Speakers & Session Descriptions

Friday, March 15th Pre-Conference

Empowering Recovery: Insights and Strategies for Professionals Working with Individuals with a Brain Injury

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Clients with Brain Injury: Strategies for Professionals

Description: Traumatic brain injury can result in mild to significant changes in an individual’s behavior following injury that can result in a multitude of problems that can be challenging to address.  This session will focus on common challenging behavior problems following traumatic brain injury to include but not limited to behavioral disinhibition, aggression, apathy and lack of engagement in activities, and substance use/misuse.  Issues associated with assessing and monitoring behavior problems via work with TBI survivors and caregivers will be reviewed as will strategies for intervention to include behavioral interventions and discussion of the role for medications.

Objectives: 

  1. Improved understanding of common behavioral issues following traumatic brain injury.
  2. Improved understanding of best practices in assessing and evaluating behavior issues to include work with TBI survivors and caregivers.
  3. Better understanding of interventions to work on challenging behavioral.

Michael J. Hall, Ph.D. is a Neuropsychologist, Licensed Psychologist, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health. He completed his doctoral training at Kent State University, internship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School/Worcester State Hospital, and fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School.  His clinical focus includes neuropsychological assessment, psychological evaluation, and psychotherapy with a particular focus on rehabilitation.  His clinical and research focus is on traumatic and acquired brain injury, mental health problems to include a particular focus on posttraumatic stress disorder, polytrauma in Veterans and Civilians, effects of aging/neurodegenerative disorders, and the impacts of COVID-19 Long Haul.  Interests also include advocacy, public policy and clinical training.

Let’s Get Physical! Promoting Physical Activity, Sport, and Recreation for Positive Health Outcomes

Description: All Americans are encouraged to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week to maintain their health. However, peoplewith disabilities, including brain injuries, are more than twice as likely to be physically inactive as their non-disabled peers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified nearly half of all adults with disabilities do not participate in any form of leisure or physical activity, though the evidence is clear that these activities have far reaching motor, cognitive, and social benefits. During this session, we will review the evidence behind the health benefits of individuals with brain injuries getting active through adaptive sports, recreation, and wellness activities, explore the barriers often preventing or limiting participation, and discuss solutions to these barriers including assistive technology, educational resources, and adaptive programs. We’ll also share successes from a collaborative walking program for people with brain injury executed in partnership between Sportable and two brain injury clubhouses, providing details for replication at other programs. People with brain injury deserve access to fitness, sport, and recreation opportunities for the same reasons anyone else does - to maintain a healthy lifestyle, stay active, and feel apart of the community.

Objectives:

  •  Review evidence behind the benefits and barriers for people with brain injury getting active through community-based sports, recreation, and wellness activities
  • Explore assistive technology solutions, educational resources, and general adaptations to help people with brain injuries engage in physical activity
  •  Discuss specific strategies and programs to increase physical activity for people with brain injuries

 

Caitlyn Berry received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from VCU in 2015. Since that time, she’s passionately worked and volunteered her time to connect individuals with disabilities with recreational and leisure activities in the community, recognizing that most of life occurs outside of the therapy clinic. In 2021, Caitlyn joined the team at Sportable as their Health & Wellness Outcomes Manager, leading new wellness programs, tracking the health impacts of adaptive sports programming, and providing personalized counseling to new participants to connect them to programs that fit their goals and abilities. Caitlyn enjoys teaching and has served as a guest lecturer, presenter, and past speaker at conferences. Caitlyn is excited to share her experience in connecting people with disabilities to opportunities for physical activity to promote their overall wellness.

Katherine Surrett received her bachelors in social work from VCU, and is a certified brain injury specialist. She has worked in the brain injury field for 7 years with Community Brain Injury Services in their clubhouse model program for adult survivors of brain injury, where their vision is ensuring every individual has the opportunity to realize a life of purpose and self-determined value. Katherine has worked in many positions within the clubhouse, and most currently has become the Clubhouse Program Director of The Denbigh House in Newport News. Through her tenure she has provided a variety of services to those with brain injury including case management, vocational and independent living skill development, job coaching services, fitness programs, balance programs, art programs, and more.

