Atlanta, GA,
08:43 AM

Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

The Spine and Pain Institute helps people with spine and joint pain and other pain-related conditions.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute. The outpatient clinic offers acute and chronic pain management and rehabilitation for spine, joint and other pain-related conditions.

Founded in 2000 as the Shepherd Spine and Pain Institute, it was renamed the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute in 2007 after Dean Stroud, the grandson of the late Bill Erb, who was a longtime supporter of Shepherd Center. Stroud passed away in a boating accident in 2004, after which Erb made a generous gift to Shepherd Center in Dean’s memory. In addition to this gift, Erb’s company, ERB Industries, has continued its company-wide employee giving program benefitting the Spine and Pain Institute to this day.

“Shepherd Center is always evaluating programs that will allow us to better serve our patient population,” said Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA, president and CEO of Shepherd Center. “We found that our patients with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis or other neuromuscular concerns often experienced chronic pain, but we did not have a team solely focused on treating that under our own roof. Opening the Spine and Pain Institute was a natural fit for Shepherd Center that allowed us to expand the comprehensive care our patients receive.”

Chronic pain can be very complex and have significant impacts on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Since its inception, the Spine and Pain Institute has used a multidisciplinary approach to medicine geared toward treating both the physical and emotional components of pain.

“Everyone experiences pain in a unique way,” said Erik Shaw, D.O., physiatrist and medical director of the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute. “Our goal is to look at each individual and customize our treatment plan to maximize their quality of life as much as possible.”

The multidisciplinary team works together to diagnose each patient and identify appropriate rehabilitation and advanced non-surgical interventions and/or medications. The team includes interventional and rehabilitation physiatrists, a nurse practitioner, experienced nursing staff, psychologists, a physical therapist and case managers. This approach allows the team to ensure patients receive the best care possible for the treatment of their pain. This focus on improving pain in turn improves patients’ quality of life.

“We take a holistic approach to care and try to understand how to make the patient better,” said Barbara Butkus, nurse manager of the Spine and Pain Institute. “There is such a variety of treatment options today. Nobody should have to live with chronic pain.”

Looking ahead, the Spine and Pain Institute aims to expand access to its care. In April 2020, along with several other outpatient clinics at Shepherd Center, it launched telehealth medical, rehabilitation and psychological services visits for established outpatients in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth visits make it possible for medical providers and patients to virtually see and hear each other, providing better interaction and ensuring there are no gaps in the care of patients’ pain management.

In addition to initiating virtual telehealth across the hospital’s continuum of care, Shepherd Center is working on a strategic fundraising campaign over the next five years to expand the physical footprint of the hospital. The expansion will allow it to offer more services and see more patients.

“I am very excited about the prospect of the physical expansion of this unit,” Butkus said. “The excellent care we give is known throughout the community, but there is a wait time to get a visit with our providers. The wonderful support from donors, management and Shepherd Center’s boards will allow us to treat more patients in the future.”

The Spine and Pain Institute is also pursuing innovative research to advance pain management and treatment.

“There are a lot of opportunities at Shepherd Center for contributing to research in pain treatment,” Dr. Shaw said. “We have implemented treatment combinations that have helped the unique cases we see and plan to continue to pursue these novel therapies in the future.”

One specific field of study the Spine and Pain Institute hopes to advance is spinal cord stimulation. With this technology, a small wire with electrodes stimulates nerves and helps block pain signals so patients can improve their comfort throughout the day.

“Spinal cord stimulation has the potential to help manage pain for our patient populations at Shepherd Center,” Dr. Shaw said. “Our team has the opportunity to work on exciting, innovative treatment options that haven’t been pursued before.”

The Spine and Pain Institute would not function without the support of the teams who work tirelessly on behalf of Shepherd Center’s patients.

“The success of what we do depends on everyone working together and advocating for the patient,” Butkus said. “The staff’s enthusiasm to learn and care for patients makes the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute the best in its field. I look forward to what the future holds.”


Written by Damjana Alverson

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.