Shepherd Center Housing Manager Explains Her Role in Helping Patients' Families
For the past five years, Victoria Denson has devoted many of her days to ensuring comfortable accommodations for the families of Shepherd Center patients, calling her current role “the best job I’ve ever had.”
Q. In what way(s) do you feel Shepherd Center's housing program helps fulfill the hospital's mission?
A. I think our housing program adds another important layer to Shepherd Center's commitment to helping patients and families rebuild their lives under life-changing circumstances. So many of the new families who arrive are exhausted, bewildered and overwhelmed. When we open the door to the apartment where they will be staying, they are overcome with emotion at the small oasis our housing program provides. It’s difficult to measure the value that kind of support brings them.
Q. What do you enjoy most about coming to work every day at Shepherd Center, and about overseeing the housing program, in particular?
A. I love that each day is going to be totally different from the next. I have a great staff, and they are willing to help whenever they are asked. They genuinely love interacting with patients and their families, striving simply to make the day better for our guests. Meeting each new challenge and finding a solution to it is very rewarding.
Q. What is the biggest change or development you've seen in the housing program during your tenure?
A. We see so many new families arrive from all over the world now. To me, this just affirms Shepherd Center’s reputation as one of the best! I just had a family come to my office, and they live in England and have returned for three weeks of Beyond Therapy®. The mother said her son, after returning home, had regressed and that there just wasn't the therapy in England available for him to improve, so they returned to Shepherd Center. Everyone wants the very best for their loved ones, and once they've experienced Shepherd Center, they know they made the right choice.
Q. What do you do when you’re not overseeing Shepherd Center’s housing program?
A. Arrange flowers. I had a flower-arranging business with a friend for a number of years. We did weddings and other events. I’ve been co-chair of the flower guild at my church for about 14 years and enjoy creating some of the arrangements and decorations around the Shepherd Center campus. I also love to cook, and I love to travel. I’m very active in my church, Cathedral of St. Philip, and value the way my work at Shepherd Center ties into that. I believe we all serve in different ways, and I find a lot of spiritual meaning in serving families through the housing program.
Denson attributes her love of gardening to her British husband’s mother and father, who she says were masterful gardeners, planting and harvesting a seemingly endless variety of flowers and vegetables across their English landscape. She competed and lectured for years at the Southeastern Flower Show.
Denson loves to travel and counts Italy and Spain among her favorite destinations. As a college student, she attended school in Paris and London. The most exotic and eye-opening country she has visited? India.
Denson and her architect husband were part of the 1980s effort to save Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre. She says they occasionally spent the night there in order to protect the landmark from after-hours demolition.
Interviewed by Shawn Reeves
Photos 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 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.