Shepherd Center

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Shepherd Center
Location2020 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia,  United States
Coordinates33°49′26″N 84°23′15″W / 33.8240072°N 84.387474°W / 33.8240072; -84.387474Coordinates: 33°49′26″N 84°23′15″W / 33.8240072°N 84.387474°W / 33.8240072; -84.387474
FundingNon-profit hospital
Hospital typeSpecialist
Beds152-bed rehabilitation facility
10-bed Intensive Care Unit
Specialityspinal cord injury

Shepherd Center is a private, not-for profit hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1975, the 152-bed hospital is devoted to the medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury and disease, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and other neuromuscular problems.


An Atlanta family founded Shepherd Center in 1975. Harold and Alana Shepherd had to travel 1,400 miles (2,300 km) to find the appropriate care for their son James when he was injured in a body surfing accident in Brazil in 1973. Afterward, they brought together Atlanta’s medical and donor communities to found Shepherd Center. Today, James serves as chairman of the board of the Center. Alana Shepherd is the recording secretary on the Board of Directors and continues her work raising funds and welcoming new patients, and Harold Shepherd serves on the Board of Directors. Michael Yochelson, M.D., MBA, is the chief medical officer of Shepherd Center, a position he has held since 2017.


Shepherd Center's mission is to help people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity, advocating for their full inclusion in all aspects of community life while promoting safety and injury prevention.


Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program[edit]

Each year, Shepherd Center treats hundreds of people who have sustained a spinal cord injury. From the time of acute admission through outpatient follow-up, our Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Program provides a full continuum of care to those who have sustained any level of spinal cord injury – paraplegia, tetraplegia/quadraplegia (including those who are ventilator-dependent) or dual diagnosis (spinal cord and brain injury).

Shepherd Center's expertise has led to the development of specialized treatment programs dedicated to adolescent patients (ages 12-17), adults, seniors (ages 50 and older), dual diagnosis, intensive care unit patients and those with neuromuscular disorders. In fact, Shepherd Center receives enough patients to maintain 11 full-time treatment teams devoted to spinal cord injury alone. Additionally, three new teams have been added on the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit (CRU) serving patients with SCI, brain injury, stoke, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions.Shepherd Center is one of 14 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation designated by the federal government as a “Model System” for care of people with SCI. Hospitals that receive this designation have demonstrated exemplary care and serve as a model for other service providers.

Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program[edit]

Shepherd Center strives to offer comprehensive rehabilitation to optimize the road to recovery for people who have had a brain injury, as well as people who have had complications from a stroke or tumor. Shepherd Center provides a variety of programs that are tailored to individual needs and case-by-case requirements for the best possible recovery. The continuum of care includes acute care in the hospital's intensive care unit, a disorders of consciousness pre-rehabilitation education program for patients who are semi-comatose or minimally conscious, inpatient rehabilitation, a day patient rehabilitation program and outpatient services.

The Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd[edit]

The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Institute at Shepherd is a comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation center for people with multiple sclerosis. Treatment options focus on medications, physical rehabilitation (including strength and energy conservation) and experimental therapies. The MS Institute at Shepherd offers comprehensive evaluations, diagnostics, rehabilitation services and treatment options through FDA-approved drugs and new clinical trials. Shepherd is an official treatment facility designated by the National MS Society-Georgia Chapter.

The Shepherd Pain Institute[edit]

The Shepherd Pain Institute offers pain management for individuals experiencing chronic pain problems. The Institute takes a multidisciplinary approach to the practice of medicine and specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and application of interventional treatment for the management of pain and related disorders. The Institute treats people with acute pain resulting from, among other things, back surgery, fractures, whiplash and cancer. Other paralyzing neurological diseases can affect the body like a spinal cord injury, so the Center’s physicians also treat patients with transverse myelitis, Guillain–Barré syndrome, spinal tumors, spina bifida, post-polio syndrome, scoliosis and spinal cord cysts.

Full Continuum of Care[edit]

Shepherd Center provides a full range of rehabilitation care including intensive care, medical/surgical care, inpatient rehabilitation, a day program, outpatient rehabilitation and outpatient clinics. Physicians also treat related issues such as fertility, gynecology, sexual dysfunction and bladder problems.

Specialty services[edit]

Assistive technology[edit]

Shepherd Center's assistive technology specialists help people with limited mobility or neurological deficits achieve a greater degree of independence by using new equipment and technology. Specialists provide evaluations and prescriptions for the simplest, most economical solutions that improve quality of life. Shepherd’s assistive technology specialists help people customize an appropriate package of technological solutions that maximize independence in accomplishing day-to-day tasks.

