Remembering Dr. David Gater

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine community mourns the untimely passing of David R. Gater Jr., M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and chief medical officer of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Dr. David Gater
Dr. David Gater was internationally known for his work in obesity and metabolic disease among people with spinal cord injury and disease.

A world-renowned physician and researcher, Dr. Gater will be remembered as brilliant, innovative, kind, and compassionate. His influence will be carried forward by his colleagues, patients, and those he taught and mentored.

Dr. Gater was also a research scientist at The Miami Project; chief of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service for UM Hospital and Clinics, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center; and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship director. Nationally, he was co-director, National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) South Florida Spinal Cord Injury Model System, one of just 14 such centers in the country.

Board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, electrodiagnostic medicine, and spinal cord injury medicine, Dr. Gater was extensively published and made hundreds of local, departmental, and conference presentations. He was internationally known for his work in obesity and metabolic disease among people with spinal cord injury and disease, and was a staunch advocate for his patients.

Dr. Gater came to the Miller School of Medicine in 2019 from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, where he was professor, chair, and residency program director for physical medicine and rehabilitation and held the inaugural Rocco Ortenzio Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

In the three short years that he spent with UHealth and the Miller School, Dr. Gater achieved enormous impact and brought national recognition to the department. Among his many accomplishments were providing leadership for the opening of the state-of-the-art Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, and expanding care to 72 beds and regaining full accreditation as a center of excellence by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Under his leadership, the UHealth physical medicine and rehabilitation research division expanded into one that is nationally ranked in National Institutes of Health and other grant funding.

Dr. Gater spearheaded the partnership with the Shriners Children’s Hospital and secured the commitment to build a multi-specialty, multi-center pediatric orthopaedic and rehabilitation pavilion – a project announced just last month. His recruitment efforts for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation resulted in doubling its faculty and staff, and he expanded the physical medicine and rehabilitation residency program from 18 to 24 slots, adding two new fellowship programs in neuro rehab and cancer rehabilitation. He expanded the outreach of clinical physical medicine and rehabilitation services to 10 clinical sites throughout South Florida.

Dr. Gater was president of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals and was active in the American Spinal Injury Association, the Veterans Health Administration, VA System of Care, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He was also a member of the Association of Academic Physiatrists and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, along with other associations.

Despite his relatively brief time with UHealth and the Miller School, Dr. Gater loved his University of Miami family. A memorial service on the medical campus is being planned for Saturday, August 20, to honor his legacy and celebrate his life and work.

Dr. Gater is survived by his wife, Denise; their daughters, Brittany and Felicia; and his first grandchild, Levi, whose arrival he celebrated three months ago.

In honor of Dr. Gater’s legacy, the Gater-Aid Fund for Spinal Cord Injury Research and Education will support research and training programs at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UHealth Jackson Rehabilitation Care.

Tags: Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, Department of Physical Medicine, Dr. David Gater, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Miami VA Medical Center, Miller School of Medicine, Shriners Children's Orthopaedics Center, UHealth