Dr. Phala Helm received her undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University summa cum laude and her medical degree from Southwestern Medical School, followed by residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor University Medical Center. She was appointed as an instructor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1970. Dr. Helm was named Acting Chair of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department in 1974 and was named Chairman in 1977. This marked a significant point in her career, as she was the first female chair of PM&R.

The Burn Unit at Parkland was developed in 1977, with Dr. Helm and Dr. Charles Baxter as Co-medical Directors. She served in this position until 1988. In 1985 she started the Problem Foot Clinic, which continues to serve patients today. In the early 1990s Dr. Helm was part of a group that went to Washington, D.C. to request funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for burn rehabilitation. This effort led to the establishment of the Burn Rehabilitation Model Systems in 1993 and Dr. Helm received an award from NIDRR that year to set up one of three Burn Model Systems in the U.S.

Dr. Helm stepped down as Chairman of the PM&R department in 1996, after leading the unit for nearly 20 years. She continued as Professor, Director of the Kimberly-Clark Center for PM&R, and Principal Investigator of the North Texas Burn Rehabilitation Model System (NTBRMS). It was at this time that she also stepped down as a member of the board of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation after serving for more than a decade. In 1997 Dr. Helm received the Distinguished Clinician Award from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Academician of the Year Award from the American Medical Women’s Association. By retirement, Dr. Helm had published over 18 chapters in textbooks, over 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals, received funding for over 13 research grants, and presented over 100 papers and lectures at national and international conferences. Dr. Helm and Dr. Steve Fisher published the first burn rehabilitation text book. A selected list of her publications is provided below.

In 2004, Dr. Helm was invited by NIDRR to serve on a Model Systems Review panel to analyze NIDRR’s investment in the model systems programs, including Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Burn Injury. She continues to participate in NTBRMS research activities and serves on the Professional Advisory Board. Dr. Helm also continues to serve on the editorial board for the Journal of Burn Care and Research. The “Phala A. Helm, M.D. Distinguished Lectureship” is held in her honor during the PM&R department’s Annual Scientific Day celebrations.


Texas Christian University (1957)
Medical School
UT Southwestern Medical Center (1966)

Research Interest

  • Burn Rehabilitation
  • High Risk Foot/Insensate Foot/Diabetic Wounds
  • Neuromuscular Diseases


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Select practices in management and rehabilitation of burns: a survey report.
Holavanahalli RK, Helm PA, Parry IS, Dolezal CA, Greenhalgh DG J Burn Care Res 2011 Mar-Apr 32 2 210-23
Long-term outcomes in patients surviving large burns: the skin.
Holavanahalli RK, Helm PA, Kowalske KJ J Burn Care Res 2010 Jul-Aug 31 4 631-9
Contractures in burn injury part II: investigating joints of the hand.
Schneider JC, Holavanahalli R, Helm P, O'Neil C, Goldstein R, Kowalske K J Burn Care Res 2008 Jul-Aug 29 4 606-13
Outcomes after deep full-thickness hand burns.
Holavanahalli RK, Helm PA, Gorman AR, Kowalske KJ Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2007 Dec 88 12 Suppl 2 S30-5
Restoration of function.
Helm P, Herndon DN, Delateur B J Burn Care Res 2007 Jul-Aug 28 4 611-4
Profile of patients lost to follow-up in the Burn Injury Rehabilitation Model Systems' longitudinal database.
Holavanahalli RK, Lezotte DC, Hayes MP, Minhajuddin A, Fauerbach JA, Engrav LH, Helm PA, Kowalske KJ J Burn Care Res 2006 Sep-Oct 27 5 703-12
Contractures in burn injury: defining the problem.
Schneider JC, Holavanahalli R, Helm P, Goldstein R, Kowalske K J Burn Care Res 2006 Jul-Aug 27 4 508-14
Heterotopic ossification revisited: a 21-year surgical experience.
Hunt JL, Arnoldo BD, Kowalske K, Helm P, Purdue GF J Burn Care Res 2006 Jul-Aug 27 4 535-40
Electrical injuries: a 20-year review.
Arnoldo BD, Purdue GF, Kowalske K, Helm PA, Burris A, Hunt JL J Burn Care Rehabil 2004 Nov-Dec 25 6 479-84
Predictors of quality of life as measured by the Burn Specific Health Scale in persons with major burn injury.
Cromes GF, Holavanahalli R, Kowalske K, Helm P J Burn Care Rehabil 2002 May-Jun 23 3 229-34


Featured Books Legend Featured Books

Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Burns

Fisher S, Helm PA (Ed.) (1984). Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins

Burn Rehabilitation. In Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 4th edition. DeLisa and Gans (eds)

Helm PA, Kowalske KJ (2004). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Burns. In Handbook of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Basics, 2nd edition. Garrison (ed)

Kowalske KJ, Helm PA (2003). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Honors & Awards

  • Distinguished Clinician Award
    American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (1997)
  • Member, Board of Directors
    Kimberly-Clark Corporation (1989-1995)
  • Chairman, Burn Rehabilitation Committee
    American Burn Association (1988)
  • Editorial Advisory Board
    Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation (1980-2005)
  • Committee on Development of Burn Care Standards
    American Burn Association (1975)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • American Burn Association
  • Dallas County Medical Society
  • International Society for Burn Injuries