Carol Goodman Matheson, M.D.

Carol Goodman Matheson (M.D. 1953, Residency 1957) died on January 31, 2020, at the age of 91. After working as a nurse's aide during WWII, she went to U-M Medical School and became one of the first residents in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) department. Later, she established the Physical Medicine Department at Poudre Valley Memorial Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, before moving to Washington, DC, in 1968, where she was assistant chief of PM&R at the Washington V.A. Hospital. She then became professor of PM&R and assistant director of the department at Georgetown University Hospital in 1970. She headed the first PM&R department at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, where she was on staff from 1976 until her retirement in 1986.


The following is an excerpt from some of her memories of the early days of PM&R at U-M.

Being in the class of 1953 was an outstanding privilege and learning experience. Many of the students were veterans of World War II. [There were] 12 women in our class (a record number for that era).

The medical atmosphere in the '50s contributed to my decision [to do a PM&R residency]. Wounded war veterans were still being treated in hospitals. The poliomyelitis epidemic was at its height, and treatment personnel were greatly needed.

The simplest description of our training is "hands-on." We were taught to evaluate and diagnose not only using our book knowledge, but also by observation, palpitation, motion, measurement, and intuition.

Renovation and improvements of the department occurred soon after I completed my residency. The original unit was demolished along with the rest of "Old Main."

Some snippets of memory come to mind in recalling those experiences of more than 50 years ago:

  • The respirator center on the top floor of the hospital with rows of "iron lungs" and other respirators, in the morning was abuzz with therapists and doctors on rounds; in the evening, quiet except for the sound of the Mouseketeers on the one television (a program not to be missed by patients or staff); at night in the dim light, the sighing of the machines in a regular cadence keeping life flowing.
  • The memorable hands-on experience of donning masks and gowns and actually treating polio patients in the acute stage of their disease. Their tolerance and courage through that early painful phase of treatment with Kenny packs and gentle exercise was inspiring to us all.
  • The exciting announcement of the successful results of the Salk vaccine trials which I witnessed on April 12, 1955.
  • The strength, both physically and emotionally, of the physical therapists in handling challenges, such as gait-training sessions for paraplegics in cumbersome braces.

The camaraderie and shared learning among members of the rehabilitation staff, including prosthetists, orthotists, social workers, and many others.

Featured News & Stories maps purple and blue
Health Lab
Real-time opioid overdose data improves safety response from community
To improve coordinated community response to opioid overdoses, University of Michigan researchers are placing near-real time data in the hands of public health and safety officers. The Michigan System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance, was created in 2016 in response to the opioid crisis through a partnership between the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center and the Michigan High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.
smart watch on wrist
Health Lab
Clinical smart watch finds success at identifying atrial fibrillation
A Michigan Medicine research team developed a prescription wristwatch that continuously monitors the wearer’s heart rhythm and uses a unique algorithm to detect atrial fibrillation. The clinical-grade device, called the Verily Study Watch, proved very accurate at identifying atrial fibrillation in participants.
sketched out bacteria in a dish yellow and blue colors of U-M
Health Lab
This gross mixture has big benefits for the study of bacteria
Michigan Medicine researchers have found that growing bacteria on agar mixed with organs is an efficient and effective way to study infectious pathogens.
three pharmacists smiling
Health Lab
An innovative pharmacy service for pain management
An innovative service at Michigan Medicine offers pain management support for patients and care teams
patient giving paperwork and person saying no with hand graphic moving teal white grey navy orange
Health Lab
Why new patient paperwork isn’t just busy work
While it’s easy to overlook doctor's office questionnaires, that paperwork actually serves a vital role in better understanding how to treat you. Called patient reported outcomes, this information gives medical specialists insight into how treatments truly impact you as a patient.
family smiling togehter
Health Lab
Ketogenic diet helps 4-year-old live seizure free
Last year, a young girl experienced up to 40 seizures a week. Today, after nearly a year of working with the ketogenic diet team at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – overseen by a pediatric neurologist and dietitian – she’s celebrating six months of seizure freedom.