Lessons Learned at Shepherd Center Continue to Ring True
Rob Kozarek of Chicago, Illinois, often relies on the wisdom he gained at Shepherd Center while in rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury.
As a rising senior in high school, Rob Kozarek, now 28, had plans to play football in college. A car wreck that summer resulted in multiple broken bones, including a T-4 to -5 spinal cord injury, derailing those dreams. But looking back now, Rob sees that in the aftermath of that accident, new dreams took root.
At the University of Illinois, he was recruited to join the wheelchair track team.
“That opportunity really opened up the world to me,” Rob says.
He excelled in the sport and competed in marathons nationally and internationally. He even came within a couple of spots of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
The travel sparked new ideas. Committed to getting out of his comfort zone, Rob moved to Australia without knowing a soul there. He eventually became a study abroad advisor for his alma mater and wrote a grant for a program that he created. Today, “Enabled Abroad” still helps the university send students with disabilities to study overseas.
Rob is now a strategist with an online software company in Chicago, specializing in patient education. He has a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s in public health and he is looking to pursue an MBA in enterprise healthcare management. His long-term goal is to work on models of care for high-level SCI rehabilitation systems, like Shepherd Center’s.
At every stop of his journey, Rob has carried with him lessons that he learned during his year-and-a-half stay at Shepherd Center, including his time in Beyond Therapy®, Shepherd Center’s outpatient activities-based, intensive neurological rehabilitation program.
“Shepherd Center provided a base for me for everything that has come after,” Rob says. “They grounded me in the idea that life would be what I made of it. It was a ladder: Keep going up each rung that you didn’t think you could do before.
“That’s a lesson that I took with me to Illinois, to Australia and to my career today. It hasn’t always been easy, but I think that’s what speaks to what I learned at Shepherd Center most of all. Because when things got tough, I stuck with it.”
Written by Phillip Jordan
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 neuromuscular 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 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.