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Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center Offers Comprehensive MS Care

Since its founding in 1991, the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Institute at Shepherd Center has been offering a comprehensive approach to treating MS, a disease of the central nervous system, which disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. To help treat this often-debilitating disease, the MS Institute at Shepherd Center offers a wide range of services, including diagnosis, treatment, research, rehabilitation and counseling.

“Multiple sclerosis is a complex disorder requiring a team approach for best managing it,” says Ben Thrower, M.D., who has been medical director of the MS Institute since June 2001. “The goal of our team is to offer comprehensive, compassionate, cutting-edge treatment to the person with MS.”

The MS Institute offers a holistic approach to patient care – a sort of “one stop shopping” for those with MS. Aside from clinical care, patients at the MS Institute can receive top-notch occupational and physical therapy, get fitted for the proper wheelchair, take an exercise class designed just for them, and participate in support groups and field trips.

“There’s no other MS center that I’m aware of that offers this focus or level of comprehensive care,” says Guy Buckle, M.D., MPH, who joined Shepherd Center’s team of neurologists in March 2014. “Most are focused on research and clinical treatment, but don’t have a rehabilitation component.”

Dr. Buckle, who is now the director of neuroimaging research in the MS Institute, came to Shepherd after 20 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he was most recently the director of clinical care at the hospital’s Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center. He now works alongside Dr. Thrower and Sherrill Loring, M.D., who joined the team in 2008.

“Dr. Buckle represents the perfect blend of competence, collegiality and compassion,” Dr. Thrower says. “His years of dedication to the MS community and his respect from colleagues at a national level make him a most welcome addition to our team. We expect his expertise in neuroradiology neuroimmunology and collection of clinical outcomes data in MS will complement our team.”

Dr. Buckle’s expertise in neuroimaging – imaging of the brain and spinal cord done by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – will be enhanced with the addition of a new 3-Tesla MRI machine. The new machine, which will be installed in a new MRI suite scheduled for completion in spring 2016, will provide twice the imaging capabilities of the current MRI machine. That will help with diagnosis and treatment options for people with MS.

“The faster we can get people on medications to treat their MS, the better,” Dr. Buckle says. “We want to prevent the progression of the disease.” His research interest is in using neuroimagery – in this case MRI – to help predict the progression of MS. He explains that when the disease is in the progressive phase, many medications no longer work in slowing the disease. That’s where he’d like to see the MRI technology work. “Imaging in progressive MS is much more difficult,” Dr. Buckle says. “We need a predictive scan on who clearly has MS and who needs to be treated.”

Dr. Buckle’s work will strengthen the MS Institute’s already-robust research program. Under the direction of Debbie Backus, PT, Ph.D., director of research in the MS Institute, the Institute is continuing cutting-edge research by joining a new research initiative and adding new research elements to its wellness program.

“The strength of our research program is in our clinical focus,” Dr. Thrower says. “Shepherd Center focuses on the patient. While we do not do basic laboratory research, we have an excellent program that focuses on the testing of novel therapies, improving the safety of existing therapies, and, more recently, on rehabilitation and wellness in MS.”

In 2012, Shepherd Center opened the Eula C. and Andrew C. Carlos MS Rehabilitation and Wellness Program. The program was the first in the nation to integrate all aspects of wellness – fitness, nutrition and education – into a single approach tailored specifically for people with MS.

Components of the Wellness Program include:

  • Individualized fitness assessments done by an exercise physiologist every six months
  • Specialized classes in aquatic therapy, core strength and agility/coordination, as well cardiovascular and lower-extremity exercises
  • State-of-the-art equipment for wellness and rehabilitation
  • MS-specific educational classes on topics such as nutrition, stress management, medication management and traveling with disabilities
  • Field trips that help MS clients feel more comfortable going out in the community

The key to the program is that it is specific to people with MS. For example, those with the disease tend to get overheated more easily, so fans and ice vests are available in the classes to make it more comfortable and safer for clients to exercise. Classes are paced to meet their needs and smaller in size so each participant can be monitored more closely.

While no cure is yet available for MS, new drugs and treatment therapies that decrease disease progression have emerged in the past several years. Shepherd Center’s neurologists are optimistic that someday they will be able to stop the progression of MS for every affected person and perhaps even reverse disability caused by the disease.

In the meantime, the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Institute at Shepherd Center will continue its mission to provide cutting-edge treatment and comprehensive care for people with MS.

“I know of no other center, even at well-known academic institutions, that can rival the treatment that MS patients receive at the MS Institute at Shepherd Center,” Dr. Loring says. “Knowing that we provide the highest quality of MS care available, which derives in large part from the dedicated team of professionals we have, gives me great pride in being part of the MS Institute.”

For more information about the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd Center or to schedule an appointment, visit

Written by Sara Baxter
Photos by Louie Favorite and 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 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.