Instilling Hope: Evidenced-Based Strategies to Enhance Healthcare Relationships

Description: This educational session aims to help practitioners provide patient-centered care using humanistic counseling techniques.Evidence shows that relationship factors cultivated between a healthcare practitioner and patient impact longterm therapeuticgains. While skilled use of accurate empathy is essential, healthcare practitioners also need to deliberately practice interpersonalcommunication skills that instill hope.
The session will briefly define the concept of hope and discuss its importance. Specifically, participants will explore ways to instill hope while supporting individuals who have experienced an acquired brain injury. These strategies move conversations beyond superficial affirmations and positivity and focus on meaningful interpersonal engagement. Current literature and anecdotal experience shared by a stroke-survivor will inform this session. By rediscovering hope's utility, practitioners can refine their skills to better assist those with whom we journey.

Objectives:

  • Explore the importance of instilling hope in patient-centered care and its impact on therapeutic gains.
  • Discuss various strategies to effectively instill hope in their interactions with patients, moving beyond mere affirmation and positivity.
  • Reflect on the practical application of hope-instilling techniques in their healthcare practice and identify ways to refine their skills to better assist patients..

Dr. John P. Duggan (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor at Marymount University's School of Counseling. John holds a Doctor of Education in Counselor Education and Supervision (CACREP). He also earned a Master of Arts in Theology (Spirituality Cognate),a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology (CACREP), and a Bachelor of Science in Communication. He holds professional terms of brain injury, John identifies as a practitioner-participant. He has survived two strokes, embraces rehabilitation strategies as a “way of life”, and now includes brain injury among scholarship, research, and advocacy activities. He also engages as a Peer Stroke Visitor and now seeks new advocacy opportunities. Prior to cerebrovascular accidents, John has journeyed with others as a healthcare practitioner addressing issues such as bereavement, chronic disease, and intractable pain. Trauma, brain injury, bipolar spectrum, psychosis, and dissociative identity disorders are among other clinical interests.
John has collaborated with hospitals, clinics, schools, mission-based communities, and professional organizations over nearly three decades. As a clinical program leader, he collaborated with a team to secure $12M+ multi-year grants for suicide prevention and "wrap-around" permanent supportive housing and behavioral health services. He also collaborated with the American Counseling Association (ACA), creating 200+ hours of original educational videos and live telecasts (pre-pandemic) for U.S. and global practitioners. John collaboratively produced elements for award winning partnerships with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and other special projects.
Dr. Duggan has practiced with, taught, and supervised clinical, pastoral, K-12 school, substance use, and peer counseling practitioners. The Association for Humanistic Counseling (AHC) honored John as Supervisor of the Year (2022) and the Maryland Counseling Association (MCA) awarded him MCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2023).

Screen and Intervene: Addressing the Prevalence of Brain Injury Among Domestic Violence Survivors

Description: In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Studies have shown that 75% of women who experienced domestic violence (DV) sustained at least one traumatic brain injury (TBI) directly connected to their partner. This brain trauma can affect people for the rest of their lives, but it often goes unrecognized and is underreported.
This session will dig deeper into the connection between brain injury and domestic violence and review what is being done in Virginia to address this. The Screen & Intervene Project, coordinated by BIAV and funded by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), has been ongoing since 2020. We will share briefly about the project background and methods while also covering our findings over the past few years about what people experiencing domestic violence are facing in terms of head injuries, medical attention, and symptoms. Understanding how to bring together community partnerships between brain injury and domestic violence providers in order to recognize and address possible brain injuries, is an important step in making sure that everyone who needs help can get it.

