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Event Speakers & Session Descriptions

Keynote Session: Look Closer. My Brain Injury Is Invisible.

Stacia Bissell

Description: Heartfelt and informative, this keynote presentation features Stacia G. Bissell talking about how her invisible brain injury from a bicycle accident 10 years ago had consequences. Stacia will talk about unwelcome failures and how she started learning to accept, adapt, manage and eventually thrive. She will share her TBI story, personal and professional challenges she encountered, and insights gained throughout the different stages of her TBI journey. Through public speaking, coaching and mentoring other survivors, Stacia's story, experiences and learned techniques have helped many find direction, hope and harmony between their pre and post-TBI selves.


Speaker Bio: A native of Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts, Stacia G. Bissell, M.Ed., is passionate about education. Much of her career was spent as a middle school math teacher and high school business teacher until taking on roles in administration and academic coaching. In 2011, she became a licensed middle and high school principal with aspirations of running her own school. However, a bicycle accident that same year left her with a traumatic brain injury and her career as a public school educator came to an end.

With encouragement from her medical team, the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA), friends and family, Stacia began doing speaking engagements. She was quickly recognized for providing informative, professional, and heartfelt presentations with an ability to captivate her audience by weaving in her personal TBI story.

In addition to being a keynote speaker and a contributor to Brain Injury HOPE magazine, Stacia is a co-founder of both the Northampton, MA brain injury support group and the Berkshire Brain Injury Collaborative, designed to provide professional development to teachers on return-to-learn strategies, now part of the BIA-MA.

Making the Invisible Visible: Virginia’s Domestic Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury ‘Screen & Intervene’ Project

Description: The “invisibility factor” associated with both domestic violence and traumatic brain injury has a devastating impact on victims, families, and public health. Victims of domestic violence are frequently hit in the head and/or strangled regularly, leading to brain injuries that they, and service providers, are often unaware of. This session will explore how the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, worked with brain injury and domestic violence service providers to pilot a program to foster community collaborations, introduce screening tools, and collect critical data to shine a light on this hidden epidemic and offer strategies that other programs and states can replicate.

Speaker Bios: Amy Smith, Clinical Liaison for the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, leads key initiatives with community partners including the Sheltering Arms Institute, domestic/sexual violence and brain injury programs participating in BIAV's VDH-funded screening pilot, and universities invested in our OTD internship program. Whether she is working with service recipients, providers, funders, or other partners, Amy is adept at combining her clinical and community engagement skills and expertise to achieve positive, sustainable outcomes.

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. 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.

Coping with Anxiety and Depression after Brain Injury

Description: Experiencing a traumatic brain injury is a life changing event and it is normal to feel intense stress, anxiety and depression. In this session, we will discuss the symptoms of anxiety and depression and how these symptoms may look and present after an individual has sustained a TBI. Interventions (formal and informal) for addressing anxiety and depression will also be discussed. Dr. Lumpkin will discuss with participants the types of questions you and your family may want to ask providers to help ensure you are receiving good quality care after TBI.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Jennifer C.M. Lumpkin, Psy.D., ABPP is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology. Upon earning her doctorate degree in 2005, Dr. Lumpkin moved to Richmond, Virginia for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center. During her time at VCU Medical Center, Dr. Lumpkin worked primarily with individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition to clinical work with individuals with TBI, Dr. Lumpkin also participated in applied research projects. After completing her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Lumpkin accepted a full-time neuropsychologist position at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. From 2007-2018. In December 2017, Dr. Lumpkin opened her private practice on a part-time basis and as of July 2018, West End Neuropsychology is a full-time private practice.

Utilizing Creative Arts Processes to Improve Symptoms of Depression

Description: When experiencing symptoms of depression, understanding your thoughts or emotions can be difficult. Having the words to describe how you feel can prove to be an even more challenging task. Creative arts may be a beneficial tool to reducing, reflecting and processing symptoms so that you can improve your wellbeing. This session will include experiential learning as well as lecture.


