Spinal cord injury and disorders
The mission of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center is to provide an excellent, life-long care experience for Veterans, empowering them to optimize functional recovery, well-being, and participation in life through compassionate, evidence-based practice.
The Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center is located on the first floor of buildings H and K in the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. It is a state-of-the-art facility designed to provide lifelong rehabilitation and comprehensive care for all eligible individuals with traumatic or non-traumatic spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease. The Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center contains a full array of resources including a 26-room inpatient unit with private bathrooms, bedside internet access, individual TVs, and environmental control units; a large outpatient clinic with six exam rooms; two therapy gyms; an extensive outdoor surface training courtyard; an assistive technology lab; and a private Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center parking area. Services may be provided within the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center, throughout the larger medical center, on the grounds of the medical center, or in the community.
Who we are
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Team
- Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Primary Care (PACT)
- Comprehensive Annual Evaluation Team
- Wound Care Specialty Team
- Wheelchair and Assistive Technology Teams
- Comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehabilitation (CIIRP) Program
- Home Care Program
- Four physicians board certified in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine
- Two nurse practitioners supporting both inpatient and outpatient spinal cord services
- Dedicated Spinal Cord Injury Internal Medicine physician and primary care nurse practitioner
- Physical, occupational, speech-language and recreation therapists all dedicated to SCI/D
- Additional disciplines with time allocated to Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders teams include nursing, pharmacy, social work, psychology, nutrition, vocational rehabilitation, and respiratory therapy
Rehabilitation services are provided to all eligible Veterans or Active-Duty Service Members who fall within the parameters listed.
Age: 18 through the end of life
Activity Limitations: Limitations may range from complete physical dependence on caregivers, to independence in basic self-care but requiring mild assistance from others for other activities, to independence with the use of adaptive devices or strategies.
Behavioral/Psychological Status: Veterans may present with a wide range of challenging behaviors and psychological conditions, including anxiety stemming from PTSD, agitation due to comorbid brain injury, or poor buy-in to rehabilitation therapies due to adjustment issues, etc. Some Veterans may be at risk for self-harm and treatment and care decisions will be made in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center psychiatry staff regarding the best environment and procedures for maintaining patient safety. The Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center provides care to all these Veterans through Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center staff (including psychology and social work) and through Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center mental health staff (including psychiatry).
Characteristics of the Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder: Services are provided to individuals experiencing an injury or disorder from any etiology related to spinal cord function (e.g., traumatic and non-traumatic injury, MS, motor neuron disease), any level of injury (including patients requiring ventilatory assistance), and any degree of completeness (AIS levels A through D). Veterans served in the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center may have a variety of comorbid conditions, including brain injury, emotional/psychiatric issues, and chronic health conditions.
Cultural Needs: Treatment plans and the care environment are tailored to address and support the unique aspects of each Veteran, including but not limited to age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, culture, and religion.
Impairments: Care is provided to Veterans who present with a broad range of changes in body structures or functions, both due to acute injury/new diagnosis and to change in function over time/with chronic disease and with disease progression.
Intended discharge-transition environments: The transition environment is determined by a combination of functional status, medical status, and psychosocial considerations (e.g., payer source for needed level of care, availability of family support). The preference and values of the Veteran are primary considerations, along with the mission of the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center to support functional independence and participation in valued life roles.
Medical acuity/stability: Veterans must be medically stable to tolerate non-ICU level of care. Procedures regarding the acceptance of patients requiring ventilatory assistance are outlined in the Admission Criteria. Patients with brain injury will be admitted once they are at a level above Rancho VI.
Participation restrictions: Care is provided to Veterans whose ability to participate in valued activities and roles ranges from limited participation with extensive assistance to full participation with little/no assistance
Spinal cord injuries and disorder team
Spinal cord injury and disorder providers
Scott Schubert, MD
Dr. Scott Schubert is a physician who specializes in spinal cord injury medicine. He is dual board certified in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He has completed a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at Craig Hospital, and a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic.
Schubert started at the Spinal Cord Injury Center in March 2019 and prior to that, was the director of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine for a private hospital system. Schubert has been interested in neurological injury and research since his first exposure to spinal cord injury medicine in high school, and has continued that through his educational and professional career. Schubert wanted to be a part of opening and building the state-of-the-art Spinal Cord Injury facility to serve the Veteran population, and is why he chose VA.
In addition to spinal cord injury and disorder medicine, Schubert offers complex spasticity management and chemo denervation. He also has a history of working in adaptive sports medicine offering musculoskeletal evaluation and injection therapies.
Michael Swanson, DNP, AGACNP-BC
Michael Swanson is a nurse practitioner with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders inpatient unit. He received his Doctorate of Nursing Practice and is also board certified as an Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Swanson has been with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit for more than two years. He started working in a nursing home at age 16 and enjoyed helping people, which led him to become a nurse practitioner.
