On November 16, 1990, Congress passed an amendment to the Public Health Service Act (P.L. 101-613) to establish the NCMRR within NICHD to conduct and support research and research training (including research on the development of orthotic and prosthetic devices) in medical rehabilitation. The Act also directed the NCMRR to disseminate health information and other programs with respect to the rehabilitation of individuals with physical disabilities resulting from diseases or disorders of the neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, or any other physiological system.
NCMRR became operational in January 1991 and was led by David Gray, Ph.D. The first meeting of the National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research (NABMRR) was held in May 1991. Marcus Fuhrer, Ph.D., became the first NCMRR director in 1993, and Dr. David Gray was named deputy director. That same year, Dr. Marcus and Gray worked with the NABMRR to create the NCMRR Research Plan.
His tenure was followed by Yvonne Maddox, Ph.D., who served as acting director from 1998 to 2000. In February 2000, Michael Weinrich, M.D., became the NCMRR director. After a brief period in which Ralph Nitkin, Ph.D., served as acting director, Alison Cernich, Ph.D., was appointed NCMRR director in January 2015.
In 2011, NIH convened a Blue Ribbon Panel to evaluate rehabilitation research at the NCMRR, NICHD, and across NIH. Blue Ribbon Panel on Rehabilitation Research at the NIH (PDF - 528 KB) provides details of the Panel's findings.
Also in 2011, the Center marked its 20th anniversary with a scientific symposium. Presentations addressed the establishment and early years of the NCMRR, the important contributions that the Center has made to the medical rehabilitation field, and its success in improving the health and quality of life for children and adults with disabilities. Read the Proceedings from the NCMRR 20th Anniversary Symposium for more information.
More recently, NCMRR led the development of the plan for the conduct, support, and coordination of medical rehabilitation research across NIH. The NIH Plan on Rehabilitation Research (PDF - 443 KB) identifies current medical rehabilitation research activities at NIH, opportunities and needs for additional research, and priorities for this research.