In her 26 years at Shepherd Center, Leanne Dennis has worked in recreational therapy, case management and administration. As manager of the acquired brain injury post-acute program, she oversees the Shepherd Pathways post-acute rehabilitation program, Spring Creek House’s 24-hour residential program and the SHARE Military Initiative for service members and veterans who have sustained brain injuries and PTSD.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
A: My mother was a nurse, and hearing her experiences convinced me that I wanted to do something in healthcare that would allow me to help people, too. My other big love is athletics. I played volleyball at the University of West Georgia, where I was probably the shortest recipient of a volleyball scholarship! I think those two desires combined and led me to study recreational therapy.
Q: What are the greatest lessons you learn from patients?
A: More than anything else, it’s to never give up hope for recovery. People can continue to recover for a long time after brain injuries. I see patients progressing five, 10, 20 years after their injuries. Not giving up hope is what keeps them going. Their determination is amazing.
Q: Shepherd Pathways’ facilities recently underwent a $1.8 million upgrade. How have renovations enhanced your team’s work there?
A: The best thing is that the renovations opened up more room in our therapy areas for families to be more engaged in treatment. We want family members to be hands-on and ask questions, and this renovation allows us to do that. We also expanded our gym and lobby waiting area, and added an automatic-open door and canopy at the entrance to make it easier for families to enter and exit. And next year we’ll double the capacity of our SHARE Military Initiative when we move into a new building on Peachtree Park Drive in Atlanta. The 15,000-square-foot building was made possible by a $3.8 million gift from the Marcus Foundation. It’s an exciting time for us!
Q: You were recently honored for 20 years of service as a leader of Camp BIAG (through the Brain Injury Association of Georgia). What has that experience meant to you?
A: Camp BIAG, in Winder, Georgia, is another special place. It’s an overnight camp designed for adults with brain injuries. At the same time, we put on a camp for their caregivers. The point is to offer a break for everyone, where campers can be themselves and where caregivers can get some pampering, too. I’m the former camp co-director and I’m still involved every year – and every year, many Shepherd Pathways staffers volunteer as camp counselors.
University of West Georgia
B.S. in Recreational Therapy
Certifications in therapy recreation (CTRS) and case management (CCM)
Interview by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org