Georgia Tech partners with Shepherd Center

(Pictured from left to right) Stephen Sprigle, professor, Georgia Tech; Sarah L. Batts, senior vice president, Advancement, and executive director, Shepherd Center Foundation; Deborah Backus, vice president of Research and Innovation, Shepherd Center; Jamie Shepherd, chief operating officer, Shepherd Center; Alana Shepherd, co-founder, Shepherd Center; Sarah Morrison, CEO, Shepherd Center; Julia Kubanek, vice president for Interdisciplinary Research, Georgia Tech; and Andrés García, executive director, Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech Partners With Shepherd Center to Advance Rehabilitative Patient Care and Research

September 6, 2023
By Savannah Williamson

Shepherd Center and Georgia Tech have announced a partnership that will unite researchers and clinicians to improve care and create more success stories for people with spinal cord and brain injuries, pain, multiple sclerosis, and related neurological conditions. Areas of collaboration will include the development of new technologies, strategies, and approaches to improve neurorehabilitation.

Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital that provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions — including spinal cord and brain injuries, multitrauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain — is ranked among the top rehabilitation hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Ninety percent of Shepherd’s patients return to their communities after receiving care at Shepherd Center, which exceeds the national average by more than 30%. In addition to patient care, Shepherd Center has a robust research program, typically participating in 20 grants and 75 research projects concurrently. It is also one of the few institutions recognized as both a Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model System by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

“Shepherd and Georgia Tech will build upon Shepherd’s expertise to conduct and integrate research and technology throughout the entire continuum of care and Georgia Tech’s research and technology development to create new solutions for the people Shepherd serves and beyond,” said Deborah Backus, vice president of Research and Innovation at Shepherd Center. “Potential collaborative research and development efforts can occur in many disciplines — from developing new devices and technologies to fellowships and training for the next generation.”

Leaders from Georgia Tech and Shepherd Center met in late August to celebrate the partnership.

“Shepherd Center leads the world in treating brain and spinal cord injuries with an innovative research program that implements technology throughout inpatient and outpatient programs to get patients back to leading active, independent lives,” said Julia Kubanek, professor and vice president for Interdisciplinary Research at Georgia Tech.

Kubanek was joined by Andrés García, executive director of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB), Petit Director’s Chair in Bioengineering and Bioscience, and Regents’ Professor; and Stephen Sprigle, a professor and researcher who directs Georgia Tech’s Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Lab (REARLab), which focuses on applied disability research and development.

“We were inspired by our recent visit and tour, where we observed clinicians and researchers working directly with patients,” García said. “Georgia Tech’s mission of using technology to improve the human condition is a perfect fit for our collaboration with Shepherd. I’m grateful for Stephen Sprigle and IBB for their goals of increasing the breadth and depth of our partnership. There will be wonderful upcoming opportunities for Georgia Tech students and faculty to bring their expertise in data science, AI, robotics, cell therapies, exercise physiology, and neuroscience, among many strengths, to join with Shepherd clinicians to help patients.”

Driven by a shared vision for transforming healthcare, the two institutions will utilize their complementary capabilities to provide technical solutions for clinical needs. The teams are identifying challenges to tackle and will establish a series of workshops to bring researchers and clinicians together.

For inquiries to support the collaboration, please contact Jaimie Hayes (Senior Director of Development, Office of Development at Georgia Tech).