists, social workers, and a nursing staff that is attuned to the needs of patients with spinal cord injuries and other mobility issues.
“We offer care at every step of the way – from inpatient rehabilitation right after your surgery or diagnosis, to outpatient therapy, to long-term follow-up care.”
The Show Must Go On
A pianist since age 5, Dr. Yang has always been drawn to movement and the study of what the human body can do, from basic biomechanics to dancing and making music. She hopes to build a performing arts medicine program at UT Southwestern that will keep the artists of the Metroplex playing and dancing at their best.
“A lot of musicians and dancers perform through their pain, which can ultimately shorten their careers,” she says. “We want to create a program that addresses the specific needs of that population so they can continue their work.”
Dr. Yang chose to make medicine her profession as a way to offer tangible, practical solutions to people, so that they can make the most of their lives. She says it’s the tangible aspects of rehabilitation medicine that she enjoys.
“You get to see muscles and nerves coming back to life,” she says. “You get to see a person find a good quality of life again. It is very gratifying to help people thrive despite the limitations of their bodies.”