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Shepherd Center Physicians Among First in Nation to Receive Board Certification in Brain Injury Medicine

NOTE:  This story was originally published in February 2015 and updated with new information on December 5, 2016.

Each year, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) contribute to many premature deaths and cases of permanent disability. According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually.

Whether the injury is from a fall, motor vehicle accident, casualty of combat or other cause, these are typically complicated cases. Those affected have unique needs.

As part of a certification program launched in 2014 by the American Board of Medical Specialties, four Shepherd Center physicians, Ford Vox, M.D., Andrew Dennison, M.D., Anna Choo Elmers, M.D., and Payal Fadia, M.D., are among the first doctors to be certified in brain injury medicine in the United States. They are four of only 11 physicians with these credentials in Georgia. The Shepherd physicians treat both adolescents and adults. This subspecialty certification in brain injury medicine reflects the breadth of expertise at Shepherd Center, said Medical Director Donald Peck Leslie, M.D.

The Shepherd physicians with certification in brain injury medicine care for patients during what is often a delicate period medically. It is their job to predict and head off secondary complications, such as cognitive or behavioral problems, nerve damage or seizures, and provide the best possible care so patients can maximize their recovery.

These physicians pursued intensive residencies and fellowships, each with extra years of training, but it was only  recently that the American Board of Medical Specialties began including brain injury medicine as an official subspecialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation (also known as physiatry). The first national board exam was offered in fall 2014.

“This certification process will help advance the field and ultimately benefit patients,” Dr. Vox said. “It helps assure patients and families that their doctor has a certain level of expertise and is deemed to be an expert in the field by a national body.”

Drs. Vox and Dennison are now involved in writing questions for future brain injury medicine certification exams.

The doctors’ years of practice have resulted in tremendous expertise. “The longer you practice, the better you get in treating these types of injuries, and we see so much of it,” said Dr. Dennison, who also credits the collaborative team environment at Shepherd Center.

Written by Amanda Crowe, MA, MPH
Photos by Gary Meek

About Shepherd Center

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 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.