Objectives:

  • Learn about Virginia's Screen & Intervene Project and what can be done to screen for Brain Injury in the community
  • Explore screening results and what this means for intervention
  • Discuss successes and challenges experienced by community partners, as well as future directions

Maria Altonen is a long-time advocate for sexual and domestic violence. Maria currently serves as the Rape Prevention and Education Director for the Virginia Department of Health enhancing primary prevention efforts throughout the state. Maria was formerly the Program Manager for Project Empower, the sexual and domestic violence program for VCU Health. Maria worked daily with other advocates to end violence against all people, specifically women and girls, through direct intervention in the hospital. As well as, initiating IPV screening projects throughout the Health System to identify those experiencing IPV before they are in crisis. Prior to these positions, Maria had a unique experience in a dual role with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and Virginia Anti-Violence Project. They were responsible for coordinating a large collaborative project between seven community agencies addressing IPV and SV services for the LGBTQ communities in the Richmond metropolitan area across the spectrum, with a specific focus on youth, older adults, and people of color. Maria was instrumental in developing the LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline; an LGBTQ specific 24 hour hotline which is the first of its kind in Virginia.

Amy Smith is the Brain Injury Association of Virginia's Clinical Liaison. She joined BIAV in 2020 after receiving her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from VCU to lead initiatives with community partners including domestic/sexual violence and brain injury agencies participating in BIAV's VDH funded screening project, Sheltering Arms Institute, and universities invested in our OTD internship program. Her involvement with BIAV began when she was a student herself, helping to design staff and volunteer training modules for Camp Bruce McCoy. She currently continues to stay involved with camp administration while also facilitating BIAV's advisory groups and community partnerships. Amy has a passion for working with individuals with disabilities as evidenced by prior work with the Arc of the Piedmont, and in combination with her background in neuroscience research as an undergraduate at UVA, she brings her clinical and community engagement skills and expertise together to achieve positive, sustainable outcomes.

Saturday, March 16th Making Headway Conference

Family Affair: Brain Injury Affects More than the Survivor

Description: As both a survivor and caregiver to a child who sustained a traumatic brain injury at the age of three, Kelly Lang brings 22 years of experience navigating the medical, school, therapeutic, and social system areas.
Attendees will recognize how parents of pediatric brain injury patients react to their child’s injury and how the narrative changes during the recovery process. The presentation will discuss the implications of discussions between medical teams and family members and illustrate how empathy is required.
Everyone reacts to trauma and grief differently and the presentation will delve into those. The feelings of grief and trauma do not only affect the injured person but also the entire family. The process of managing those feelings will be examined using current research as well as personal experiences.
Attendees will learn how survivors and caregivers can reimagine their lives following brain injury. The presenter explains her journey of rebuilding her and her family's life and discusses the impact of Identity Paralysis.
Brain injury is devastating not only to the patient but the whole family. The family can learn how to navigate this new life. There are opportunities to grow, expand, and share our stories in a positive environment.

Objectives:

1. After attending this presentation, attendees will be able to identify three emotional reactions parents and family members exhibit when learning of their child’s injury.
2. After attending this presentation, attendees will be able to discuss the implications of discussions between medical teams and family members with empathy versus non-empathy.
3. Attendees will understand the impacts of grief and trauma on the family unit following a loved one's traumatic brain injury.
3. After attending this presentation, attendees will discuss how survivors and caregivers can reimagine their lives and discussIdentity Paralysis.

Kelly Lang, Kelly Lang, co-author of The Miracle Child: Traumatic Brain Injury and Me is a brain injury survivor and caregiver to her daughter who sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2001. Kelly is an Advocate, Author, Communications Trainer, and Public Speaker as well. She co-leads the Brain Injury Association of America’s Advisory Council and serves on the Virginia Brain Injury Advisory Council. Her advocacy experience includes working with the National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems’ Brain Injury Learning Collaborative and serving as a member of the Traumatic Brain Injury Leadership Group and the Person-Centered Advisory Group. Kelly has been the Keynote speaker at brain injury conferences and conducted workshops and webinars including the Administration for Community Living Stakeholder Day, universities, and many others. Kelly is also a Communications Trainer with INOVA Health Systems. Kelly and her husband created a website https://www.themiraclechild.org/ educating othersabout brain injury. Kelly received her BA from American University and previously worked in the Human Resources Field.

