Medical Staff Profile: David Apple, M.D.
Q: As the first medical director of Shepherd Center, what do you consider to be the hospital’s most significant contributions to the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation?
A: Shepherd Center has provided a three-pronged approach to rehabilitation – excellent patient care, an opportunity for education of professionals, as well as lay people, and the training of rising professionals at all levels of the treatment team, including nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, recreational therapists and medical doctors. All of this has enabled us to treat the large number of patients we’ve admitted, which in turn, helps us contribute to nationally based research.
Q: What aspects of your career at Shepherd Center have been most rewarding to you?
A: I’ve found it rewarding to watch the continued growth we’ve experienced and play a role in the broad continuum of services we provide to the populations we treat. We started a six-bed unit, and we’re soon to have 152 beds. We have more than 1,300 employees and have treated thousands of patients. And the community has been so supportive when we’ve needed to expand physically or programmatically. All of this is rewarding to me.
Q: What has been your role as co-project director of Southeastern Regional Spinal Cord Injury Model System of Care at Shepherd Center?
A: My role has been as the principal investigator on the designation of the Model System. Now, I’ve handed the reigns over to Dr. Keith Tansey, our director of spinal cord injury research, and I am now working in a consultant role. Time has marched on, which is good, and the grant is in good hands with co-project directors Lesley Hudson and Keith Tansey.
Q: What new or developing therapeutic treatments and/or technologies hold the most promise for improving the medical care andquality of life for people with SCI?
A: We’re always hoping for a cure, as we start from that perspective. The technology revolution– starting way back with computers to now having an electronic sensor device that can monitor the amount of movement a patient has in a wheelchair so we can decrease complications that arise from skin sores – is constantly moving us forward, and doing so rapidly. Now, Shepherd Center is evaluating the Tongue Drive System – pioneered by engineers at Georgia Tech – so people with high-level SCI can successfully operate a computer, maneuver a power wheelchair, use their phone and interact with their environments simply by moving their tongues. This device has the potential to be a central command center to help people lead more independent lives post-injury. The goal of every person with quadriplegia and paraplegia is to walk again. In the meantime, before there is a cure, we want to do everything we can to improve mobility, independent living and quality of life.
Q: What have you learned about yourself and/or others in the process of treating and conducting research with people who have a spinal cord and/or brain injury?
A: No matter how I am feeling, to walk into Shepherd Center, to what some might call “work,” is always uplifting. It’s encouraging to know that somehow, during the day, it is possible to make a difference in someone’s life. It is a blessing to be able to help because someday, through no fault of our own, we may suffer a catastrophic injury. I am fortunate to not have had a severe injury, which makes me want to do more and more to improve the lot of those who have had injuries.
Q & A with David Apple, M.D., Medical Director Emeritus
Interesting Facts: David Apple, M.D.
- Growing up, Dr. Apple wanted to be a farmer because his next-door neighbor shared his victory garden with Dr. Apple during World War II. Now, he has his own “Apple Garden,” where he grows apples and grapes in a small vineyard.
- He enjoyed playing sports well into his adult life. Dr. Apple played basketball until he was 50, tennis until just recently, and he still plays golf.
- Within orthopedics, Dr. Apple specialized in hands and physical rehabilitation.
Interviewed by Bill Sanders
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.