Long-time Medical Director Retires After a Career in Compassion
As he retires, Donald Peck Leslie, M.D., reflects on his 34-year career at Shepherd Center.
Donald Peck Leslie, M.D., has a list of career accomplishments that is extraordinary.
He’s served as Shepherd Center’s medical director for the past 13 years, before which he served for 10 years as associate medical director and medical director for Shepherd Center's Acquired Brain Injury Program, which he co-founded and developed. In addition to his clinical and administrative roles at Shepherd Center, he also serves on the hospital's Board of Directors and the Shepherd Center Foundation Board of Trustees. Dr. Leslie is a diplomat of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and was elected a Fellow in the Academy, where he also serves as board examiner. He’s been listed on the U.S. News & World Report Top Doctors list.
He has served on the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of Georgia and as the co-medical director of the Georgia Model Brain Injury System (GAMBIS) for the TBI Model Systems grant. Dr. Leslie even served on the Board of Directors for the Paralympics. By all accounts, Shepherd Center has been lucky to have Dr. Leslie at the helm.
But, when you talk to him, he insists he’s the lucky one.
“For many years, I have ridden the crest of a wave that started in 1975 when the Shepherd family founded Shepherd Center,” Dr. Leslie says. “The culture that was established right then and there is a beautiful thing. As I retire, I feel great about the future, and I just feel so fortunate to have been a part of it all.”
Throughout his career, Dr. Leslie has overseen hundreds of staff and consulting doctors across various medical and surgical specialties. He has also cared for thousands of patients, an important part of his career that he says he’ll miss.
“I have gotten to see the evolution of so many patients’ rehabilitation and to watch them bloom before my eyes,” Dr. Leslie says. “They didn’t ask to be here, but they begin to see that they want to continue living and that Shepherd Center can make a real difference in their lives.”
Patients and families will miss him, too.
“He’s so smart, and very compassionate,” says Tammy King, RN, MSN, ET, CRRN, CCM, chief nursing officer at Shepherd Center. “He’s a holistic doctor in that he cares for the mind, body and spirit of his patients. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated that type of deep caring that you hope to get from your doctors.”
Another thing he’ll miss about being at Shepherd Center daily? The culture.
“In medical school, we are taught that the doctor is the top of the pyramid, but at Shepherd, there is no pyramid,” he says. “We are all on the same level playing field, and you have to be a team player. That’s just the culture here.”
Throughout his time at Shepherd, Dr. Leslie has embodied and promoted this team environment, according to multiple colleagues.
“I have always respected that he seeks the help and advice of his fellow physicians, nurses and other disciplines across the team, yet on the other hand, he serves as a wonderful resource to patients and staff,” King says. “He knows the strength rests in the team.”
In addition to his clinical duties, Dr. Leslie also has bolstered Shepherd Center’s research program, helping to shape technologies and therapies to advance the rehabilitation field, including the use of stem cells in spinal cord injury patients and the incorporation of robotic exoskeletons into the clinical setting. Although he leaves his clinical duties, he will stay on board as the principal investigator of two clinical trials. He also will take on a development position in the Shepherd Center Foundation, a role he is uniquely suited for thanks to his strong commitment to Shepherd Center and his depth of institutional knowledge.
Over the past three decades, Dr. Leslie has seen the hospital grow from a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center to a fully integrated care facility that now treats people with spinal cord and brain injury, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular disorders. The mission of Shepherd Center – to help people with a disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity – has stayed central to his leadership.
“Dr. Leslie has lived out our mission here every day,” says James Shepherd, co-founder and chairman of the board of Shepherd Center. “He has an incredible ability to connect with patients, families and staff, and his influence on our culture is readily apparent. I’m incredibly grateful for his dedication to Shepherd Center.”
Through growth and change, Dr. Leslie’s commitment to Shepherd Center has not wavered.
“I’ve worked in virtually every division of this hospital from inpatient to outpatient,” Dr. Leslie says. “It’s not just a job – it’s a life. I love this place, and I love what happens here. I feel like the luckiest man alive to have spent my career here.”
Written by Kerry Ludlam
Photos from Shepherd Center Archive
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 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.