Navigating the Road to Recovery: How Mental Health Counseling for Survivors and Caregivers Promotes Wellness

Description: The session will cover mental health literacy and post-stroke support strategies to promote mental health and wellness. Manypeople experience anxiety, depression, grief, and increased social isolation after experiencing a stroke. American StrokeAssociation literature cautions that every one in four survivors of stoke will experience a second event. These challenges andworries — known as Post-Stroke Psychosocial Stress — can impair overall rehabilitation and quality of life. Additionally, caregiverstress is caused by mental and physical strain and impacts caregiver wellness, interpersonal effectiveness, and ability to offersupport.
Most individuals are not exposed to clinical mental health services during inpatient rehabilitation. Others may complete out patient rehabilitation and neuropsychological appraisal, yet still experience challenges locating qualified clinical mental health counseling practitioners. This session will provide an opportunity for post-stroke survivors and caregivers to discuss concerns related to mental health. Current literature and anecdotal experience shared by a stroke-survivor will inform this session. By increasing awareness of counseling services and interventions, this session aims to increase mental health literacy, discuss helpful interventions, and minimize stigma.

Objectives:

1. Understand the mental health challenges experienced by stroke survivors and caregivers, such as anxiety, depression, and isolation, and recognize their impact on recovery and quality of life.
2. Discover a range of interventions and resources that can effectively address post-stroke stress and enhance the mental well-being of both stroke survivors and their caregivers.
3. Develop literacy to reduce stigma and increase understanding on how to access professional counseling services.

Dr. John P. Duggan (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor at Marymount University's School of Counseling. John holds a Doctor of Education in Counselor Education and Supervision (CACREP). He also earned a Master of Arts in Theology (Spirituality Cognate),a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology (CACREP), and a Bachelor of Science in Communication. He holds professional licenses from the boards of counseling in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia (inactive).
In terms of brain injury, John identifies as a practitioner-participant. He has survived two strokes, embraces rehabilitation strategies as a “way of life”, and now includes brain injury among scholarship, research, and advocacy activities. He also engages as a Peer Stroke Visitor and now seeks new advocacy opportunities. Prior to cerebrovascular accidents, John has journeyed with others as a healthcare practitioner addressing issues such as bereavement, chronic disease, and intractable pain. Trauma, brain injury, bipolar spectrum, psychosis, and dissociative identity disorders are among other clinical interests.
John has collaborated with hospitals, clinics, schools, mission-based communities, and professional organizations over nearly three decades. As a clinical program leader, he collaborated with a team to secure $12M+ multi-year grants for suicide prevention and "wrap-around" permanent supportive housing and behavioral health services. He also collaborated with the American Counseling Association (ACA), creating 200+ hours of original educational videos and live telecasts (pre-pandemic) for U.S. and global practitioners. John collaboratively produced elements for award winning partnerships with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and other special projects.
Dr. Duggan has practiced with, taught, and supervised clinical, pastoral, K-12 school, substance use, and peer counseling practitioners. The Association for Humanistic Counseling (AHC) honored John as Supervisor of the Year (2022) and the Maryland Counseling Association (MCA) awarded him MCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2023).

