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 VA uses a regional hub-and-spoke system to provide comprehensive care for Veterans with a spinal cord injury or disorder. The RMRVAMC is proud to be the 25th hub site for SCI/D care nationwide, dedicated to serving Veterans in the Western United States. Spoke sites affiliated with the RMRVAMC hub include Salt Lake City, Utah; Grand Junction, Colorado; Sheridan, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Black Hills (Fort Meade/Hot Springs), South Dakota.
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 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 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.
Please note, appointments to SCI/D PACT and SCI/D specialty clinics should be made by calling 720-723-3300 rather than the blue button above.
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
- Seven physicians fellowship-trained in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine
- 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 disorders team
Spinal cord injury and disorders physicians
David Coons, MD
Dr. David Coons is the Director for the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders (SCI/D) hub site situated in Aurora Colorado. He completed his medical degree education at the Medical College of Wisconsin along with along with a medical internship at the Medical College of Wisconsin Hospital Affiliates. He then completed a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency at the University of Colorado, and a Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship at Craig Hospital. Dr. Coons is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. He worked at the VA as a general rehabilitation physician from 2013-2017 before returning to the VA in 2018 to open the SCI Center – the 25th SCI Center in the VHA system of care.
Dr. Coons has always enjoyed working with Veterans and the amazing resilience they have. He believes the VA truly provides the greatest care and that the SCI center demonstrates that with its comprehensive care approach. His current practice includes administrative leadership as well as clinical work supporting the SCI/D home care program.
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. Dr. 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. He 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. Dr. 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, Dr. 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.
Kelsey Darlington, MD
Dr. Kelsey Darlington is a physiatrist who specializes in spinal cord injury medicine. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After medical school, she moved to Visalia, California for her medicine internship at Kaweah Delta Healthcare District. She returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan for residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Darlington completed her medical training with a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado.
Dr. Darlington has been a part of the Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder (SCI/D) team since July 2022. She provides care for patients on the spinal cord injury/disorders unit and in the spinal cord injury/disorders clinic at the VA. She is passionate about educating patients and their families about spinal cord injuries and believes in empowering veterans to be active participants in all aspects of their medical care and medical decision-making processes. She enjoys providing comprehensive care alongside the SCI/D interdisciplinary team with the aim of helping veterans reach their personal, medical, and functional goals while improving their overall quality of life.
Daniela Iliescu, MD
Dr. Daniela Iliescu is a physician who specializes in Spinal Cord Injury. She completed her fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado and she attended The Ohio State University for residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She holds a medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine.
Dr. Iliescu is dedicated to providing comprehensive care to the veteran population with spinal cord injuries and other related disorders in the outpatient setting. She is passionate about helping her patients live active, healthy and fulfilling lives by managing their neurorehabilitation needs, and by offering treatments for spasticity and musculoskeletal complaints.
Bennett Lee, MD
Dr. Ben Lee is an internal medicine physician specializing in spinal cord injuries and disorders. He graduated from Dartmouth School of Medicine and completed a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. After two decades as an internal medicine hospitalist in Anchorage, Alaska, Dr. Lee completed a spinal cord injury fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle. A significant part of his fellowship training was spent at the VA Puget Sound in Seattle. During his time at the VA Puget Sound, he developed a passion for caring for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders. Dr. Lee is honored to continue serving veterans at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit.
George Marzloff, MD
Dr. George Marzloff is a physician on the spinal cord injury and disorders unit. He received his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine then completed residency at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. He completed a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at MetroHealth, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Clinic. He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. Dr. Marzloff has worked in the VA since 2019 and enjoys being a part of a rehabilitation team providing comprehensive treatment to help patients with life-changing injuries optimize function and quality of life.
Dr. Marzloff finds working with Veterans very rewarding. 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. Dr. Marzloff is a physician on the inpatient rehabilitation unit and also works with outpatient spasticity management.
Stephanie Cowherd Ryder, MD
Dr. 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. Dr. 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. Dr. Ryder is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and Brain Injury Medicine. She has been with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder unit at the VA since 2019.
Dr. Ryder enjoys getting to know her patients and working with them to improve quality of life and function. She 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.
SCI/D PACT Team
Jed E. Olson, MD
Dr. Jed Olson is a physician who specializes in general internal medicine. He received his Bachelor’s 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. Dr. 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. Dr. 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, Dr. Olson 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 is not enough to treat illness; he wants to help his patients succeed in their life goals and have as many rewarding experiences as possible.
