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2024 Speaker Bios

Kristy Weissling

Kristy Weissling, SLPD, CCC-SLP

Post Stroke Aphasia: Communication Supports to Promote Optimal Outcomes

Kristy Weissling, SLPD, CCC-SLP, is a professor of practice, speech-language pathologist (SLP) program coordinator, and on-campus SLP clinic coordinator in the Barkley Speech Language and Hearing Clinic at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She began serving as the interim chair for the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders in January 2023. Kristy's primary interest is acquired neurogenic communication disorders. Her other interests include augmentative and alternative communication, adult developmental communication differences, and cognitive linguistic changes in aging.

Kristy received her doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and earned her master's and bachelor's degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to working at the Barkley Memorial Center, Kristy was a program instructor at Nova Southeastern University and has worked in a variety of adult settings, including acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes for the developmentally disabled, free standing pediatric and adult clinics, and outpatient rehabilitation centers.

Kristy is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Nebraska Speech-Language Hearing Association. She is currently the vice president of the Nebraska Stroke Association.

Larry Burd

Larry Burd, PhD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders – Brain Injury by Teratogen

Larry Burd, PhD, received his doctorate from the University of Manitoba Health Science Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in community health sciences. Larry currently is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine & Health Sciences and director of the North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Center and FAS Clinic. He has been with the pediatric therapy program for 40 years where he has evaluated over 18,000 children with birth defects, developmental disorders, and mental illness. Larry has conducted research in 41 countries around the world. He has ongoing longitudinal studies of linked cohorts of subjects with Tourette syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and infant mortality risk that are in their 28th consecutive year of data collection. He has received research funding from five different federal funding agencies. He has published over 220 professional papers on topics dealing with development and behavior in children.

Carly Endres

Carly Endres, MS, CBIST

Brain Injury and Homelessness, Lunch and Learn Project
Panel Discussion: Lunch and Learn

Carly Endres MS, CBIST, is a senior project coordinator for the North Dakota Brain Injury Network (NDBIN) at the Center for Rural Health in the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. In this position, Carly works on developing, implementing, and managing program initiatives for NDBIN, as well as developing, promoting, and implementing NDBIN educational activities. Carly previously worked with Grand Forks Public Schools as a special education strategist in the Intellectual Disabilities Program at Schroeder Middle School. Originally from Grand Forks, North Dakota, Carly earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and master's degree in special education at UND. In July 2019, she became a certified brain injury specialist. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational practice and leadership with a specialization in special education at UND.

Carissa Brownotter

Carissa Brownotter, MPH

Brain Injury and Homelessness, Lunch and Learn Project

Carissa Brownotter is a recent graduate of North Dakota State University's Master's in Public Health (MPH) program. Carissa is an employee of the Downtown Engagement Center and the homeless shelter Gladys Ray, both located in Fargo. Carissa has taken what she learned in her MPH program and is applying it to the work she does with the homeless in Fargo. Most recently she presented to staff at Gladys Ray on the correlation of brain injury and homelessness. She has also taken on the task of screening residents of Gladys Ray for brain injury.

Wendelin Hume

Wendelin Hume, PhD

A Culturally Informed Discussion of Traumatic Brain Injury Among Native Americans

Wendelin Hume, PhD, is an educator and researcher at UND where she has worked for 33 years, after completing her undergraduate degree at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, and her graduate education in criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

Based in part on her experiences growing up as a member of the Natogammewaning Nation, an Anishinaabe reservation in Northwestern Ontario, her personal experiences as a hemiplegic stroke survivor, and on her work in the criminal justice field her academic interests include tribal justice, restorative justice, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) issues. Her personal interests center around her family, her ranch, and contributing time and energy to her community and her undergraduate and graduate students.

Thomas Beckers

Thomas Beckers, BS, LADC, CBIS

Responding to Acquired Brain Injury in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Thomas Beckers, BS, LADC, CBIS, has been a clinician in the field of human services for 18 years. For the last 17 years, he has delivered substance use disorder treatment at Vinland National Center, a 61-bed residential facility in Loretto, Minnesota. For over 45 years, Vinland has provided substance use disorder treatment for adults with histories of acquired brain injury and other neurodivergent presentations.

Tom is regularly requested to provide trainings on topics related to the field of substance use disorders and brain injury, partnering with entities such as the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Alliance of Rural Addiction Treatment Programs, Hazelden Graduate School, Adler Graduate School, the St. Louis County Health & Human Services Conference, the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery & Chemical Health, and the Brain Injury Alliance of Minnesota.

Brier Jirka

Brier Jirka, LMHP, CST

Sexuality and Disability: What To Do When Life Changes!

Brier Jirka, LMHP, CST, is one of five certified sex therapists in Nebraska. She is trained in helping women and couples process their most intimate challenges. Sexuality is a huge part of a person's life and can have so much power over a person or relationship. She wants to help individuals find sexual happiness. She takes an unbiased, honest, collaborative, and open approach to treatment. She wants individuals to find the best sexual self they can be.

Brier has been training in women's sexual health for over 15 years and has specific training in low libido, arousal, orgasm, medical trauma, medical diagnosis, and pain. She offers different ways for individuals and couples to restructure their views on sexuality and help them connect back to their body. She works closely with local and national medical providers, sex educators and physical therapists to find the best treatments for her clients. She resides in Omaha with her husband, three kids, and dog, Snoop. She is also very active in the autism community.

