Atlanta, GA,
12:02 PM

A Patient – and His Love of Music – Brings Holiday Spirit to Shepherd Center

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, Thomas Joiner gets back to doing what he loves – conducting music.

Thomas Joiner, D.M., 65, of Taylors, South Carolina, is passionate about music. At the young age of nine, he began playing the violin and eventually received his Doctor of Music degree. He was able to turn his passion into his profession and has worked as a conductor, violinist, chamber player and educator across the globe, most recently serving as the conductor of the Furman Symphony Orchestra.

After sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI) earlier this year in a fall, Dr. Joiner was admitted to Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program. With the support of his family, his wife Anna as primary caregiver, and a team of therapists, physicians and nurses, he set an important goal – get back to conducting.

“Just a few weeks ago, Dr. Joiner told me he thought he would never be able to conduct again,” says Kelly White, exercise physiologist in the SCI Day Program. “Our goal was to show him that he could.”

Along with White, neurorehabilitation psychologist Punam Rahman, Ph.D., organized an event in Shepherd Center’s SCI Day Program Gym on Wednesday, December 11, where Dr. Joiner conducted a group of Shepherd Center staff in a holiday concert. Staff members played a range of instruments from violins to piano to ukulele with Dr. Joiner at the helm as conductor. Patients and staff gathered to celebrate Dr. Joiner’s progress and were treated to renditions of holiday classics.

“This goes to show how resilience and determination have helped him rebuild his life and get back to doing what he loves,” White says.

This activity is just one example of how Shepherd Center clinicians engage patients in real-world activities to help them return to their homes and workplaces after injury. For Dr. Joiner, he hopes to return to work soon. In the meantime, he’s bringing some holiday spirit to his audience at Shepherd Center.

“Watching Dr. Joiner do what he loves was heartwarming,” said Anna Elmers, M.D., Dr. Joiner’s primary physician. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off the holidays.”

Thanks to the Shepherd Center Holiday Concert Performers:

Dr. Thomas Joiner - conductor

Gabe Shivers, exercise physiologist – bass

Wes Chay, M.D. – violin

John Morawski, MSN – guitar

Daniel Schaffer, PT – guitar

Rachel Mecalianos, OT– cello

Josh Turner, PT/OT aide – ukulele

Amber Riggle, RN, – flute

Jonathan Melbourne, PT – saxophone

Renee White – piano

Hannah Ribner, PT – singer

Punam Rahman, Psy.D. – bells

Kelly White – emcee

Written by Damjana Alverson and 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.