Getting to Know Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA
New president and CEO stepped up in March 2017
In her 35 years at Shepherd Center, Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA, has served as vice president of clinical services, director of the Shepherd Center Spinal Cord Injury Program, director of the medical/surgical and ICU programs, manager of the Shepherd Center Spinal Cord Injury Day Program, a physical therapy supervisor and a physical therapist. And now, she’s taking on her biggest professional role yet – president and CEO.
Q: How did your career get started, and how did you make it to Shepherd Center?
A: I decided I wanted to go into physical therapy when I was at the University of Miami. I thought I wanted to specialize in pediatrics, but during my very last rotation at Jackson Memorial Hospital (in Miami), I worked with patients who had sustained spinal cord injuries. I loved it immediately because it pulled together everything I’d learned while getting my PT degree: neurology, orthopedics, psychology, etc. I found treating patients with spinal cord injury incredibly rewarding as I felt as a physical therapist, I was able to teach patients how to be more independent.
In one of the conference rooms at the University of Miami, I saw a job posting for a physical therapist at Shepherd Center. I came to Atlanta for an interview. The Director of Physical Therapy at the time told me Shepherd center didn’t hire new graduates. I was devastated, but just three weeks later, I got a call to offer me a position. I joined Shepherd Center in 1984, just as we moved from 40 to 80 beds (Shepherd Center now has 152 beds). The rest is history.
Q: Thirty-three years is a long time to stay in one place these days. How has your career evolved?
A: When I first started my career, serving in an administrative role was not on my radar, but it became an opportunity for me to continue to learn. I’m so grateful the leadership here has continued to offer me experiences that kept me challenged and moving forward. It’s never felt stale here, and every day is different.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: I’ve known people who hated their job all of their lives. I have never once felt that way. I can count on one hand the number of times in 35 years that I haven’t been genuinely excited to get to work in the morning. And I’ve had people, when they find out I work in a hospital that cares for patients who are dealing with catastrophic, life-changing injuries, ask me, “Isn’t that depressing?” It’s not depressing at all. Shepherd Center is one of the most hopeful places on earth. There’s nothing more rewarding than being part of an organization that helps patients get their lives back. Also, the support I have had – from Shepherd Center’s board of directors, senior leadership, our staff and my own family – has been humbling. Knowing I have that kind of support is truly motivating.
Q: What’s on the horizon for Shepherd Center?
A: We’re still navigating a changing healthcare environment. We’re dealing with economic, regulatory and legislative issues, as well as payment reform. I’m very optimistic that the strategic planning process Shepherd Center has engaged in has prepared us to be nimble in the years to come. The strategic planning process confirmed for us that we’re headed in the right direction in a lot of areas. Our goal is to ensure that our culture and staff continue to thrive while also continuing to provide the best, evidence-based care for our patients and their families.
Q: What makes Shepherd Center unique?
A: Shepherd Center’s culture truly sets us apart from other hospitals, and it comes down to having the right people on our team. As our former medical director, David Apple, M.D., once said, “You can do rehab in a barn with the right people.” We’re lucky to have the right people.
University of Miami
B.S. in Physical Therapy
Georgia State University
Master’s in Business Administration
Master’s in Healthcare Administration
- Sarah is a record-holding diver. She holds four national AA titles, as well as a New York diving record. She attended the University of Miami on a diving scholarship.
- Sarah is number five of six children.
- Sarah and her husband have a son, who works in insurance, and a daughter who is a book editor.
- In her spare time, Sarah enjoys golfing, fishing and boating, as well as reading a good murder mystery.
Interview by Kerry Ludlam
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.