When Sarah Morrison first applied for a physical therapist position at Shepherd Center in 1984, she didn’t get the job. “I was a new grad and was told, ‘Why don’t you go out and get some experience and come back in a year or two?’” Morrison recalls. She got a call back when several positions unexpectedly opened and “a new grad wasn’t looking so bad anymore,” she laughs.
Morrison quickly rose through the ranks at the private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in treating brain and spinal cord injuries. She worked in a range of leadership roles, earned advanced degrees, and last year, when then-CEO Gary Ulicny retired after 22 years, she became president and CEO. The world-renowned hospital is ranked as one of the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. “My goal is to be number one,” says Morrison.
She’s proud of the culture she’s helped build. “People used to say, ‘Oh, you work at Shepherd Center, isn’t that so depressing?’ and I would say, ‘No, it really isn’t.’ It’s about hope and getting people back their lives,” Morrison says. “If I can give somebody back their independence or teach them how to do the things they were doing before their accident, it is so rewarding. And that is what has kept me here day in and day out.”
Outside of work, Morrison, 55, enjoys boating, fishing, and golfing with her family at their house on Lake Oconee. She was a competitive diver in college. She injured her back once during a dive and was in a body cast for nine months. That experience, as difficult as it was, became an inspiration. “I had to start all over,” Morrison recalls. She remembers being told something during her recovery that she’s now said to countless patients over the course of her long career: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”