Atlanta, GA,
16:47 PM

Full Circle: Former Patient Pursues Career in Physiatry

Former Shepherd Center patient, DéShon Haughton, continues to overcome obstacles in his pursuit of a career in physiatry.

When DéShon Haughton decided to pursue medical school, he was challenged with choosing a concentration that combines his passion for exercise and his love for people. That’s when his research led him to physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry.

Life took a turn when DéShon found himself learning about physiatry from the patient side. Shortly after medical school graduation in December 2020, he sustained a spinal cord and brain injury after an automobile crash, leading him to Shepherd Center under the care of Anna Choo Elmers, M.D. After months of an intensive rehabilitation regimen, DéShon was able to walk out of Shepherd Center with a new perspective and new relationships.

Now DéShon had another hurdle to face: getting back on track with his education and securing a residency for his chosen concentration.

“To get back on track after months of rehabilitation is a big challenge,” Dr. Elmers said.

True to form, DéShon undertook this challenge with optimism and determination. He reached out to Dr. Elmers to ask for her mentorship and an opportunity to shadow her, adding to his medical experience. Dr. Elmers wholeheartedly agreed.

 “It’s beneficial for Shon but for our team as well,” Dr. Elmers said. “We were so excited to see him. This is really a story of ‘returning home.’”

So, during the week of August 22, 2022, DéShon visited Shepherd Center again, this time as a student learning from the team that cared for him.

“It’s revitalizing,” he explained. “It’s very important to me, not only to interact with Dr. Elmers and the therapists, but it also gives me the motivation to continue pursuing this field. I’ve really loved this opportunity to learn from them all.”

DéShon is currently taking part in a preliminary internship in internal medicine and applying for a physiatry residency in 2023. He is hoping to take what he’s learned from his experience as a patient and from his time with Dr. Elmers to help others going through the rehabilitation process.

“When I had my injury and became a patient, it gave me two different perspectives,” DéShon said. “Being a part of other patients’ rehabilitation and being able to influence them in some way, getting them back to what they want to do is amazing. That’s what Shepherd is all about, and I would love to be a part of that.”


Written by: Lindsey Rieben 

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.