Medical Staff Profile
Dr. Simon began practicing reconstructive surgery as a consulting physician at Shepherd Center 23 years ago when he opened his private practice in Atlanta. He provides consultation regarding patients with skin complications, performs surgery on Shepherd patients at the adjacent Piedmont Hospital and sees patients in clinics he holds twice a week at Shepherd. He is board certified in general and plastic surgery.
Q: Why did you decide to become a physician?
A: My mother encouraged me to become a doctor or lawyer. Also, I was strong in math and science. So, to take my skills to a higher level, I chose medicine. In fact, I was the first person in my extended family to graduate from college.
Q: Why did you specialize in plastic and reconstructive surgery?
A: I always wanted to be a general surgeon. As a medical intern, the things I liked about surgery were the immediate results and gratification. The internal medicine physicians always had to order tests and wait for the results. Then as a resident, I applied to some competitive programs where I knew I could get lots of hands-on experience in surgery. At Cook County Hospital in Chicago, I did a plastic surgery rotation in a clinic where we operated on children with cleft lips and palates. I was enthralled to take babies who were missing palates and help make them look almost normal. It was an “aha” moment for me.
I was the first graduate of the University of Illinois to complete a general surgery residency and then go on to complete a plastic surgery residency. In the fourth and fifth year of my general surgery residency, I got to do all kinds of surgeries, and it made me a better surgeon. I learned to make decisions quickly and how to handle complex cases.
But I decided to go on to plastic surgery, not for the breast augmentations, facelifts and money, but because of the experience I had in correcting cleft and missing palates.
Q: Describe your role as medical director of reconstructive surgery at shepherd center.
A: I am the go-to guy when complications arise with patients’ skin. I provide consultations for reconstructive surgery and staff a skin clinic at Shepherd Center twice week in which we see at least 40 patients.
I have always considered my work at Shepherd Center to be the most rewarding part of my practice. When a patient has a large pressure sore, which can be fatal, my biggest joy is when I tell patients who are doing well at several months post-operation that I never want to see them again professionally. They laugh and always thank me for helping them. That’s the most rewarding part of the job.
Also, I consider it part of being a doctor and part of practicing at Shepherd Center that I treat every patient as I would treat them if they were my own family member.
Shepherd Center is a remarkable, magic kingdom. People come here with their lives altered so much by injury. With help from their treatment team, they are able to overcome adversity and live productive lives. It is always inspiring to see this happen. The energy this hospital has makes me a better person. So, practicing medicine here is my way to give back.
Q: What are some things you’ve learned from your interactions with shepherd center patients through the years?
A: Never give up hope. That’s very important. I’ve seen patients using wheelchairs and then six months later, they have walked into my clinic.
Always have confidence in yourself. If you lose that confidence, you’re not going to progress with your life.
I’ve seen some patients learn to discover the unexpected blessing of their injury. In time, the injury experience leads them down a different path to a more successful and meaningful life – perhaps even more so than if they had remained able-bodied.
Q: What are some things that patients can do to stay healthy after discharging from Shepherd Center?
A: Here are some of the most important things to remember:
• Be diligent about skin checks. Do them first thing in the morning and the last thing before going to bed at night.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Always be aware of your medical equipment. For example, is your wheelchair and wheelchair cushion appropriate and in good working condition?
• Perform weight shifts every 30 minutes to an hour to relieve pressure and help prevent skin sores.
• Never underestimate the importance of supportive family and friends to help with your care. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
• Exercise regularly. If you have paraplegia, build up your upper-body strength. Even if you have quadriplegia, most of the time, you can swim. Take advantage of adaptive exercise equipment and trainers available in the ProMotion gym at Shepherd Center. Use your injury as your motivation, not an excuse to avoid exercise.
• Just because you have a disability doesn’t make you inferior. It makes you unique and special. Use that to accelerate your wishes and desires in life. Don’t let your injury change your heart and soul – who you really are. You are still the same person.
Q: Describe your personal commitment to healthy living.
A: When I turned 40, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was too busy working to take time for myself and to exercise. So I made a commitment to take care of myself. Everybody needs some “me” time. It’s not selfish; it’s medicinal.
Now, I live a very healthy life. I eat 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day (though he does not recommend this plan for the average male, who should consume about 2,200 calories a day). I exercise seven days a week, including running five to seven miles a day and lifting weights to work on my upper-body strength. I lift low weights and do lots of reps. I commit 90 minutes a day to exercise, and that’s a lot, I know. I used to exercise in the morning, and now I do it in the evening, and it helps me sleep better.
A good diet and regular exercise benefit both my physical and mental health. Exercise gives me time to think and plan and to reflect on how to make tomorrow a better day.
INTERESTING FACTS: ARTHUR SIMON, M.D.,
MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY
of Reconstructive Surgery, Shepherd Center, 23 years; also operates a private practice in Atlanta
University of Illinois Medical Center and Medical College of Virginia
University of Health Science, Chicago Medical School
Chicago Medical School
For five years, when he was in high school and in college, Dr. Simon worked as a nurse’s aid in a Chicago hospital. It taught him to be respectful of nurses and patients and reinforced his interest in becoming a physician, he says.
Dr. Simon has participated in several medical mission trips to Haiti, Kenya and the Philippines through the Christian Children’s Fund.
In his free time, Dr. Simon enjoys writing and creating product lines to promote health and wellness.
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.