Atlanta, GA,
13:19 PM

Outdoor Recreation Specialist Explains How He Helps Patients Find Their Passions Again

Gavin McClintock, CTRS, outdoor recreation specialist in Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program, loves instilling confidence, independence and fun into his patients’ lives.

Gavin McClintock, CTRS, outdoor recreation specialist in Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program

Q: How long have you worked at Shepherd Center?
I have worked at Shepherd Center as an outdoor recreation specialist for 4 and a half years.

Q: What does a recreational therapist do?
We promote an independent lifestyle by improving somebody’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive wellness through their own recreation goals. If somebody is interested in hunting, for example, we think about how they can get back to that activity as independently as possible by increasing their physical wellness and giving them the confidence to go for it.

Q: So, you are a recreational therapist with a specialty in outdoor recreation. What inspired you to do that for your career?
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, and I have always been outdoors, camping, hiking and fishing with my family. In particular, my dad, both grandfathers and brother inspired my love for the outdoors. My mom was also a nurse aide for more than 40 years, and seeing her helping others instilled that passion in me, too. Recreational therapy was the perfect fit to combine both worlds.

Q: How are patients referred to work with you?
I get a referral from their primary inpatient recreational therapist who tells me they are interested in outdoor recreation. I meet them, talk about their goals and let them know all the exciting options we have available for them to regain their independence and get back to doing what they love. Then we start actually doing those activities together at the hospital and in outings in the community.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
As a specialist, I love that I’m able to see somebody from when they first get to Shepherd Center as an inpatient, all the way through our outpatient Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Day Program and Beyond Therapy® We work on reconnecting with a passion they already have or finding something new to fill their cup every day. That’s the greatest part of this job – helping people get back into the community and life again.

I also love using my creativity to adapt anything to help my patients. One example that comes to mind is how I helped develop a skeet sling. Individuals with limited upper extremity functions can shoot skeet with equipment that I helped develop with an occupational therapist. Basically, the patient puts the gun on the skeet sling, and it helps them move left and right to shoot. Finding solutions like that motivates me every day.

Q: What’s one thing you want people to know about your profession?
I think that they should know how important it is to the rehabilitation process. We have great therapists who help patients with their necessary functions and activities of daily living. What we do is help patients apply what they learn to how they live and enjoy their lives every day. 

Interesting Facts

University of Wisconsin – La Crosse: bachelor’s degree in recreation therapy
CTRS: Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist


  • Gavin is a twin.
  • He has two dogs: a chocolate lab named Hank and a German Shepherd/hound mix named Reggie. Gavin and his wife love sports, and both dogs are named after famous athletes.
  • Gavin loves music and plays the drums.


Interview by Damjana Alverson

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.