TIRR Memorial Hermann Was One of the First Polio Treatment Centers in the Nation

TIRR can trace its roots back to the early 1950s when polio was at the height of its epidemic in the United States. At the beginning of that decade, William A. Spencer, MD, established one of the first polio treatment centers in the nation in Houston. The Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center was dedicated to patient treatment and research and performed groundbreaking work.

Dr. Spencer was notably involved in developing the physiograph, a device recognized in the March 1954 issue of LIFE Magazine for its ability to record vital functions. This technology advanced teaching and research efforts and is credited as an early example of the sophisticated monitoring systems we use today.

With the discovery of the polio vaccine in the 1960s, the expertise developed by this nationally recognized respiratory center was applied to rehabilitating catastrophically injured patients. Much of what was learned in treating polio survivors would prove valuable and applicable to other disabling injuries and illnesses.

Crowd of people pose for a photo outside TIRRFinancial Gifts

Financial gifts from prominent Houston philanthropists made it possible to build a not-for-profit hospital in the Texas Medical Center, just east of its medical school partner, Baylor College of Medicine. On May 30, 1959, the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research was formally dedicated and began accepting patients. In 1978, the hospital changed its name to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research.

One of the Best Rehabilitation Hospitals in the Nation

Known today as TIRR Memorial Hermann, this leading institution has been named as one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report every year that rankings were published. TIRR Memorial Hermann continues to be guided by the principles and philosophies originally established by the Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center. Dr. Spencer changed the way society and health care responded to disability and rehabilitation. Today, TIRR Memorial Hermann changes lives by improving outcomes, offering hope and maximizing independence for those impacted by disabling injury or illness.

Man uses the tiniest strengths for the greatest purposes.

TIRR Memorial Hermann Milestones


TIRR Memorial Hermann is designated as a national rehabilitation innovation center as a result of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Jan. 5, 2023. The Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act of 2022 recognizes a leading class of pioneering rehabilitation research facilities across the country, including TIRR Memorial Hermann, which set the standard for ongoing study and patient care.


TIRR opens an outpatient rehabilitation location in Southeast Houston.


TIRR Memorial Hermann opens inpatient pediatric unit.


TIRR Memorial Hermann celebrates Sixtieth Anniversary.


TIRR now at 134 beds with the opening of patient care unit 2C.


The TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center opens adjacent to the hospital, uniting the hospital’s research programs under one roof and creating an integrated Campus where the critical components of clinical care and research come together for the benefit of patients. Expansion of OP services continues in Northwest and Memorial City locations.


TIRR Memorial Hermann begins the creation of a comprehensive, integrated rehabilitation network extending beyond the Texas Medical Center to outlying communities in the Greater Houston area. Neurological Sleep Medicine Center opened.


Rehab Medical Home and Pediatric OP Center opened.


TIRR recognized as most outstanding MHHS inpatient facility (President's Cup Award). TIRR now at 119 beds with addition of 3 new private rooms on PCU 6.


Motor Recovery Research Center opened


TIRR joins the Memorial Hermann Health System and becomes TIRR Memorial Hermann, one of 12 hospitals in the not-for-profit system known for clinical expertise, patient-centered care, leading-edge technology and innovation.


TIRR Adult and Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation at Kirby Glen opens in southwest Houston.


The departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine and McGovern Medical School form the Baylor/UTHealth PM&R Alliance.


McGovern Medical School at UTHealth establishes a department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. TIRR affiliates with the medical school that same year, while continuing its affiliation with Baylor College of Medicine.


The Southwest Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC), one of 10 federally designed regional technical assistance centers on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is established at TIRR.


U.S. News & World Report announces its first America’s Best Hospitals list. TIRR is named in this nationwide survey of physicians and has been included every year since. The innovative Challenge Program, begun at TIRR as part of the Brain Injury Program, opens its facility in southwest Houston, in keeping with TIRR’s philosophy of community-based service programming. Dunn Tower is constructed.


NIDRR names the hospital’s Brain Injury Program a Model System and designates TBI Model System.


The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) designates TIRR as a national Research and Training Center on Independent Living.


TIRR opens its inpatient Brain Injury Program.


The hospital changes its name to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research to emphasize its national and international service.


The Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program is established as a national resource center providing research, training and technical assistance.


TIRR’s Spinal Cord Injury Program is named a Model Spinal Injury Treatment System. The Cooperative Living Program and the Maximum Independence Center, the nation’s first residential independent living programs for people with severe physical disabilities, are started at an annex near downtown Houston.


TIRR’s Spinal Cord Injury Program is named a Model Spinal Injury Treatment System. The Cooperative Living Program and the Maximum Independence Center, the nation’s first residential independent living programs for people with severe physical disabilities, are started at an annex near downtown Houston. Nation's first post - polio program.


An annex to TIRR, acquired through donated funds, increases the hospital’s inpatient bed capacity and makes possible a unique residential program.


TIRR founder and director William A. Spencer, MD, is named Physician of the Year by President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Employment of the Handicapped.


TIRR becomes an important early research partner with NASA.


TIRR establishes its Spinal Cord Injury Program and is designated a national Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) for Rehabilitation Medicine by the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration of the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Research conducted through its affiliation with Baylor College of Medicine makes the hospital an international leader in improving patient care.


Harrington rods developed. Nation's 1st Cystic Fibrosis Center


TIRR, the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, opens its doors in the Texas Medical Center. As polio becomes less of a universal threat, the hospital focuses on the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord deterioration caused by disease or trauma, pioneering the interdisciplinary team approach to rehabilitation.


The Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center opens in an annex to Harris County’s Jefferson Davis Hospital, the teaching hospital for Baylor College of Medicine, in response to the polio epidemic sweeping the nation.

Get Started

To make a referral or to schedule an appointment, please call 1 (800) 44-REHAB (73422), (713) 797-5942, fax (713) 797-5988 or fill out our online forms by clicking the buttons below.

Become a Patient Refer a Patient

Contact Us

If you have questions or are looking for more information, please complete the form below and we will contact you.


Thank you for contacting the TIRR Memorial Hermann. We have received your inquiry, and a team member will contact you soon.

If you need more immediate assistance, please call us at (800) 44-REHAB (73422).

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

About TIRR Memorial Hermann
Become a Patient Refer a Patient
US News and World Report Best Hospitals Badge
Nationally Ranked Rehabilitation

For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.

Learn More