2021 Speaker Bios

Jena Gorden, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS

Jena Gorden, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS Yoga and Meditation for Brain Injury: Evidence, Innovations, and Ways Forward
Jena Gorden attended Minnesota State University - Moorhead, where she received a bachelor of science degree in speech-language-hearing sciences in 1999 and a master of science degree in speech-language pathology in 2001. She has been practicing as a speech-language pathologist in the medical field for 19 years, working in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Fargo/Moorhead areas. She is currently employed at Onword Therapy, joining this innovative team in 2017. Jena has experience working in acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, long-term care, and outpatient rehabilitation settings, serving primarily the adolescent and adult populations. She provides assessment and treatment of speech, language, cognitive, voice, fluency, and swallowing disorders. Areas of special interest include acquired brain injury and post concussive syndrome, as well as associated higher-level cognitive impairments. Jena is particularly passionate about assisting individuals in achieving their maximal potential of rehabilitation and establishing resiliency following neurological impacts.

Rod Swenson, PhD, ABN

Rod Swenson, PhD, ABN The Concept of Traumatic Brain Injury as a Chronic Health Condition
Rod Swenson, PhD, is a board certified neuropsychologist who operates Neuropsychology Associates, in Fargo, and serves adult patients and their families. Dr. Swenson also holds an appointment as clinical professor at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS). He is active in teaching medical students, residents, and graduate psychology students. In 2008, he was awarded with the Dean's Recognition Award from the UND SMHS for his commitment to teaching. Dr. Swenson earned his doctoral degree from UND. He completed his fellowship in neuropsychology at the Boston V.A. Medical Center, with appointments at the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard, under the supervision of Dr. Edith Kaplan who is renowned for her critical role in establishing neuropsychology as a specialty area of study. He also had the privilege of learning directly from Dr. Norman Geschwind, a founder of the field of behavioral neurology.

Nealey Hoffman, MA, CCC-SLP

Nealey Hoffman, MA, CCC-SLP Connecting Therapy to Life: Using a Virtual Care Platform to Promote Learning Following a Brain Injury
Nealey Hoffman, MA, CCC-SLP, graduated from Wichita State University and went on to complete a master's degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Shortly after, she joined QLI, in Omaha, Nebraska, as a speech-language pathologist. Nealey's areas of expertise and interest include traumatic brain injury, motor speech disorders, adults with neurodegenerative diseases, and assistive and augmentative communication. Because of her strong clinical skills and ability to quickly develop rapport with patients and families alike, Nealey has been instrumental in the growth and success of QLI's telerehabilitation program.

Dmitry Esterov, DO

Dmitry Esterov, DO Introduction to the Knowledge Translation Center at Mayo Clinic
Dmitry Esterov, DO, is the medical director of Mayo Clinic's Traumatic Brain Injury Model System (TBIMS) Research Program, a longitudinal, multicenter project examining the course of recovery and outcomes following TBI. The TBIMS Research Program conducts research that contributes to evidence-based rehabilitation interventions to improve the lives of individuals with TBI. Dr. Esterov is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and brain injury rehabilitation medicine and is a senior associate consultant at Mayo Clinic. After completing his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, he completed fellowship training in brain injury medicine at Mayo Clinic. Since then, he joined the faculty of Mayo Clinic's College of Medicine and Science and is currently in a three-year, mentored research program in the Division of Brain Rehabilitation. He is also currently engaged in a postdoctoral master's degree program in clinical and translational research through the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Esterov's clinical interests include TBI rehabilitation for all injury severity levels, including post-concussion syndrome and disorders of consciousness. His research interests include population-based epidemiology of brain injury and assessing long-term outcomes after TBI and factors that lead to poor recovery. Additionally, he is interested in assessing the healthcare service value for treatment of acute stroke.

Vicki Laraway

Survivor Panel – Center for Independent Living
Vicki Laraway works at that Dakota Center for Independent Living, in Bismarck, North Dakota. She works with people of all ages with disabilities. The Center has been in existence since 1980 and believes in empowering people with disabilities by minimizing barriers, advocating for inclusion, and promoting consumer choice. In her position, Vicki does not have a consumer caseload but facilitates many of the classes that the Center offers, from Life Skills to assisting senior citizens with how to use their electronic devices in order for them to have access to all the things the rest of us do. Vicki believes this will help seniors live independently longer.

