Dr. Grissom Leads Spinal Cord Injury Team
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
When Earl Wilson helped found Mississippi’s most comprehensive rehabilitation facility, Dr. Samuel P. Grissom was just beginning junior high in Florida.
Still, the two had much in common. Wilson’s father and Grissom’s grandmother were left virtually speechless by devastating strokes. And their sad plight had a profound effect on their loved ones.
At a young age, both men felt led to make life better for people with disabling illnesses and injuries.
Wilson pushed for the creation of Methodist Rehabilitation Center and was its board chairman until his death in 2000. Now Grissom is continuing that caring legacy. In 2006, he became medical director of the Jackson hospital’s spinal cord injury program.
“What drove me to medicine was my interest in caring for people,” said Dr. Grissom, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation. “My philosophy is to focus on what people can still do and to help them maximize their abilities.”
Dr. Grissom most recently served as associate medical director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Chester, N.J., where he was both a clinician and researcher.
“We think Dr. Grissom’s background and expertise are perfect for what we want to maintain here at Methodist—a center for excellence in the treatment of spinal cord injuries,” said Mark Adams, president and CEO of the Jackson hospital. “He has practiced at some of the most esteemed neurological rehabilitation programs in the country, and is already well recognized by his peers as a committed and capable physician scientist.”
Much of Dr. Grissom’s research has focused on controlling spasticity, a debilitating condition that can cause painful spasms and abnormal postures. He has done several studies on the use of implantable pumps containing the drug baclofen. It’s an area of interest he shares with Dr. Stuart Yablon, medical director of Methodist’s brain injury program.
“One thing that drew me to Methodist was the opportunity to work with the already established researchers that are part of its Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery,” Dr. Grissom said. “I think we can make great strides in improving quality of life by preventing medical complications and using newer technologies and equipment to foster active lifestyles for our patients.”
Dr. Grissom said he’s excited about the hospital’s planned purchase of an Ergys 2 Rehabilitation System, a type of stationary bike that can be used by people with little or no voluntary leg movement.
“The system is like the one used by the late Christopher Reeve, and it offers a number of benefits,” he said. “It has been shown to improve exercise tolerance, cardiorespiratory capacity and blood flow, as well as prevent muscle atrophy and bone demineralization.”
Dr. Grissom’s office is located inside Methodist Rehabilitation Center. He sees outpatients in the hospital’s second floor clinic on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Given that Mississippi has one of the highest SCI rates in the nation, Dr. Grissom has no doubt he’ll be kept busy as he splits his time between patient care and research.
But he’s confident that Methodist’s dedicated staff of professionals will help him succeed. “There are some very knowledgeable and committed staff members here who have been involved with SCI care for quite some time. I look forward to working with them.”
Dr. Grissom said he was attracted to rehabilitation medicine because it involves aspects of neurology, internal medicine, orthopedics and psychiatry. He also likes the rewards of working with patients over the long haul. “When someone gets sick, you see them through the entire illness and into the recovery phrase.”
The dynamic can be challenging for doctors more accustomed to a treat-em-and-street-em approach. But Dr. Grissom said he learned the tenets of rehab medicine from a physician who knew how to nurture relationships with patients and their families.
“In my early training, I got the chance to study with Dr. Murray Brandstater, a well-known physiatrist who is just a phenomenally caring and knowledgeable physician. The time he spent with patients and families and the satisfaction he gained as patients recovered or learned to compensate for deficits was a role model for me.”
Dr. Sam Grissom is medical director of the spinal cord injury program.
Dr. Grissom with members of the spinal cord injury therapy team.
Dr. Sam Grissom