Meet Wesley Chay, M.D.
Physiatrist Wesley Chay, M.D., discusses caring for patients in Shepherd Center's Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit.
Wesley Chay, M.D., returned to Shepherd Center last summer to lead two teams in its new Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit. He first served at Shepherd Center during a rotation he did as part of his residency in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Program at Emory University.
Q: How did we get you to return to Shepherd Center?
Dr. Donald Leslie, [Shepherd Center Medical Director Emeritus], gave me a call and said, “We have an opportunity to bring you back.” I told him Shepherd Center is the only place I would have considered leaving my previous job for. Shepherd has always had a special place in my heart. When I was a resident here, from 2008 to 2011, I saw the passion and the purpose that drove people to really give their all – both staff and patients. Everyone is really committed to patient centered-care, and they are willing to give their best to really try to draw the best out of each individual patient.
Q: Shepherd Center started the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit (CRU), which cares for patients with a range of conditions and/or injuries, in July of 2017. What's been most rewarding?
Having the opportunity to work with awesome people and amazing patients. We see folks come in after a really bad accident or situation where they may not be able to walk, talk, swallow or do much for themselves – obviously a really bad situation. But thankfully, with our tremendously supportive interdisciplinary teams, we have the privilege and pleasure of helping to sometimes literally put the pieces of these patients’ and families’ lives back together and help get them back to what matters to them. You can’t put a price on that.
Q: You mention that in the CRU, you also see people who are facing some tough challenges.
We care for patients facing complex issues, whether they have sustained a spinal cord injury, brain injury or both. Sometimes, we have some really severe cases that come in, and there may not be a lot of major change for the patient. The reward in working with patients and families in those situations is helping people understand that even though a lot may have been taken away from one's life or maybe even one’s identity, they aren't entirely lost. I think it’s important to help people see that they can still find a lot of hope, peace, joy and satisfaction in life, despite what they may be going through.
Q: Did you always want to be a doctor? And tell us about your specialty -- physiatry.
Growing up, I was always interested in science and math. My grandfather was a doctor, so I had a little bit of knowledge of what it was like a to have a hand in the medical field. I didn't always know that I wanted to be a physiatrist.
Physiatry is kind of a hybrid between neurology, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, except we’re not surgeons. We focus a lot more on function and medical management, symptom management and quality of life. This is a unique field of medicine where people are looked at as more than just a diagnosis, but as a person. We are looking at where there are challenges for patients and how we can pull things together to help them get back to enjoying life and living it to the fullest.
University of Florida, Gainesville
- Bachelor’s degree in zoology, minor in violin performance
- Medical degree
- Dr. Chay loves smoking meat at home, a hobby he started while he was living in Philadelphia and missing the South. “What’s really best about barbecue is sharing it,” Dr. Chay says.
- Music has always been a big part of his life. He plays guitar, piano and violin. Look for him and other staff caroling in the halls this holiday season.
- Dr. Chay and his wife Eunice are kept on their toes by their toddler son, Justus. “He’s really showing us what we don't know about parenting, but we’re learning a lot and really enjoying it.”
- Dr. Chay also enjoys playing tennis. You will likely find him on a tennis court with fellow Shepherd Center physiatrist John Lin, M.D., on Tuesday nights during the summer playing together in the ALTA Run n’ Roll League.
Interview by Robin Yamakawa
Photos by Phil Skinner
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.