James.qxp May June 2019 web - Page 26

Center and generated news media publicity. There’s
Devon Gales, who had a spinal cord injury, as well as
Aimee Copeland, who had a flesh-eating bacteria that
resulted in multiple amputations of her limbs. What
are your thoughts on the rehabilitation success of
these and other patients?
SM Imagine for a minute that you were in a tragic accident and you wake up in a trauma center, and you can’t
move your arms or legs. You may hear the doctor tell you
and your family that you will never walk again and may
need around-the-clock care for the rest of your life. In
this moment, you may think that your life is over.
Hopefully, during these darkest moments, somebody tells
you about a specialized rehabilitation center that gives
you hope, that maybe your life is not over and maybe the
current state you are in, is not permanent. You hear that
Shepherd Center has developed an approach to rehabilitation and recovery that will help people address limitations and return a quality of
life that you thought you had
lost forever.
It is for this reason that
individuals, such as Devon
and Aimee, choose Shepherd
Center. They hear that it is a
place where hope begins
again. They hear about the
life-changing experiences a
specialized hospital like
Shepherd Center can provide. It is the stories of success of other patients that
engage news media audiences everywhere.
First, we specialize in
only spinal cord injury,
brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular disorders. This means
that we serve a high volume of each of these conditions and have a level of expertise that other hospitals
cannot offer.
Second, our main focus has been to improve the
patient experience and improve the quality of our
patient outcomes.
Third, we provide a distinct upbeat culture and create an atmosphere of hope for the patients and their
families and loved ones.
Fourth, thanks to the continued support of the community, we offer value-added services that are not covered by insurance companies. These services include
free housing for out-of-town families so they can be
with their loved one to support their recovery, recre26
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9
ation therapy to allow people to get back to the leisure
interests they had before their injury (or discover new
interests), vocational counseling to return to work and a
return-to-school program.
JAMES What is your vision, along with that of Alana and
James Shepherd, regarding the Center’s future?
SM Shepherd Center has evolved greatly in the past
four decades, and I’m very confident that we will
continue to improve treatment and recovery for
people who have been catastrophically injured or who
have a debilitating illness. The vision for Shepherd
Center is to become the No. 1 pre-eminent center of
excellence for care and research for patients and
families experiencing spinal cord injury, brain injury,
stroke, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain and
other neurological disorders. There are three main
objectives to accomplish this vision:
Expand patient access to
provide timely care for
specialty services across
the full continuum of care
while reducing the emotional and nancial burden on our patients and
families. In the past year,
there have been about 80
medically appropriate inpatients we were unable to
admit due to limited capacity. We need this number to
be zero. We would like to
serve all patients who would
benet from our services.
Also, Shepherd Center
recently purchased nearby land (about 2.5 acres) where
we plan to build more housing units so out-of-town families have a place to rest their head at night while their
loved one is recovering.
Continue to provide exemplary care to every patient
through integrated clinical practice, education and
research while improving the quality of life of the
patients. We intend to achieve outcomes that far surpass all other medical providers, develop medical breakthroughs to speed recovery and develop new mobility
and cognitive solutions for our patients.
Develop a world-class patient and family-centric
experience. The goal is to have patients and families
feel like they are in a hotel instead of a hospital. To
this end, we intend to leverage technology, implement
systems to allow for improved communication and
access to information and design a state-of-the art
physical environment.
Since “retiring” (I’ve learned you never retire) to the
same Florida city where I attended law school years ago,
my Facebook friends have undoubtedly grown tired of
me posting pictures of the water, palm trees and sunshine. I get it.
But for all the joys the slower pace and fantastic
weather here, I remain inextricably a part of the state
where my great-great grandfathers on both sides of my
family lived.
Years ago I made the choice to have my former colleague in the Georgia House of Representatives, Larry
Walker, serve as a columnist for James. Along with naming Phil Kent as publisher they were two of the best
decisions I could have made. I can’t equal Larry’s unique
commentary, but I’ll give it a shot.
I won’t dwell much on the Georgia of old. My years
in politics, the House or on TV have long since passed.
Yet those experiences serve as a backdrop to what
allowed me to come to know my native state so well.
You haven’t lived if you have never traveled from
the beautiful mountains of north Georgia to the beach
at Saint Simons in a single day.
You haven’t really lived if you’ve never had someone ask you “What’ll ya have?” and answer “one naked
dog, one chili dog, an FO and a PC.”
Your world is incomplete if you’ve never visited
Savannah, only to feel that around 9 p.m. on a weekend
there’s a party going on somewhere and you’re not invited! Fortunately, my many lifelong Savannah friends let
me tag along.
The boiled peanut in the paper bag thing is too
cliché to even mention. But I just did.
There’s another side of Georgia that some might
consider more challenging, but which I believe makes
Georgians so very special.
Race is the favorite obsessive topic of some media
outlets in the state and only once you live in a large
metro area outside of Atlanta do you come to realize
that not every topic centers around the issue. But all
Georgians have a PH. D in racial matters.
We are some of the least narrow-minded or unaccepting people on earth, and we practice what others
preach. If you don’t like people of another color or
race, you can’t be a happy or successful Georgian
because you will never be able to do business, cheer on
sports teams, attend school events or basically do anything of consequence.
If you’re homophobic don’t even think about coming to the city where I was born. Atlanta has the most
powerful, sophisticated and impressive LBGT population in the nation. If you don’t like diversity, then
don’t even bother.
If you aren’t used to spending hours in traffic, dodging potholes, or waiting in lines and being jammed into
underground trains to catch a ight then you denitely
have never lived in Atlanta— and most likely never in
Georgia. And all roads lead to “the ATL.” continued on 28


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