Meet Michael Yochelson, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Shepherd Center
New chief medical officer joined Shepherd Center in August 2017
Michael Yochelson, M.D., MBA, joined Shepherd Center as chief medical officer in August 2017, bringing with him both a depth of knowledge and passion for neurorehabilitation. Dr. Yochelson came to Shepherd Center from MedStar National Rehabilitation Network in Washington, D.C., where he served as vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer. In addition to being a board-certified neurologist and physiatrist, Dr. Yochelson also has served in an academic capacity as a professor and vice chair of clinical affairs in the department of rehabilitation medicine and professor of clinical neurology at Georgetown University. Dr. Yochelson began his medical career in the United States Navy, where he served from 1995 to 2006.
Q: How did your career get started?
A: Since I was 10 years old, I had thought I wanted to be an ophthalmologist. In my fourth year of medical school, I’d signed up for the ophthalmology rotation, and at the last minute, it was cancelled. I had to quickly choose from what was available, so I chose physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). I began working with inpatients who’d had strokes and were still inpatients and then with patients who had neuromuscular diseases on an outpatient basis. It was during my neurology rotation that I became really interested in the cognitive effects of strokes. I saw that we weren’t doing patients justice as far as rehabilitation for strokes, so I decided to go into neurology and PM&R to try to change that.
Q: What does a chief medical officer do?
A: Simply put, I oversee all of Shepherd Center’s physician practices, both inpatient and outpatient. Engaging with departments all over the hospital, I work to ensure quality, patient safety, reliability and risk mitigation from a medical perspective. I serve as a liaison between our medical staff and our administration on strategic planning, budgeting and clinical efficiencies, and I can bring the perspective of a physician when making those decisions. I also work to build a cohesive medical staff and to improve physician engagement.
Q: That sounds like a big job. Do you still see patients?
A: Yes. I still really enjoy working with patients. I spend a half day seeing patients at our Complex Concussion Clinic and another half day seeing clients of the SHARE Military Initiative. Having served in the military, I am really passionate about working with patients who have sustained concussions or other brain injuries. There are severe cognitive and behavioral issues that can be particularly challenging for patients and their families, and as a result, families can feel really lost. It’s very rewarding to address these issues and help patients get back into their communities, whether that involves school, work, parenting, etc.
Q: What would you like to see happen in the next five years at Shepherd Center?
A: Shepherd Center is an ideal environment to train upcoming physicians. I would love to see us start a fellowship programs and expand graduate medical education for those interested in treating brain and spinal cord injuries. I would also like to build relationships with consulting physicians, as well as look at our clinic operations for growth opportunities. That said, I believe that growth needs to be thoughtful and aligned with Shepherd Center’s mission.
Q: What makes Shepherd Center unique?
A: From the minute you walk in the door at Shepherd Center, it’s obvious that the mission is at the center of the organization. The staff here is incredibly passionate about their work, and from all of the interactions I have had, it’s clear that our team is genuinely caring. The culture is a really unique part of Shepherd Center, and as we move forward, it remains a really important value to nurture and maintain.
- Duke University – Bachelor of Science
- George Washington University – Medical Degree
- University of Maryland R.H. Smith School of Business – Master of Business Administration
- Dr. Yochelson began his medical career in the United States Navy, where he served from 1995 to 2006.
- His first assignment after residency was in Japan at the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
- Dr. Yochelson enjoys cooking, traveling and theater.
- Having lived most of his life in large cities, from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo, Dr. Yochelson loves the cultural opportunities cities provide. He’s excited to explore Atlanta with his partner and daughter.
Interview by Kerry Ludlam
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 neurological 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 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.