Sandi Gruhot, RN

Sandi Gruhot, RN My Stroke Journey
Sandi Gruhot has been a practicing nurse for 36 years, working primarily in emergency room and intensive care unit care. During the last year and a half, she has been the North Dakota coordinator of a Stroke Survivor to Survivor program. Sandi is also a stroke survivor.

Marie Brekken, PA-C, CBIS

Marie Brekken, PA-C, CBIS Stroke is a Brain Injury: A Neurorehabilitation Perspective
Marie Brekken is a physician assistant at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota. After caring for patients as a registered nurse for 25 years, Marie entered medical school at UND in 1995 and earned a physician assistant degree. She is currently a physical medicine and rehabilitation provider who cares for patients participating in the comprehensive, acute, inpatient rehabilitation program at Sanford Health Fargo. Marie also provides care in the clinic setting, following patients after discharge from the Physical Medicine Clinic and Coordinated Treatment Center (adult brain injury and spinal cord injury clinics). Her goal is to deliver exceptional, individualized service to every patient she treats in a compassionate and truly caring manner.

Heidi Fiskness, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS

Heidi Fiskness, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS A Neurorehabilitation Approach to Recovery After Stroke – Therapy Perspective (multiple presenters)
Heidi Fiskness, MS, attended Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish, a bachelor of science degree in speech-language-hearing sciences in 2007, and a master of science degree in speech-language pathology in 2009. Heidi has been a practicing speech-language pathologist in the medical field since the start of her career. She worked in the area of acute care and inpatient rehab for the first four years of her career and then transitioned to the outpatient setting for the next eight years, serving primarily the adolescent and adult populations. Heidi has also served the children and adolescent populations in the private practice setting for six years of her career. Heidi is employed as a speech-language pathologist at Sanford Health, Fargo. She is skilled and knowledgeable in providing assessment and interventions for language, cognition, voice, fluency, social skills, swallowing, and speech production disorders. Heidi holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language Hearing Association as well as a license in speech-language pathology in North Dakota and Minnesota. She is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and has earned certifications in Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, SPEAK OUT!® Voice Treatment, Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallow, and VitalStim Therapy. Areas of special interest include progressive neurological diseases, acquired brain injury, voice, and higher-level cognitive-linguistic impairments.

Teresa Rene, OTR/L, CBIS

Teresa Rene, OTR/L, CBIS A Neurorehabilitation Approach to Recovery After Stroke – Therapy Perspective (multiple presenters)
Teresa Rene is an occupational therapist with 32 years of clinical experience. She attended the College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in education in 1984. She attended the College of St. Catherine's in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning certification and licensure as an occupational therapist in 1988. She began her career working for Fairview University Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1988 through 2001. She has worked for Sanford Hospital, in Fargo, since 2001. Teresa has worked in a variety of settings, including acute care (adult and pediatric population), transitional care, inpatient acute rehabilitation, and the outpatient neurological setting. At this time, her primary focus is working with the adult neurological population in the areas of spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injury, and stroke recovery. Teresa has completed specialized training and certifications, including certification in Lee Silverman Voice Therapy BIG, certification in Parkinson Wellness Recovery, Saebo certification for stroke recovery, electrical stimulation training, and Bioness therapy training. She is also a Certified Brain Injury Specialist.