Speaker Bio: Anna McChesney, LPC, MT-BC is the owner of Healing Sounds, LLC in Richmond, VA. Healing Sounds is a creative arts therapy practice employing music and art therapists. Anna is a board certified music therapist, licensed music educator, certified rehabilitation counselor, and a licensed professional counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She currently sees clients for counseling with issues like anxiety, life transitions and emotional disconnection. She enjoys utilizing creative arts processes in conjunction with traditional counseling methodology to support people in reaching their fullest potential.  Recently, Anna was appointed to the Music Therapy Advisory Board by Governor Northam and is honored to serve Virginia’s Music Therapists in this way.


Integrative Medicine in Brain Injury - Can it Help?

Description: Integrative Medicine is a healing-oriented medicine which considers the whole person (body, mind and spirit), and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both allopathic and alternative, to facilitate the body's innate healing response. Integrative medicine approach emphasizes treatment modalities to improve a person’s overall health and well-being that are the least invasive, least toxic and least costly.

People with TBI may be critically ill, and face significant stress, pain, and or emotional distress. As a result, the use of non-pharmacological, alternative therapies as adjuncts may help.

Integrative medicine focuses on nutrition, pharmaceuticals, vitamins and supplements, botanicals and herbs, medicinal teas, aroma therapy, lifestyle medicine and healing arts therapies. Dr. Jain will address these topics, as well as acupuncture including NADA protocol, meditation and 4-7-8 breathing, and many imagery techniques.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Sunil Jain came to Roanoke in 2020 and is a practicing Integrative Physiatrist at Carilion Clinic.  He also actively partners with Virginia Tech School of Medicine as an Academic Physiatrist.  For 25 years, Dr. Jain has served as Medical Director in a variety of inpatient and outpatient clinical settings, utilizing a wide range of medical techniques.  Dr. Jain believes in a patient-centered, cost-effective and comprehensive team approach to patient care that incorporates the principles of Integrative and Functional Medicine.

Social Connection - Just what the Doctor Ordered

Description: “The greatest human need aside from food, water, and shelter is relationships.”  ~Justin Hacking, Idaho Youth Ranch

The science is in - social isolation and loneliness can have a negative effect on our health. Connection and community can help protect us from this.

In this session, we will explore the unique challenges people impacted by brain injury face socially, describe the important difference between social isolation and loneliness (and why it matters), identify risks and protective factors for isolation and loneliness, and provide resources and opportunities to help you tackle this growing problem in creative, safe ways.  


Speaker Bios: Mia Dini, Assistant Data Coordinator for the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, researches and analyzes data to understand social determinants of health in the context of brain injury. She also assists in organizing and finding new resources to provide people impacted by brain injury with the most up-to-date opportunities while navigating recovery.

Stacey Nichols, CLiC Project Director has served at BISSWVA since 2015 and has a background in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and caring for the disabled.  She coordinated the development of the Community Living Connections (CLiC) for Veterans pilot program and currently serves as CLiC Project Director, where she coordinates and oversees CLiC.  She administers and supervises all CLiC operations including curriculum and program design / development, data assessment and analysis, scheduling and technical support, hiring and training, budgetary conformity, and funding procurement.  She also is involved in recruitment, registration, development and distribution of program materials, equipment acquisition, client participation, and program problem-resolution. 

CCC+, DD, HNS: Digesting Alphabet Soup for Medicaid Waivers

Description: Virginia's Medicaid Waivers can provide valuable services and supports to people impacted by brain injury. However, there can be confusion about what people with brain injuries are eligible for, what all of the different waivers offer, and how to access them.

This session will provide practical, step-by-step information that individuals and family caregivers can use in their everyday lives from a presenter with lived experience navigating waivers. 

This session will go over the different state waivers, eligibility, services, and access.


    • Gain a basic understanding of Medicaid Waivers in Virginia and their services and supports
    • Identify the steps necessary to determine eligibility
    • Describe screening tools and documentation needed to access a Medicaid Waiver

Speaker Bio: Debra Holloway, Education Manager for the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and a Certified Information & Referral Specialist - Aging/Disability. Most of Debra's career has been spent advocating on behalf of the disability community educating people on inclusion, self-determination, community-based supports, and person-centered planning. A Medicaid Waiver Mentor, she has served on numerous boards and councils and has a keen understanding of how to help people navigate the complexities of Medicaid waivers.