Morgan Brubaker knew before attending medical school that she wanted to focus on rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI). “SCI is a specialized field where you help people get back to their lives,” she says. “I think of it as a quality-of-life specialty.”
Dr. Brubaker was the first fellow at Craig Hospital and was drawn to the SCI program because it allowed her to work with a variety of patients. She now leads one of the inpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation teams at Craig Hospital and does spinal cord and brain injury consultations at Swedish Medical Center.
“Craig is such a specialized center, and the experience for me was unparalleled,” she says. “There are only a handful of places around the country that are really exceptional at SCI rehabilitation, and it matters. I truly believe that a patient’s lifelong outcome will be better by coming to Craig.”
She notes that there are a variety of other rehabilitation centers to choose from after acute hospitalization. But many don’t have the specialized focus that Craig does or the capability to keep patients inpatient as long as they need to be. “Some rehabilitation centers and hospitals can only focus on stabilizing a patient and getting them home without providing the tools and resources to help patients manage lifelong health,” says Dr. Brubaker. “This could lead to preventable complications or even put someone’s life at risk.”
Dr. Brubaker has seen patients from other hospitals come to Craig for outpatient rehabilitation and tell her they learned more at Craig in a few days than through their entire program at a former hospital. “We can keep people healthier and get them back to life better than anyone else can,” she says.
Much of Craig’s SCI rehabilitation program focuses on optimizing patients’ chances of recovery and preparing them for life after leaving the hospital. Dr. Brubaker has a passion for helping her patients transition back home. “Some patients can’t return to their homes because they aren’t built to accommodate their daily activities when they’re in a wheelchair,” she says. “There are so many functional fixes that need to be taken into consideration. Things like curbless showers, wide enough doorways, zero-threshold entries, and custom cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens.”
“We are very proud that 86% of Craig patients return home after their initial inpatient rehabilitation program. The home should be a comfortable and safe place to live with family; it should be a place where you can truly just be yourself,” she says. “Accessible homes are few and far between. But being aware and planning for needed changes can make a big difference.”
When not at Craig, Dr. Brubaker can be found spending time with her husband and two kids. On most days, they can be found outdoors, especially since the pandemic started. They love exploring Colorado, trail running and playing at local parks.