Medical Staff Profile
Q&A with Ford Vox, M.D., Physiatrist, Shepherd Center
Written By Jane M. Sanders
Dr. Vox joined the medical staff of Shepherd Center in summer 2012. He treats patients who are recovering from traumatic or non-traumatic brain injuries, as well as people who have had complications from a stroke or tumor.
Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor and then specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)?
A: My interest in medicine began due to my interest in science. I thought about becoming a physician, but I also wanted to be an English professor. I kind of view myself as more of a humanistic person. I was always interested in arts and letters. As an undergraduate, I took a lot of science classes, but also took philosophy and political science classes. I’ve always had broad interests and maintained that throughout my career.
After college, I went into medical school not knowing what specialty I wanted to pursue. Then I was referred to a PM&R doctor about some back pain I was having, and that was a good experience. I thought about becoming a PM&R physician who treats back pain, but then I got some early experience with inpatient rehabilitation. That patient population was very compelling to me. There is a lot of dire need. It is very rewarding to be able to help patients who need neurologic rehabilitation.
I am drawn toward the brain injury patient population in particular because I grew up with an older sister with a mental disability. I was always protective of her. There were some difficult situations in which people made fun of her in school.
In addition, I am drawn to brain injury rehabilitation because brain science is one of the most interesting areas in medicine today. So much remains to be known, and I hope I can contribute to the field. There is a lot of uncharted territory in the practice of brain injury rehabilitation. A lot of what we do is more experimental in nature in the sense that each patient is treated based on his or her own unique constellation of injuries.
At Shepherd Center, we get a lot of complex brain injuries with effects that are sometimes unpredictable. Typically, there are a handful of diagnoses yet to be made once a patient arrives here. I appreciate the educational aspect of my job in terms of explaining the neuropathology of the injury to the patient and the family, and to provide them with advice for how to cope. I have a body of expertise because I’ve seen so many of these patients, and I enjoy relying on that experience to offer the best available treatments to my patients.
Q: From the patient’s standpoint, what qualities make you an excellent physician?
A: By nature, rehabilitation physicians see their patients for weeks or several months. We care for them during the entire course. It’s a unique field of medicine that makes it possible to treat patients at a high level for such an extended time.
I rely on this time with my patients and their families as my number one advantage. I focus on building therapeutic relationships with patients and families. That is key in rehabilitation. There has to be a sense of trust on both sides, and I work to build that.
Also, I try to stay open-minded in my patients’ treatment plans. As you become an expert in treating a particular condition, it’s easy to start seeing your way as the only right way and neglect other ways. But I remain open to the input of families and therapists. Sometimes, the families are effectively additional nurses for the patient. I appreciate that rather than push back from it.