Growing up at Shepherd Center
Jamie Shepherd, MBA, MHA, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Shepherd Center, and Julie Shepherd, CCM, LMSW, CLCP, director of founding family relations, share their perspectives on the Pursuing Possible campaign.
Siblings Julie and Jamie Shepherd have grown up inside the walls of Shepherd Center, their namesake, which their grandparents and father co-founded in 1975. In 1973, their late father, James Shepherd, completed four months of intensive rehabilitation in Denver for a spinal cord injury before returning home to Atlanta. After returning, James and his parents, Harold and Alana Shepherd, were frustrated with the lack of rehabilitation care options in the Southeast. With extraordinary drive and community support, the family started work to create the premier rehabilitation center that exists today. We chatted with them to learn what it was like to grow up around Shepherd Center, how the hospital has evolved, and what the Pursuing Possible campaign means to the Shepherd family.
Q: What are some of your early memories of Shepherd Center?
One of my most vivid memories was painting the nature scene murals in the tunnel that connects Piedmont Hospital and Shepherd Center. I remember it was stenciled out, and we got paintbrushes, and we got to fill them in. And, every year during The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, a world-famous 10K in Atlanta that is also one of the country’s largest wheelchair 10Ks, we went down to Piedmont Park with dad, and he handed out the trophies for the wheelchair division.
I remember we spent a fair amount of time playing in the Wheelchair Seating and Mobility Clinic. It was like a closet back then; it didn't look like it does now. Another time when we were kids, we got caught in the tunnel between Piedmont Hospital and Shepherd. We were racing wheelchairs down the hall, and Piedmont Hospital security had a camera in there, so we got caught!
Q: What made you decide to work at Shepherd Center?
I was in construction for 12 years, and the company built bridges throughout Georgia. It was rewarding to build something lasting, but not in the same way as getting a hug from a family member when their loved one graduates from rehabilitation at Shepherd Center — it’s just totally different.
I’ve always liked working with people. Even before I came to Shepherd, I was a social worker doing case management. Since starting at Shepherd in 2009, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s truly a special place.
Q: What are you most excited about regarding the Pursuing Possible campaign and how it will allow more patients and families to access Shepherd Center’s specialized rehabilitation services?
I’m most excited about being able to help more people. This expansion gives us the opportunity to make a difference in more lives, and that's why I come to work —that's what it is all about for me.
Q: What do you hope we will hold onto as we grow?
The culture – that's the biggest thing to me. When you come to Shepherd Center, you notice everybody talks to everybody and smiles. People know each other. That's a huge deal to our family and to me. And then the service. You meet therapists here who give everything to their patients —they keep in touch years later. Sometimes patients don't remember exactly who their therapists were, but they remember the atmosphere and their experience— they remember that everybody loved them and cared for them — and that's pretty amazing.
Interview by Ruth Underwood
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.