Recreation Therapy[edit]

Patients at Shepherd Center are introduced to a variety of leisure and recreational activities as part of their therapy program. This type of therapy, called recreation therapy, helps improve physical, cognitive and social functioning so an individual can return to a lifestyle that is as independent, active and healthy as possible. Recreation therapists at Shepherd create a customized recreation therapy plan, based on a patient’s diagnosis and leisure interests. They then integrate those goals into the patient’s daily therapy schedule.

Beyond Therapy[edit]

The Beyond Therapy® program at Shepherd Center is a rigorous, activity-based therapy program designed to help people with neurological disorders, including spinal cord injury, improve their lifelong health, minimize secondary complications and get the most out of any new neural links to their muscles.

NeuroRecovery Network[edit]

Shepherd Center is one of seven rehabilitation centers that have partnered partner with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), which provides and develops therapies to promote functional recovery and improve the health and quality of life of people with paralysis. Though Shepherd Center is not currently enrolling participants in NRN, staff members continue to contribute to research that translates the latest scientific advances into effective, activity-based rehabilitation treatments.

Locomotor training[edit]

Shepherd Center offers locomotor training, an activity-based therapy that attempts to retrain the spinal cord to "remember" the pattern of walking again. This therapy is available to patients who have some movement in their legs. There are two versions of this therapy – manual-assisted locomotor training and robotic-assisted locomotor training. Both therapies involve supporting part of the patient’s body weight with a harness system that suspends the patient over a moving treadmill. The amount of body weight support, treadmill speed, walking time and amount of assistance given to the patient can be adjusted in both versions to best maximize the outcome.

Other Programs[edit]

Shepherd Center also offers:

  • Neuropsychological and psychological services
  • Patient and family training
  • Career planning and job search assistance
  • One-to-one counseling by a person with a similar disability
  • Chaplaincy
  • In-Center schooling
  • Transition Support Program


The Virginia C. Crawford Research Institute at Shepherd Center conducts neurological and neuromuscular research. Clinical studies are conducted in collaboration with leading experts at other hospitals, research centers, medical schools and universities around the world. Shepherd Center’s research activities primarily focus on spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders.

The center works to develop, refine and evaluate new treatments, drugs, surgical techniques, diagnostic tools and various therapy interventions. Shepherd Center’s research also works to improve the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of clinical services, as well as document the long-term effectiveness and benefits of rehabilitation to improve patient outcomes.

In addition, Shepherd Center supports basic and applied research to develop devices that help people with disabilities improve their ability to function and control their environment.

Model System of Care[edit]

Since 1982, Shepherd Center has been designated as a Model System of Care for spinal cord injury by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The hospital is one of only 14 Model Systems in the country.

Since 1990, Shepherd Center’s Model System grant has funded a line of research on quality of life, adjustment to injury, secondary complications and community reintegration issues. Studies have focused on improving patient outcomes, particularly for those patients who have been identified as being at-risk because of health, behavior or family issues.

Accreditation and ranking[edit]

Shepherd Center is accredited by The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Also, since 2000, Shepherd Center has been ranked by 'U.S.News & World Report as one of the nation’s best rehabilitation hospitals. Rankings for rehabilitation hospitals are based on reputation among board-certified specialists. To make the list, hospitals must be recommended by at least 3 percent of the physicians polled.


As a supporter of the disability rights movement, Shepherd Center monitors local and federal legislation and upcoming issues that are expected to affect the disability community. In addition, Shepherd assists self-help groups that are working on legislation and issues. Shepherd Center also can help people communicate with the individuals, lawmakers and groups that affect policy and decision making.

Quick Facts[edit]

  • Location: Shepherd Center’s main campus is located at 2020 Peachtree Road in Atlanta's Buckhead district, about four miles (6 km) north of downtown.
  • Beds: Shepherd Center is a 152-bed rehabilitation facility, which includes a 10-bed intensive care unit.
  • Patient Data: Annually, Shepherd Center admits about 1,000 people to its inpatient programs and nearly 600 people to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis.
  • Doctors: Physicians, including physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, treat patients with brain injury, spinal cord injury, a dual diagnosis of brain and spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and other neurological illnesses or injuries.
  • Facilities: In addition to the hospital’s 152 beds, its facilities include therapy gyms, treatment rooms, a pool and fitness center, auditorium, pharmacy, gift shop, family lounge, library and cafeteria. Also on campus is a 87,000-square-foot (8,100 m2) family housing facility with 84 wheelchair-accessible suites, a large family activities room, community lounge and space for training classes. The facility provides 30 days of complimentary housing for families of patients so they can be near their loved ones during rehabilitation. Off-campus buildings in metro Atlanta include community-based care facilities for people with brain injury.

See also[edit]

Peachtree Road Race - for the Sheperd Center Wheelchair Division of AJC Peachtree Road Race founded in 1982

External links[edit]