Lisa Yonker, DPT

Lisa Yonker, DPT A Neurorehabilitation Approach to Recovery After Stroke – Therapy Perspective (multiple presenters)
Lisa Yonker, DPT, attended UND, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 2007 and a doctorate degree in physical therapy in 2015. Lisa has primarily worked in the area of outpatient neurologic and geriatric physical therapy since the beginning of her career, serving adult populations. She has also worked in the acute and inpatient rehabilitation settings. Dr Yonker initially worked in outpatient private practice for four years after graduation, treating neurologic and geriatric populations. She joined Sanford Health's therapy team in Fargo, in 2019 and has continued serving outpatient neurologic and geriatric patients. Her skills set includes providing assessment and intervention for strengthening, balance, coordination, and gait to individuals suffering from neurological trauma or progressive neurological diseases. Dr Yonker has a physical therapy license in North Dakota and Minnesota. She has earned certifications in Lee Silverman Voice Therapy BIG and Parkinson's Wellness Recovery. Her areas of special interest include progressive diseases, brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

Ala Lysyk-Smith, DC

Ala Lysyk-Smith, DC PART OF POWER HOUR - Alternative Treatments
There are many alternative treatment options available to individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Ala Lysyk-Smith, DC, is a clinician with Clarity Brain Centers, a concussion-focused clinic in Fargo. She has a bachelor of science degree in biology and a doctor of chiropractic degree and is a licensed acupuncturist. Discuss some of these treatments and how to find them in your area.

Dawn Pearson

Dawn Pearson is the Medicaid 1915(i) Home and Community-based Behavioral Health Services administrator with the Medical Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. Medicaid 1915(i) is a collaborative effort between the medical services and behavioral health divisions and represents the biggest expansion of behavioral health services to North Dakotans in several decades. Medicaid 1915(i) expands services for qualifying individuals with substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or brain injuries in their homes and communities.

Amy Brossart-Robinson, MS, CCC-SLP

Amy Brossart-Robinson PART OF POWER HOUR - PARIS Groups
Amy Brossart-Robinson, MS, is a clinical assistant professor in UND's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, where she supervises literacy and conversation groups run by graduate students. These groups meet weekly under the title PARIS (Performance and Recovery in Stroke) and have had great success in recovery of stroke patients. Learn about these groups and some of the techniques used to aide in stroke recovery.

Courtney Ness Fuchs, ATP

Courtney Ness Fuchs, ATP PART OF POWER HOUR - North Dakota Assistive
Courtney Ness Fuchs is an assistive technology consultant for ND Assistive in Fargo. Assistive technology can benefit individuals with brain injuries in so many ways. Listen to Courtney talk about and show many of the devices beneficial to these individuals.

Emily Proctor, MOTR/L, CLT

Driving After a Brain Injury (co-presenter)
Emily Proctor, MOTR/L, attended UND, where she received a master of occupational therapy degree in 2016. She has been practicing as an occupational therapist for five years. She initially worked for Altru's regional therapy team for four years before moving to the outpatient department in Grand Forks, in 2019. Emily has experience in long-term care, swing bed, and outpatient rehabilitation settings, serving primarily the adult and adolescent populations. Emily's areas of focus include lymphedema, driving evaluations, generalized weakness, and neurological conditions.

Joy Tandberg, OTR/L, CLT, CHT

Driving After a Brain Injury (co-presenter)
Joy Tandberg graduated from UND in 1984 with a bachelor of science degree in occupational therapy. She has worked in a variety of settings, including psychiatry, pediatrics, nursing homes, adult rehab, work programs, and hand therapy in Idaho, South Dakota, and Colorado. She returned to North Dakota in June 2018, joining the team at Altru Outpatient Rehab, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Joy's focus at Altru is outpatient rehab, lymphedema, work programs, and driving evaluations. She is working toward her driving rehabilitation specialist credential.

Wendelin Hume, PhD

Wendelin Hume, PhD The Balance Between Best-Case and Worst-Case Recovery Scenarios: Suggestions from the Patient Side of the Scenario
Wendelin Hume, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at UND. She has been a hemiplegic stroke survivor for 19 years. She grew up on the First Nations - Anishinaabe Reserve near Sioux Narrows, Ontario, Canada, where she developed an interest in justice and equity firsthand. She completed her undergraduate degree at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, and her graduate degrees in criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Based on her experiences growing up on the reservation in northwestern Ontario and on her work in the criminal justice field, her academic interests include Tribal justice, restorative justice, and victim issues ranging from cybercrime to family violence. Her personal interests include recovery after a stroke, her family, ranching, and contributing time and energy to her undergraduate and graduate students.