Swanson chose VA because he served as a registered nurse in the Army for almost four years following his undergraduate studies and wanted to reconnect with the soldier/veteran population as a nurse practitioner. He is in involved in management of Veterans’ care that are currently hospitalized on the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center.
Samantha Izat, NP
Samantha Izat is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and received her Bachelors and Master’s degrees from West Virginia University. She started her career at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City working in Spinal Neurological Surgery before transitioning to rehabilitative spinal cord medicine when she joined the VA Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Center in 2018.
Izat chose the VA for the opportunity to work with Veterans in Eastern Colorado’s state of the art Spinal Cord Injury Center. She finds spinal cord medicine challenging, fascinating, and rewarding. Though patients carry a similar diagnosis, their presentation and treatment options can vary greatly from person to person. Izat enjoys working alongside a multidisciplinary team to provide the best and most well-rounded care possible. Her practice focuses primarily on outpatient care for patients with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
Stephanie Cowherd Ryder, MD
Stephanie Cowherd Ryder is a Spinal Cord Injury physician on the Inpatient Rehabilitation unit. She completed her medical degree education with the University of Missouri along with a medical internship at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Ryder has also completed a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency with the University of Colorado, and a Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship at Craig Hospital. Ryder is a board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. She has been with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder unit at the VA since 2019.
Ryder enjoys getting to know her patients and working with them to improve quality of life and function. Ryder chose the VA because she appreciates the interdisciplinary, holistic approach to care for those with spinal cord injuries and disorders that occurs within the VA system.
Jed E. Olson, MD
Dr. Jed Olson is a physician who specializes in general internal medicine. He received his Bachelors of Science in Biopsychology from UC Santa Barbara and his Medical degree from Stanford University. He then went on to complete his internship and residency in Internal Medicine with the University of Colorado. Olson has been with the VA for 10 years. He wanted to become a doctor and use his knowledge of science to help improve patient lives. Olson chose the VA because it offers both the most impressive, rewarding patient population, and the most dedicated healthcare workforce he’s ever seen.
Although he was trained in internal medicine, he is passionate about multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury care, and he tries to learn something new about each veteran at every single encounter. To him it’s not enough to treat illness; he wants to help his patients succeed in their life goals and have as many rewarding experiences as possible.
George Marzloff, MD
George Marzloff is a physician on the spinal cord injury and disorders unit. He received his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine. He has also completed a Fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at MetroHealth, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Clinic. His residency was completed with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. Marzloff has been with the VA for three years. He enjoys being on a rehabilitation team providing comprehensive treatment to help patients with life-changing injuries optimize function and quality of life.
Marzloff believes it is a pleasure to work with Veterans, and the infrastructure of the VA system allows greater ability to obtain necessary adaptive equipment to set Veterans up for success at home after rehabilitation in the hospital.
Marzloff is a physician on the inpatient rehabilitation unit and also works with outpatient spasticity management.
Erynn Troy, PT, DPT
Troy is a physical therapist with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit at the VA since 2012. Troy became a physical therapist because she loves helping people regain their independence. Troy completed her final rotation at the VA and loved the VA’s heavy focus on interdisciplinary care. She specializes in wheelchair clinic and custom seating.
Patrick Sheets, PT, DPT, LIP, SCCE
Patrick Sheets is a physical therapist and the section chief of Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center’s Rehabilitation Therapies. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Regis University.
Sheets joined the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center in 2018 as part of the leadership team to hire staff, order equipment, and establish initial processes for the center's opening in 2019.
Sheets wanted to become a physical therapist after he served as an Infantry Officer in the Army. He and his soldiers had their fair share of injuries and illnesses that required recovery. Physical therapy was a critical component that greatly helped them overcome both physical challenges and mental barriers, resulting in return to a mission-ready status in the Army or transition from the Army to civilian life with ongoing physical therapy to recover from life-changing injuries.
When he honorably discharged from the Army, he worked for a few years for a Fortune 100 corporation, but found very little personal satisfaction with the job. He pursued physical therapy, so that he could help others recover physical function or develop compensatory strategies to participate in activities that they enjoy. Sheets has a strong passion to continue to “take care of soldiers” and fellow Veterans. He is involved in all Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders rehabilitation therapy clinics and helps to resolve complex patient care situations.
Joelle Johnson, OTD, OTR/L, LIP
Joelle Johnson is the lead occupational therapist on the Spinal Cord Injury unit. Johnson received her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Creighton University, is a board-certified occupational therapist, and is also a licensed independent practitioner. Johnson has been an occupational therapist in inpatient and outpatient neuro based settings for 10 years. She has been with the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center for 2 1/2 years.
