Atlanta, GA,
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30 Things You Might Not Know About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center's Facebook page engages more than 30,000 followers.

Thank you to everyone who has followed Shepherd Center’s Facebook page – we’ve now reached 30,000 followers! To celebrate, here are 30 things you may not know about Shepherd Center.

  1. The Shepherd family founded Shepherd Center in 1975 after James Shepherd sustained a spinal cord injury in Brazil. Returning to Atlanta after six months of rehabilitation in Colorado, James and his parents, Harold and Alana Shepherd, set out to create a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in the southeast. David Apple, M.D., now medical director emeritus, soon joined them on this endeavor.
  2. Shepherd Center first opened its doors as Shepherd Spinal Center, a six-bed-unit in space leased from an Atlanta hospital, on August 18, 1975.
  3. Shepherd Center moved to its current location on Peachtree Road in 1982. At the time, Shepherd was a 40-bed facility.
  4. In 1995, the hospital officially changed its name to Shepherd Center to better encompass its growing lists of services after opening a 20-bed-unit for brain injury rehabilitation.
  5. Shepherd Center now has 152 beds and serves patients from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.
  6. Shepherd Center was recognized in 2018 for the 10th consecutive year as one of the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in the magazine’s 2018-19 Best Hospitals rankings.
  7. Shepherd Center representatives, including Shepherd Center co-founders Alana and Harold Shepherd and David Apple, M.D., led the Atlanta Paralympic Games Organizing Committee, which presented the successful bid for Atlanta to host the 1996 Paralympic Games.
  8. The Shepherd Center Foundation was established in 2005 and raises funds to support more than 20 Shepherd Center programs, including the SHARE Military Initiative, recreation therapy and chaplaincy, among others.
  9. The Fred, Shaler and Andrew Alias Sports Teams Program at Shepherd Center sponsors 11 sports teams that enable individuals with physical disabilities in the Atlanta area to participate in sports on a recreational or competitive level.
  10. Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA, Shepherd Center’s current president and CEO, has worked her entire career at Shepherd Center – 34 years!
  11. Shepherd Center employs more than 1,600 people across three campuses.
  12. Shepherd Center was recently recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of Atlanta’s top 10 places to work.
  13. The Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute first opened at Shepherd Center in 1991. Since then, the MS Institute has treated thousands of people with MS using a wide range of neurological and rehabilitative services.
  14. Shepherd Pathways opened in Decatur, Georgia, in 1997, serving post-acute patients with brain injury as they transition from the inpatient facility to their home environment.
  15. In 2000, the Shepherd Spine and Pain Institute opened, with a mission to help people with pain resulting from neurologic, degenerative disease or injuries. They focus on restoring function, improving quality of life, and reducing dependence on medications, while enhancing psychological well-being and independence.
  16. If it looks like a tough workout, that’s because it is! Shepherd Center began the Beyond Therapy® program in 2005, which is a rigorous, activity-based program designed to help people with a variety of neurological disorders improve lifelong health, minimize secondary complications and get the most from any new neural links to their muscles.
  17. Thanks to incredibly generous donors, the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center opened in 2008. It provides 30 days of housing to families of newly injured rehabilitation patients, if both the family and patient live more than 60 miles from the hospital, allowing families to be close to their loved one during rehabilitation.
  18. Shepherd Center’s advocacy program influenced efforts to make the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta more accessible. You can trace other efforts of the advocacy program around the Atlanta area; those include wheelchair lifts and ramps on Atlanta’s MARTA buses.
  19. Shepherd Center "employs" multiple therapy dogs. Alongside patients, they take part in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy and psychology in a fun and unique way.
  20. Shepherd Center’s Secret Garden has been an integral part of the campus since the construction of the Shepherd Building in 1982, providing both therapeutic opportunities and an outdoor sanctuary for patients, families, staff and volunteers. In 2014, the garden was renamed the Anna and Hays Mershon Secret Garden in honor of longtime Shepherd Center supporters Anna and Hays Mershon.
  21. Every May, Shepherd Center hosts a field day for its employees to encourage camaraderie and fun. Departments team up and participate in games, races and events!
  22. Patients have the opportunity to participate in The Ruth and Talmage Dobbs, Jr. Horticulture Therapy Program, where they can plant, dig, water and tend to the garden. Gardening helps facilitate therapy goals, such as fine and gross motor skills, core strength, range of motion, as well as cognitive goals such as sequencing, problem-solving and memory.
  23. Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative launched in 2008, thanks to a gift from Atlanta philanthropist Bernie Marcus, through the Marcus Foundation. Since its inception, the program has treated more than 550 military service members and veterans who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, along with co-occurring post-traumatic stress or other mental health concerns.
  24. Shepherd Center has an injury prevention program, which aims to reduce risky behavior – including driving distracted or impaired, diving and not wearing proper safety gear – that can lead to spinal cord or brain injury.
  25. More than 750 people serve each year as volunteers for Shepherd Center.
  26. In addition to providing patient care, Shepherd Center is also a world-renowned center for neurological and neuromuscular research. Clinical studies are conducted in collaboration with leading experts at other hospitals, research centers, medical schools and universities around the world.
  27. Every July 4, Shepherd Center sponsors the Wheelchair Division of the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. More than 60 world-class athletes from around the globe compete in this annual 10K event.
  28. Shepherd Center’s recreation therapy program hosts a variety of sporting events, health and wellness clinics, and trips throughout the year. The mission of Shepherd Center’s Recreation Therapy Department is to help people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease to lead healthy and active lifestyles as independently as possible.
  29. Shepherd Center is accredited by The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Shepherd Center is also designated as a Spinal Cord Injury Model System by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).
  30. Every year, more than 7,000 people visit one of Shepherd Center’s seven outpatient clinics, which include the Multi-Specialty Clinic, Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute, Shepherd Spine and Pain Institute, Upper Extremity Clinic, Urology Clinic, Wound Care Clinic and the Complex Concussion Clinic.

Written by Christina Edwards

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.