The Role of Pituitary Hormones in Long-Term Recovery After Traumatic Brain Injury

Description: The role that neuroendocrine dysfunction may play in patients’ health after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains under appreciated. Pituitary deficiencies are seen at a high rate in patients who have sustained TBI, with reports of chronic pituitary dysfunction in 15-60% of adults after TBI, and up to 42% of children and adolescents. Changes may appear soon after an injury, or months to years later.
Pituitary deficiencies may include potentially fatal adrenal insufficiency, as well as reproductive hormone abnormalities, growth hormone deficiency, and centrally mediated thyroid deficiency. Hypopituitarism impacts health and quality of life, and, untreated, is associated with increased mortality as well as morbidity.
Signs and symptoms consistent with pituitary hormone deficiencies should prompt evaluation. The overlap in symptoms seen in pituitary deficiencies and following TBI, and the potential clinical benefit of identifying hypopituitarism, make it particularly important to be aware of patterns that suggest pituitary dysfunction. Symptoms from hypopituitarism include cognitive, physical ,and emotional effects, and overlap with symptoms from other etiologies including TBI itself; Clinical symptoms may include difficulties with executive function, increased anxiety and irritability, irregular menses, sexual side effects, and fatigue, and delay physical and neurorehabilitation efforts. It is particularly important to be aware of patterns that suggest pituitary dysfunction inpatients with persistent symptoms after TBI, as replacement of deficient hormones can reverse the effects of hypopituitarism.

Objectives: 

1. Participants will learn about the existing evidence for the role of neuroendocrine deficiencies following TBI.
2. Participants will recognize signs and symptoms of pituitary deficiencies, and understand indicators for pituitary evaluation of patients after TBI.
3. Participants will understand the implications of growth hormone in neurocognitive functioning.

Tamara L. Wexler, MD, PhD, is an endocrinologist specializing in neuroendocrinology and reproductive endocrinology, nationally recognized for her expertise in post-TBI pituitary dysfunction. She has served as an Attending Physician in Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and as the founding Director of the NYU Langone Medical Center Pituitary Center.
Dr. Wexler received her MD and her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her Internal Medicine residency and Endocrinology fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was part of the Neuroendocrine Unit, designed and ran national clinical trials on the effects of growth hormone, and served for 12 years on the Optimum Care Committee.
While on staff at the MGH, Dr. Wexler spent four years at McKinsey & Company, where she served as the Global Endocrinology Lead. She recently completed a term on the Endocrine Society Clinical Guidelines Committee, and is on the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Leadership Council. She is a speaker and moderator at academic medical centers and national conferences on the topic of pituitary function, reproductive endocrinology, and post-TBI endocrine disorders. Her publications appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and Journal of Neurotrauma, among other journals.
Dr. Wexler is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU, where she continues to direct pituitary research within the Rusk Rehabilitation Center, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and founded Neuroendocrine Associates to provide education and clinical care regarding post-brain injury neuroendocrine issues.

Mindful Healing: Navigating the Challenges of Brain Injury through Music

Description: Living with a brain injury presents unique challenges that extend beyond physical recovery. This session will explore ways to practice mindfulness and relaxation through music, and give you invaluable tools that can be practiced in your daily life to help with navigating the complexities of life after a brain injury. Please note this is an experiential session with quiet music.

Raven Bransom, MT-BC is a board certified music therapist working at Healing Sounds, LLC in Richmond. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a degree in music therapy and Longwood University with a degree in piano pedagogy. She works with clients of all ages, and specializes in working with people dealing with mental health challenges, traumatic brain injuries, and individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. She enjoys playing with her pets, making music with friends and doing crafts to relax.

Relationships After Brain injury

Description: This session delves into how relationships are negatively impacted by brain injuries and what you, as the uninjured one, can do to rebuild it.

Objectives: 

1. Acknowledging the loss of your old relationship.
2. Accepting your new role in the relationship.
3. Changing your interactions and expectations.