Heidi Fiskness

Heidi Fiskness, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS

Executive Functioning Overview
Executive Functioning Hands on Interactive

Heidi Fiskness, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, obtained her bachelor of science degree in speech-language hearing science, her bachelor of arts degree in Spanish in 2007, and her master of science in speech-language pathology in 2009 from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Heidi has worked at private practice, rehab, acute, and outpatient levels for children through adult ages. She currently works in outpatient at Sanford Health. She provides evaluations of neurological diseases and appropriate intervention plans for her patients. She strives to prioritize health education for her patients and their families to support follow-through on recommendations and improve treatment success.

Heidi specializes in neurological rehabilitation, brain injury, swallowing, speech/language, aural rehabilitation, vocal cord dysfunction, and voice. Heidi holds certifications of brain injury specialist, VitalStim Therapy, LSVT Loud, and SPEAK OUT! She is a licensed SLP in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, as well as with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at the national level. She is an advocate for her patients and provides support to help patients reach personal goal.

Nan Kennelly

Nan Kennelly, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIST

Executive Functioning Overview
Executive Functioning Hands on Interactive

Nan Kennelly, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIST, earned her master of science degree from UND in 1994. She has dedicated her career to the treatment of cognitive-communication disorders related to brain injury, stroke, and other neurological conditions. Nan has gained extensive experience and specialized training in the subacute, acute, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient, and private practice settings. Currently, she is both owner and treating therapist at Onword Therapy.

Nan enjoys working with high-level cognitive and communication needs in individuals with mild TBI, post-concussive symptoms, stroke, ADHD, and executive functioning challenges. She considers it an honor and privilege to help her patients get back to work/school/home and reach goals of higher function, independence, and efficiency. Nan is a regional leader both in brain injury and in her profession. She advocates for North Dakota residents and families living with brain injury.

Megan Dooley


Executive Functioning Overview
Executive Functioning Hands on Interactive

Megan Dooley, OTD, OTR/L, LSVT, CLIPP, CBIS, is an occupational therapist and the owner of Innovative Therapy Solutions & Consulting LLC, a mobile outpatient clinic that serves people across the lifespan. She is a Certified Living in Place Professional and Brain Injury Specialist and certified in LSVT Big, hippotherapy, and Skills2Care. Her expertise includes working with caregivers of individuals with dementia, individuals with neurological conditions, home modifications, and leading community groups related to health and wellness for people with chronic illnesses.

Megan truly believes that through collaboration and hard work, we can help individuals age-in-place while maintaining their highest quality of life.

Amy Zellmer

Amy Zellmer

Your Story is Your Superpower

Amy Zellmer is an award-winning author, speaker, and TBI survivor. Additionally, she is the publisher of Midwest YOGA + Life magazine and The Brain Health Magazine. In 2014, she suffered a life altering TBI that led her down a path of advocacy and self-discovery. She has published five books on TBI/concussion, and hosts a podcast dedicated to helping survivors navigate the murky waters of brain injury. In her free time, she binge-watches shows on Netflix, and loves to explore national parks.

Ryan Capouch

Ryan Capouch, OD, FCOVD

Introduction to Visual System Changes Post-Acquired Brain Injury
Treatment of the Visual System Post-Acquired Brain Injury

A native of Portland, North Dakota, Ryan Capouch, OD, FCOVD, graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry and theology. He completed his doctorate at the Arizona College of Optometry and worked in several clinics focused in family practice and pediatric optometry. While completing his training, Ryan found his passion for developmental optometry, a branch of eye care that treats school-aged children, athletes, and brain injury patients. His desire to help patients meet their potential, alongside the increasing demand for his unique approach to vision therapy, led to the creation of Lumen Vision. After completing four postgraduate years of training and assessment, Ryan received his fellowship in developmental optometry from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, the international certifying body for vision therapy and pediatric optometry.

Jan Nelson

Jan Nelson, OTR, MA

Befriending Your Nervous System for Resiliency

Jan Nelson, OTR, MA, is the executive director and founder of HeartSprings Community Healing Center in Fargo. She has worked as an occupational therapist for over 40 years in conventional and unconventional settings from hospitals and school systems to churches.

She started HeartSprings 15 years ago as a way to introduce complementary therapies to traumatic and neurological populations such as those living with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and brain injuries. She continues to work 1:1 with clients with various health challenges and hold retreats for those living with Parkinson's. Her most current interest is in working with those who are experiencing homelessness and those who serve them.

Sarah Ring

Sarah Ring, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIST

Understanding Right Hemisphere Damage – The "Other" Hemisphere

Sarah Ring, CCC-SLP, CBIST, is a senior therapist in the speech-language pathology department at Sanford Health Fargo where she has provided cognitive, communication, and dysphagia services for nearly 27 years. Sarah specializes in acquired brain injury rehabilitation and concussion management across the lifespan. Her clinical practice has spanned acute care, inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient settings including coordinated care clinics.

Sarah earned the designation of Certified Brain Injury Specialist Trainer from the Brain Injury Association of America in 2019, and was nominated Certified Brain Injury Specialist of the Year by the North Dakota Brain Injury Network in 2021. Sarah is the current chair of the North Dakota Brain Injury Advisory Council and serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Sarah feels that it is a true privilege to work with patients and families on their brain injury journey.