Physicians to Children is a pediatric care practice founded in the South Miami/Coral Gables neighborhood in 1926 by Dr. Warren Quillian, Sr., one of the first pediatricians in South Florida. He began the pediatric care program at Jackson Memorial Hospital and served as the first Department Chairman for the University of Miami School of Medicine. His son, Dr. Quillian II, followed in the footsteps of his father and joined the-now 96 year old practice-in 1966.
Dr. Warren Quillian II is former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Greater Miami Pediatric Society Hall of Fame inductee. Although he is now retired at 80 years old, Dr. Quillian still devotes his time and energy to the care and welfare of both children and adults by way of his volunteer service as board member of Good Hope Equestrian Training Center (GHETC). He is a key co-founder of the now 16 year old facility.
“I had a patient Jenny who was significantly handicapped and she went through all that was available in Dade County at the time in terms of care but there was a big void. So I asked her mother what was the most important thing to her in life and her mom told me ‘without a doubt it is her time with a horse’” said Dr. Quillian.
Before Good Hope opened its barn doors, Nancy Brooks had scarce available resources to help her daughter Jenny Busby but for the time she spent horse back riding with then instructor Peggy Bass. In a collaboration with doctor, instructor, and family, the Brooks’ provided the seed money for Good Hope to open in 1999.
Good Hope is a not for profit organization “dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled children and adults in South Florida through therapeutic horseback riding instruction and related equine activities.”
Since its inception, GHETC has provided evidence based equine assisted programming to more than 3,200 children, youth, and adults with varying disabilities. Serving approximately 400 clients annually, the programs aspire to “improve the body, mind, and spirit through the healing powers of the horse.”
Executive Director Dr. Peggy Bass has over 27 years experience in a range of educational and rehabilitative settings. She holds a masters and doctoral degree in Special Education and is licensed through the Florida Department of Education. She also has an Advanced Instructor Certification through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH, International).
Therapeutic riding, supportive employment, companion services, personal care supports and a special program for disabled veterans are provided for ages 3 to 65 with various intellectual, physical, sensory and emotional disabilities. Those dealing with amputees, autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, specific learning disabilities, processing disorders, spinal cerebellum dysfunction, post traumatic stress disorder, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury benefit from Good Hope.
“In order to ride the horses the various participants have to be involved in an educational process (on equine care) appropriate for their age and ability,” said Dr. Quillian. “This might be grooming, feeding, mucking the stall…they become consumed in a timely manner and their horse becomes a part of the family so to speak and that is an important thing.”
There are 12 horses on the 20 acre property in South Dade. The friendly steeds seem to have a seventh sense about how to love and nurture their riders…LadyBug, Katie’s Honor (named after young Katherine Penny Behrens, a Good Hope participant who spent two years benefiting from the equine therapy before she passed at age 11 from Neuroblastoma), Stan the Man, and others are often retired horses or rescues from the tri county region.
“The horse teaches people that they must be present in the moment for the partnership to be successful,” said Dr. Bass. “Horses have the ability to mirror human body language, which can provide an opportunity for metaphorical learning during horsemanship activities. These honest, majestic beings are powerful messengers and healers.”
An independent research program commissioned by the University of Miami Department of Statistics found that Good Hope participants improved “in critical areas such as sensory seeking, emotional reactivity and demonstrated improved cognition, communication, and motivation following intervention.”
“The studies found that there was marked improvement in strength, mobility and family dynamics,” said Dr. Quillian. “We asked a young lady in her late teens once how the horse helped her and in a hesitant voice she said ‘it is the only time that I feel that I am out of my body’ and that sent me into orbit, it meant so much and was so well expressed.”
After a nearly 50 year career serving South Miami Hospital patients and the larger community, Dr. Quillian is still true to his Hippocratic Oath in serving the participants at Good Hope through outreach and organization as the longest standing member of the Board of Directors. He and wife Sallie also divide their time between North Carolina and Virginia to visit their six grand children…all girls ages 10 to 15.
“It gives you a sense of accomplishment that you have been able to help others and that is the bottom line,” said Dr. Quillian. “If someone is interested in being a part of Good Hope we are always looking for volunteers and support. Just make arrangements to come on out and see for yourself.”