Karen Grazionale advocates for family caregivers through writing, speaking, and participating in research projects. She believesstorytelling is a powerful way to reach hearts and open minds. Karen is an officer on the Community Brain Injury Services Boardand a member of Sheltering Arms Institute’s Community Advocacy Council. She’s a mentor to family caregivers and hosts amonthly caregiver support group. Her goal is to create a supportive community for families throughout their journey.
Karen lives on the peninsula with her husband and their dog. Her work has been published in several neurological magazines including BRAIN, Oxford Press. She is currently writing a memoir about rebuilding relationships after a traumatic incident. To read her works and listen to her podcasts go to www.karengrazionale.com.

Staying Active After Brain Injury

Description: It can be hard for people to be active after a brain injury, but moving and exercising are very important for staying healthy. This presentation is all about sharing solutions to make it easier to stay active after a brain injury. Join the experts from Sportable Adaptive Sports and Recreation to learn about why it’s important to exercise, the challenges people with brain injuries might face ,and how to overcome those challenges in order to be a healthier you! After a brief presentation, you’ll have an opportunity to move and try some adaptive activities including a seated workout, boccia (an adaptive version of the game bocce ball), and pickleball. You can participate in these activities with us no matter your level of experience or ability! We will wrap up by sharing information about programs located throughout the state and other resources that can help you stay active wherever you live. Even though it can be challenging after brain injury, staying active is so good for your health and we want to help you find ways to keep moving!

Objectives: 

1. To learn about the importance of staying active after brain injury.
2. To discover adaptations available to help you fully participate in sports and recreation.
3. To explore adaptive activities and consider what you want to do to stay active.

 David Robbins; born and raised in Richmond, Virginia; is dedicated to building community and breaking down barriers in the city of Richmond, the Commonwealth of Virginia, across the country and the globe. David, a first-generation college graduate, just completed his Bachelor’s of Art in Political Science with a concentration in Human Rights/Civil Rights and a minor in Economics from Virginia Commonwealth University. David has shown this commitment through his current role as Outreach Coordinator for Sportable Adaptive Sports and Recreation as well as experience with Virginia Humanities in their Office of Community Initiatives and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at VCU as well as over a decade of service in the food industry. In his personal life, he has also shown this dedication through his work and leadership of the Virginia Omega Rho Chapter of Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity whose mission and international philanthropy is the elimination of prejudice. Currently, as the Outreach Coordinator for Sportable Adaptive Sports and Recreation David is active throughout the community helping to connect potential athletes, volunteers, and community partners with Sportable and other organizations to help them stay active and give them the opportunity to transform their lives.
Caitlyn Berry OTR/L (Co-Presenter): Caitlyn Berry received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from VCU in 2015.Since that time, she’s passionately worked and volunteered her time to connect individuals with disabilities with recreational and leisure activities in the community, recognizing that most of life occurs outside of the therapy clinic. In 2021, Caitlyn joined the team at Sportable as their Health & Wellness Outcomes Manager, leading new wellness programs, tracking the health impacts of adaptive sports programming, and providing personalized counseling to new participants to connect them to programs that fit their goals and abilities. Caitlyn enjoys teaching and has served as a guest lecturer, presenter, and past speaker at conferences. Caitlyn is excited to share her experience in connecting people with disabilities to opportunities for physical activity to promote their overall wellness.

Engaging Love Ones with Brain Injury: The Struggles & The Strategies

Description: It can feel hard to engage someone after they've received a brain injury. There can be several reasons for that, and luckily there are several tips, and strategies for overcoming those challenges. We will explore how to better engage someone with a brain injury in completing tasks, follow through, and how to help them be more engaged. There will be time for a Q & A and discussion!

Objective: To explore tips and ideas to better engage individuals with a brain injury.

Katherine Surrett,  Clubhouse Program Director of The Denbigh House, a clubhouse model program for adult survivors of brain injury. We are part of a larger organization: Community Brain Injury Services. I've worked in the brain injury field with community brain injury services for 7 years, where our vision is ensuring every individual has the opportunity to realize a life of purpose and self-determined value. I've provided a variety of services to those with brain injury including case management ,vocational and independent living skill development, job coaching services, fitness programs, balance programs, art programs, and more.