Interview with Dr. Luz Helena Lugo-Agudelo: ISPRM 2021 Awards

Luz Helena Lugo- Agudelo MD PM&R, is a Professor at Antioquia University in Colombia. She was awarded the ISPRM 2021 Senior Distinguished Researcher Award (see announcement).

What follows is an interview with her, carried out by one of our Newsletter (News&Views) Editorial Board members.


Elizabeth Marin Monterroso: What area of PM&R is of your greatest interest and why?

Luz Helena Lugo- Agudelo: Throughout all my professional career I’ve been passionate for many PM&R areas, and this has to do with the places I’ve been working as a physiatrist. In the 90’s I worked in spinal cord lesion rehabilitation due to the great amount of this kind of patients that we assisted at our hospital in Medellín as consequence of the violence lived at that city.  My research career started at this point with the studies made in this specific group of patients. For many years I’ve been working in musculoskeletal and chronic pain areas; and also I used to work with children with intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder and sensitive disorders for the development of children rehabilitation programs at the university. In general, in my professional practice I’ve seen patients with neurologic, trauma, hand and musculoskeletal disorders. The area I didn’t develop was electrophysiology because I preferred to attend closely and maintain clinical relationships with my patients to get a clear vision of their functional disabilities.


Elizabeth Marin Monterroso: From your perspective, what are the current challenges a physiatrist faces in Latin America and specifically in Colombia?

Luz Helena Lugo- Agudelo: I think the major problem Colombia and all Latin America face at this moment is the fact of achieving a true strengthening of integral attention models for rehabilitation: acquiring the governance, financial support, and development of rehabilitation programs at all attention levels. It is very important to establish primary models that expand coverage of rehabilitation attention, making counter-reference process and long-term tracking of patients. There are very important challenges evolving after COVID-19 experience which are: promoting health, education, and tele-rehabilitation home based programs. It is also important to strengthen evidence-based medicine at PM&R graduate programs and including PM&R content at pre-graduate medicine school programs.


Elizabeth Marin Monterroso: How difficult it is to perform PM&R research in your country?

Luz Helena Lugo- Agudelo:  To dedicate myself to research I made a master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology to acquire the skills for making high quality research and strengthen methodological designs. In Colombia we had to start by validating different kind of instruments (quality of life and function scales) to use them at our primary research.

I’ve been working in various research lines: transit accidents, chronic pain, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and amputees.

Due to needs in our country, since 2008 we developed evidence based practical clinical guides in some PM&R areas as amputees, muscular dystrophies, and cardiovascular diseases, making knowledge transfer processes. Cause of COVID-19 pandemic we have made advance in evidence synthesis.

In our countries we have few resources to investigate, nevertheless, the university in which I work, has an important research career and the possibility to make research in not so competitive areas, and has made 20 years of research possible.

One of the major difficulties is the lack of a long-term research policy and financial funds for research, and to maintain the number of professionals needed por the development of each project.


Elizabeth Marin Monterroso: What advice would you give to the new and future physiatrists of the world?

Luz Helena Lugo- Agudelo: In first place, it is necessary to be passionate for this medical specialty that always gives opportunity to all patients. I consider very important that many people should develop research and get it involved in care practice. New physiatrists should have leadership abilities cause PM&R is a cross-cutting strategy in health and needs to develop programs, manage caregiving units, and make political efforts to accomplish high quality services that all patients require.


About Elizabeth Marin Monterroso, member of our News&Views Editorial Board.: ”I’m a PM&R Mexican doctor interest in promoting valuable and reliable information for other colleagues. That’s the main reason I opened a Facebook group account where I usually post articles, news and information of events concerning PM&R topics for the Mexican community (I usually repost news of the ISPRM Society). I also write articles for my Instagram and Facebook Fan Page with information for patients and make live interviews with other medical colleagues for promoting health news in general. I’ve also coordinated and directed the academic programs of two national PM&R congress and one postgraduate degree program that took place in Mexico and online. Besides being and active doctor in private practice, I’m a part time Anatomy and Biochemistry teacher.”