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Augustine Lee, M.D., Joins Shepherd Center to Lead Chronic Pain Research Efforts

Shepherd Center launched the Samsky Spine and Pain Research Fund to advance chronic and interventional pain management, research, and treatment.

Augustine Lee, M.D.

Chronic pain is a complex medical problem that can have profound effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. To better understand chronic pain and continue to develop, refine, and evaluate new treatments, surgical techniques, and diagnostic tools, Shepherd Center launched the Samsky Spine and Pain Research Fund (the Fund).

“So much is yet to be learned about the optimal way to manage chronic pain. This is particularly important for the population we serve at Shepherd Center – those with neurological illness and injury. At Shepherd Center, we always want to provide cutting-edge clinical services and help establish best practices through research,” says Michael Yochelson, M.D., MBA, chief medical officer at Shepherd Center.

The Fund, started by Brett and Louise Samsky, will be used for research in the field of chronic and interventional pain management with a focus on patients with neurological disorders.

“Louise and I are honored to invest in advancing the research and care for those with chronic pain,” Brett Samsky says. “We look forward to seeing the impact of Shepherd’s Pain Clinic and Dr. Lee’s research for years to come. Shepherd Center represents hope for so many and we are grateful to be a part of its powerful mission.”

In addition to the research itself, the fund will support all resources necessary to carry out that work, including support for key positions. Augustine Lee, M.D., joined Shepherd Center in September 2022 as a staff physiatrist and researcher in the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute, an outpatient clinic that offers acute and chronic pain management and rehabilitation for spine, joint, and other pain-related conditions. He will lead the research effort for the Fund and answered some questions about his role.

Q: What is your primary role at Shepherd Center?

I’m a staff physiatrist and researcher in the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute. My role includes performing research about chronic pain, seeing patients clinically, and performing procedures for pain and spine conditions when appropriate.

Serving as a practicing clinician while also leading research in this role, I get to be on the front lines and better identify areas for research that will be the most impactful, practical, and meaningful to my patients.

Q: Why is chronic pain misunderstood?

Chronic pain remains a challenge to properly diagnose, manage, and treat in a cost-effective manner. It can be caused by many factors like back and neck pathology, autoimmune processes, and spinal cord or brain injuries that all require a unique treatment approach. Chronic pain can also be processed by the nervous system in a complex manner that can result in persistent perception of pain despite resolution of the initial injury. Add to that the fact that pain can be challenging to quantify or visualize, so it can be difficult to explain and study. All of these factors lead to chronic pain being misunderstood.

Q: What research are you most excited about?

I’m excited to focus on optimizing results for people with chronic pain conditions. Our large, unique patient population at Shepherd will give me great insight into what research I can contribute that will be most meaningful to them.

I’m also excited to work with accomplished researchers at Shepherd like Edelle Field-Fote, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, FASIA, who is working on interesting research using electrical stimulation that may alter the way motor or sensory function is processed and delivered throughout the body that may result in better function and reduced pain perception in our patients.

There are many exciting possibilities, and I’m happy to be a part of the team at Shepherd to begin this work.

About Dr. Lee
Augustine Lee, M.D., is a staff physiatrist and clinical researcher at the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center and adjunct faculty for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at Emory University School of Medicine. After completing a residency in PM&R at Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Lee completed a North American Spine Society-recognized fellowship in Interventional Spine and Musculoskeletal Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. This clinical fellowship included specific emphasis on the administration of non-operative fluoroscopic interventional procedures for the treatment of painful spinal pathologies. In addition to his clinical training while at Tufts, Dr. Lee completed postdoctoral research fellowship training with a focus on clinical trials and epidemiological analyses for the treatment of patients with chronic pain conditions. Dr. Lee has authored over 50 peer-reviewed research publications, and his research interests are to disentangle the heterogeneity of treatment response, investigate novel therapeutics, and optimize the treatment paradigm for adults with painful conditions.

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.