Medical Staff Profile – Allan Peljovich, M.D., M.P.H., Orthopedic Surgeon, Shepherd Center
Dr. Peljovich, of the Hand & Upper Extremity Center of Georgia, is a consulting orthopedist at Shepherd Center, where he specializes in hand and upper-extremity surgery.
Q: You perform tendon transfer surgeries, which have the potential to restore hand and arm function to people with tetraplegia. Do those surgeries still amaze you after doing them for so long?
A: Oh yes, absolutely. I love doing them, thinking about them. I love the positive effect those surgeries can have for people. It’s one thing I can do that truly can change someone’s life.
What Shepherd Center does is amazing. People go into Shepherd Center with catastrophic injuries, and Shepherd’s doctors and staff teach them that life goes on. What they do is huge. The little part we do at my clinic can help some of those patients become a little more independent, gain a little more confidence.
Q: What’s the most important thing you learned in medical school?
A: To always make sure I pay attention to what patients are actually coming in for, and to listen to what they’re having trouble with. As surgeons, it’s not our job to see a patient and immediately begin to figure out what surgery to do. That’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since medical school?
A: That empathy is not the same as feeling sorry or feeling bad for a patient. Empathy is trying to put yourself in their position, to understand where they’re coming from. To put yourself in their frame of mind so that it’s that much easier to relate and help.
Q: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
A: Thankfully, I’m in a specialty where I don’t have to tell someone they’re going to lose their life, or that they’ve just experienced a catastrophic change in their life. But it’s still tough to have to explain to someone why an intervention we’ve tried hasn’t worked. Or why it hasn’t accomplished what they hoped it would do.
We’re trained as surgeons to help people, to make their lives better. So when we fail – or worse, have no solutions to offer – it’s hard to accept. It’s frustrating.
Q: What makes you most excited to go to work each day?
A: I genuinely like what I do. I’m one of those people who actually found in life what I should be doing. I enjoy everything from the most mundane parts of the job to the most complex, challenging parts. Every morning I get up and get to do something I love.
Q: You have an extra “Lab” assistant when you visit your Shepherd Center patients. What does he do?
A: Well, my daughter fell in love with this Labradoodle that was trained as a therapy/service dog. I knew then that Murphy was going to join our family. My one condition was that we put him to work.
So my wife, Lori, now brings him to Shepherd Center when I visit my patients here. Murphy’s pretty funny when he visits the hospital. He’s confident. He acts like he lives at Shepherd Center. And it obviously is a fun visit for my patients. He is definitely loved when he’s there.
Q: From your perspective, what makes Shepherd Center unique?
A: It’s just an incredible mission – to take in people who have been thrown these terrible curveballs by life, people who had their lives change so dramatically, who are at a point that the average person can’t fathom.
And Shepherd Center takes these people who are broken physically – and often mentally – and brings them back to life. And not just to a life, but a real quality of life. The hospital helps them get involved in their communities again, helps them find a purpose.
Consulting Surgeon, Shepherd Center; Orthopaedic Surgeon, The Hand & Upper Extremity Center of Georgia; Clinical Instructor, Atlanta Medical Center Orthopaedic Residency Program; Medical Director, Hand and Upper Extremity Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Founding Surgeon, Brachial Plexus Clinic at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Consulting Surgeon, Limb Deficiency Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Harvard Medical School; Cleveland Metro Health Medical Center
Case Western Reserve University
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania (undergraduate); Emory University (master’s in public health)
- Dr. Peljovich also answers to Coach P. He’s coached youth baseball for 10 years.
- Most fascinating lecture he attended recently: the history and future of in-utero surgery.
- A father of three, he’s been married to Lori – “an awesome partner and a great parent” – for 20 years.
- Dr. Peljovich chose his specialization after a residency spent under his mentor, Michael W. Keith, M.D., a pioneer in reconstructive surgery.
- Musical instrument of choice: bass guitar. “I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so punk rock is my favorite. But I’ll play anything!”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Photography 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 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.