Johnson became an occupational therapist so she could work with people and help them achieve their highest potential and best quality of life. She believes it is one of the most holistic healthcare professions, and loves that it incorporates all aspects of the individual, including physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Johnson wanted to work in a well-respected institution where she could serve the men and women who provided an invaluable service to our country. She is also a certified aquatic therapist, works on functional modalities, splinting, and is one of the coaches for the Winter Sports Clinic – a national event for Veterans.
Andrew Flint, OT, MOT
Andrew Flint is an occupational therapist who specializes in Spinal Cord Injury and Dysfunctions. Flint earned his Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University. He has been an occupational therapist at the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center for two years and prior to that was an occupational therapist at Craig Hospital, working on the inpatient spinal cord injury unit for more than two years.
Flint originally became interested in occupational therapy after becoming involved in adapted sports programs including wheelchair basketball, track & field, and adapted water skiing. Through these experiences, he met other occupational therapists and got to know the participants he worked with who lived incredibly fulfilling and independent lives while navigating their world with a disability that required them to adapt to their environment. These experiences motivated him to pursue a profession that placed him in a position to continue supporting people as they pursue meaning and fulfillment in their lives while navigating life with a disability. Flint chose the VA because he knew that the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center would provide a working environment where he would be able to develop good relationships with patients and colleagues due to the small and intimate nature of the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders setting.
In addition to carrying a full caseload of veterans, he is involved in the group education program focused on Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders topics, a group exercise program, and process improvement initiative for inpatient scheduling.
Kaila Ott, MS
Kaila Ott is a clinical rehabilitation engineer who works on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering and Master’s in Rehabilitation Science & Technology. She has been with VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System since October 2018.
Ott started working with the Richmond VA while she was in undergrad working with Veterans with polytrauma and the Innovators Network. She loved the intersection of rehab and innovation and decided to pursue further education in wheelchairs and assistive technology. Ott loves working with Veterans and in a healthcare setting that provides amazing resources and technology to its patients.
Ott works with the Wheelchair and Assistive Technology programs and provides custom rehabilitation technology solutions.
Jennifer Heilveil, CTRS
Jennifer Heilveil is a recreation therapist that works with spinal cord injury patients through the inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. She received her Bachelors from Metropolitan State College in Leisure Studies and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She has been working at the VA for 1 1/2 years.
Heilveil’s passion for recreation therapy can be traced back to her childhood and her great-uncle who had contracted polio, which in those days required he be cared for at home. For as long as she can remember he was always an important part of their family and was always included in family activities even though his condition made it impossible for him to walk or talk. Regardless of any challenges, her family always made sure he knew he was heard and a part of all family activities and she knows he loved every one of these inclusive moments. This was a major factor in her life’s work and advocacy for individuals with disabilities being fully included as part of their communities. During her more than 25 years working for the City of Boulder and the City of Fort Collins, she created and led the start-up and growth of many types of all-inclusive group fitness programs which continue even today. During those years of building programs for the city, she was selected to go to the 2004 Greece Paralympic games with the track and field program which she considers one of the greatest experiences of her life regardless of her career. Simply said, those Olympic Games changed her life and opened her mind up to the possibilities of doing so much more regardless of challenges and barriers. Adaptive Sports should be normalized and not simply celebrated every four years.
Heilveil chose the VA to provide purpose and meaning to Veterans and their families after a Spinal Cord Injury. Her grandfather was in WWII for four years and it affected their family in many ways. She has always wanted to give back and allow Veterans to pursue their passions and interest. Heilveil feels it’s important to believe in and support Veteran’s and their families that they can live productive and active lives through adaptive recreation opportunities.
Since starting on the SCI/D team in 2020, Heilveil has implemented Art, Fitness, and many more one-to-one bedside activities for participants that may not be as able as others. Some of the outpatient recreation therapy programs/activities she has implemented are field trips to the Denver Zoo, scuba diving, bocce ball, bowling, CrossFit, Roll and Strolls at Wash Park, and many more in the future. She is excited to open the doors and explore recreation and leisure opportunities for Veterans and their families.
Darryl Etter, Psy.D
Darryl Etter is a clinical health psychologist on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit. He completed his education with the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium. He has been on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit for 2 1/2 years. Etter loves digging into big questions about life, and loves the idea that we can be agents in making change and making meaning in our lives. That we can make real change in our lives, our bodies, and our experiences just with our thoughts and behaviors is amazing to him, and Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders psychology puts him in contact with that remarkable process every day.
Etter believes the VA is an amazing place to work in health care. The integration throughout the system means that we can really engage with the complexity of what people are going through and connect Veterans to the services they need, without worrying about barriers to accessing that care or issues coordinating between different systems.
Etter provides individual psychology services, primarily to Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders inpatients; leads educational groups; and is the coordinator for the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Peer Counseling Program. He also supervises clinical psychology students, residents, and fellows who work with patients and lead groups.