Medical Staff Profile: Sherrill Loring, M.D., Neurologist, MS Institute, Shepherd Center
Dr. Sherrill Loring is a neurologist at the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center. She has worked in the MS Institute for the past five years, treating patients and conducting research.
Q: What first drew your interest to the medical field?
A: I’d always wanted to be a doctor since I was a little girl, and I never really wavered from that. Looking back, I think in large part that had to do with my father getting sick. When I was six, he had a stroke. So I’m sure that’s what led me toward neurology. But nobody in my family had ever been a doctor, so it seemed out of left field to them.
Q: What have been some of the biggest differences in your ability to treat MS patients through the years?
A: When I first started, there weren’t any actual treatments. We were just treating symptoms. We didn’t have what we call disease-modifying treatments – ways to actually change the course of the disease or even the outcomes of the disease. That first treatment was approved in 1993, and then four more in the next 10 years. Now we have three oral treatments – IV therapies – and that doesn’t even include all the possibilities coming down the pipeline in research.
Q: What is the most common misconception you hear about MS?
A: Probably the most common is that people think everyone with MS is going to end up disabled in a wheelchair. That’s a big misconception, especially today. With the ability to diagnose early and start treatment early, it’s not the case. Just four years ago, that still might have been the norm. But now we have more disease-modifying treatments than ever.
Q: What motivates you the most in your work?
A: I take great pride in the MS Institute. We do a very good job of offering specialized care and we take on challenging cases. We can truly alter lives, improve lives. That’s very exciting. And we get a lot of young patients here who have their whole lives ahead of them. It gives me a big charge to realize what we’re capable of doing.
Q: Why is research such an important part of your job?
A: We have a good combination of clinical research and patient-oriented focus. I couldn’t imagine doing just research alone, or research without a direct application. I’m much more of a hands-on person, so I love the patient interaction. Our patients are the reason why we’re doing this research. It’s relevant to what we do day-to-day. So I can’t imagine doing one without the other.
Q: What attracted you to work at Shepherd Center?
A: I was in Augusta, Ga., before, and Shepherd Center was obviously well known there. I knew how comprehensive the setup was at the MS Institute and the team approach they take. It’s a special place. Once I got here, I started telling people it’s like a very smooth-running ship. I certainly couldn’t do my job here without the talented team around me.
Q: If you hadn’t become a neurologist, what do you think you’d be doing today?
A: That’s hard to say because I can’t imagine doing anything else. But I was a chemistry major in college, so maybe I would have gone to grad school in chemistry. Who knows where it would have gone from there, though!
American Academy of Neurology; American Medical Association; Multiple Sclerosis Speakers Bureau. Previously: associate professor of neurology, University of Florida; director, MS Clinic at Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, D.C.); chief of neurology, University Hospital (Augusta, Ga.).
Medical College of Georgia
Medical University of South Carolina
Columbia College (Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry)
- Away from work, Dr. Loring’s passions include gardening, cooking and reading. Her summer vegetable garden included tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and basil. Her summer reading mission involved getting lost in a good mystery novel.
- Dr. Loring’s husband, David, is a neuropsychologist at Emory. “It’s nice to have someone who works in a similar field,” she says. “It makes for interesting conversations at home after work!”
- If she could choose one person in history to have a conversation with it would be Jean-Martin Charcot – the “father of neurology,” who first named and described MS. Charcot was also a talented artist, often drawing and painting his clinical discoveries in great detail.
- Dr. Loring’s greatest fear? Going to the doctor. “It’s hard to be on the other side,” she says. “I just don’t like being a patient. Who does? I know I should set a better example, but even doctors can be afraid of going to the doctor sometimes! So I can empathize with patients on that one.”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Photography by Gary Meek
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 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.