The Bobby Dodd Institute in Atlanta honored Cassie S. Mitchell, Ph.D., with the 2016 Circle of Excellence Award for making significant contributions to the lives of individuals with disabilities. The award was presented March 2 at the BDI Breakfast with Champions at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. The annual event, sponsored by Autotrader, celebrates the accomplishments of people with disabilities in the workplace and the people and employers that support them. BDI also recognized the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta as its Employer of the Year and Gloria Richardson as its Employee of the Year.
Dr. Mitchell’s determination to achieve her full potential and overcome every hurdle she faces has inspired everyone at Bobby Dodd Institute,” says BDI’s president and chief executive officer Wayne McMillan. “From her academic and athletic achievements to her volunteer work as a mentor and counselor for neurological patients, she sets a standard of excellence that we can all strive to emulate. Dr. Mitchell truly exemplifies BDI’s mission and we are honored to present her with the 2016 Circle of Excellence award.”
Mitchell was born and raised in Oklahoma. The only child of two teachers, she grew up on a small family farm where she trained her own Paint horse, Misty Jet, and amassed four World Championships in western speed events. Cassie graduated high school valedictorian from Warner High School with a full academic and athletic college scholarship.
Soon after high school graduation, Cassie developed a neurological condition called Devics Neuromyelitis Optica, which left her completely paralyzed from the chest down, with significant impairments to her arms, wrists, and hands, and permanent double vision. She did not let the paralysis and vision impairment deter her and she enrolled at Oklahoma State University. Her determination led to her selection as a Goldwater Scholar and USA Today First Team Academic All-American, graduating in 2004 summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.
Mitchell earned a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in neuroengineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine in 2009. A research professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Mitchell’s tireless dedication to her work as a scientist and a teacher has earned her the respect of her peers and her students.
She is the lead primary investigator of the Pathology Dynamics laboratory where she and her lab of 60-plus students are currently investigating Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis under two National Institute of Health grants. View a video of her work at: http://www.rh.gatech.edu/features/after-ice-melts.
Mitchell has over 75 research publications, and her research has been honored with the International Motoneuron Society Young Investigator Award. Mitchell describes her work as a “neuropathology forecaster” who predicts disease mechanisms, prognosis and potential treatment outcomes.
In addition to her important work in the lab, Mitchell is a world-class athlete who holds national and international records for wheelchair track and paracycling. Her competitions includes the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and she is currently training for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mitchell is the first female quadriplegic USA national champion and the first Union Cyclist International World Champion in 2011. She became an International Paralympic Committee Track & Field World Champion in 2013. In June 2015, Mitchell broke two world records and won three medals for Team USA at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Canada.
Mitchell volunteers as a mentor and counselor for neurological patients at the Shepherd Center Spinal Cord and Brain Rehabilitation Hospital, Emory Hospital, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. BlazeSports of Georgia has honored her with the 2015 Triumph of the Human Spirit Award. She serves as a research mentor for the high school gifted and talented program at Fulton County Public Schools in Georgia.
“It is critical for every person, including a person with a disability, to have a circle of support,” Mitchell says. “People with disabilities and disadvantages have many abilities and talents to contribute — if they have the opportunity to work. BDI’s goal is to provide a circle of support for their clients so they can share their unique abilities and advantages in the workplace, maximize their potential, and help their employers thrive.”
As an Oklahoma State University alumnus, Mitchell has been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award. She was inducted into OSU’s and the College of Engineering’s Hall of Fame, and awarded the Lohman Medal, “in recognition of her contributions to the treatment of adverse neuropathologies and her soaring spirit and boundless determination.”
“Work is a vital part of the human experience – it provides dignity, self-sufficiency, and a connection to our community – but only 31.5% of Georgians who have a disability are employed,” McMillan says. “Bobby Dodd Institute is proud to honor individuals and institutions that break down barriers to employment for people with disabilities by providing job opportunities and by shattering stereotypes about people with disabilities in the workplace.”
The Bobby Dodd Institute began as a job-training program of the organization now known as All About Developmental Disabilities, where the legendary Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd was a dedicated program volunteer. Whether inspiring his student athletes to achieve both athletically and academically or supporting BDI clients as they prepared to enter the workforce, Coach Dodd had a gift for helping people identify and grow their strengths. BDI shares Coach Dodd’s perspective that people are most likely to succeed when encouraged to build on their strengths. Because of these shared values, BDI’s founders chose to name the organization in honor of Coach Dodd. Today, they continue to celebrate Coach Dodd’s legacy through both their name and their mission to help people with disabilities and disadvantages develop and prosper.
BDI employs nearly 450 people in some 50 locations across metro Atlanta, its principal market, and several other cities in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. BDI services include mailroom operations, packaging and fulfillment, facilities maintenance, call center operations, and logistics and warehousing. Last year, BDI served more than 1100 people with job training, employment connections, and other work-related support. For more information about BDI, contact Lisa Kennedy at 678-365-2260 or email@example.com.
Read more about Cassie Mitchell, Ph.D.:
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Uploaded March 9, 2016
Blog Post By STATE Magazine Editor Elizabeth Keys