Joanna Zakrocki, FNP
Joanna Zakrocki is a Nurse Practitioner who specializes in Family Practice and Primary Care. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University and her Nurse Practitioner training and doctorate degree at University of Colorado. Joanna joined the group in July 2023 and is honored to have the opportunity to serve veterans at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit. She has always been very impressed with the resilience and perseverance of the Veteran population. Aside from working with her patients, Joanna’s favorite part of this role is having the opportunity to provide specialized primary care and to be in a setting where specialists and primary care providers work side by side and communicate regularly to provide high quality patient care. Joanna is passionate about women’s healthcare, healthy eating and fitness, weight loss and preventative care that can reduce risk for long term health problems.
Bryan Borg, MD
Dr. Bryan Borg is a specialist in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine who has been an attending physician at the VA since 2020. He is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, and he holds board certifications in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, and Critical Care Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Arizona and completed Internship and Residency at the University of Colorado prior to completed Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship at the University of Arizona. His main clinical interest is evaluation of the breathing complications of neuromuscular diseases such as ALS, and management of non-invasive ventilation when needed to relieve shortness of breath from these conditions. He also provides continuity care for veterans with a wide spectrum of pulmonary diseases in the clinic setting, and care of critically ill patients in the ICU.
Matthew Griffith, MD
Amanda Kennedy, MD
Maryam Tahmasbi-Sohi, MD
Dr. Sohi received her medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2008. She completed her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado and completed her fellowship training in Neuromuscular Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine with the Department of Neurology in 2013. She is the director of AANEM certified electrodiagnostic laboratories and the medical director of ALS interdisciplinary Clinic at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Her primary interests include diagnosis and management of neuromuscular disorders including ALS, electrodiagnostic studies (EMG), and spasticity management.
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 centers opening in 2019.
Victoria Borbas, DPT
Victoria Borbas is a physical therapist on the inpatient rehabilitation unit. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2018. She began her PT career at the VA in 2019 and has been working at the RMR VA SCI/D Center since 2020. She has a deep appreciation for movement, the potential of the human body and spirit, and enjoys helping veterans achieve their goals. Borbas finds neurologic physical therapy to be highly rewarding and enjoys the collaborative approach that the SCI/D rehabilitation team provides to veterans. Borbas is certified in Dry Needling and is working toward achieving her Neurologic Clinical Specialist designation.
Amelia Calder, SLP
Amelia Calder is a Speech-Language Pathologist in the Spinal Cord Injury Disorders unit. She works with the inpatient SCI team, the ALS team, and the Assistive Technology team. She has been with the VA since 2018. Calder enjoys providing care to veterans in an interdisciplinary model, working closely with other team members to support functional goals related to cognition, communication, and swallowing. She focuses on providing veteran-centered care with an emphasis on supporting veteran’s personal goals and quality of life.
Calder enjoys providing care to veterans in an interdisciplinary model, working closely with other team members to support functional goals related to cognition, communication, and swallowing. She focuses on providing veteran-centered care with an emphasis on supporting veteran’s personal goals and quality of life.
Jennifer Dunne, OTR/L
Jennifer Dunne is an occupational therapy with the VA SCI/D unit since late 2022. Jennifer started her OT career in 2010 helping people recover from neurological injuries at a rehabilitation hospital in the greater Philadelphia area. She moved to Colorado in 2015 and continued to grow her clinical skills at a local inpatient rehab unit of a level one trauma hospital. Jennifer values her role in helping others achieve their greatest occupational potential using creativity, science, and compassion to meet veterans’ goals. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program to better meet the health and wellness needs of those in her care.
Jonas Ely, CTRS
Jonas Ely is a recreational therapist that works with spinal cord injury patients through the inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Jonas received his Bachelors from California State University, Chico in Therapeutic Recreation and is currently working on his Masters of Recreation Administration through Indiana University. Jonas has been working as a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist for the last 7 years.
Jonas’ passion for recreational therapy can be traced back to his childhood. Growing up in Alaska Jonas spent most of his free time outside snowboarding, fishing, or playing hockey. In high school, Jonas volunteered for the Special Olympics Partners Club teaching his peers with developmental disabilities how to ski and snowboard. It was this experience where Jonas realized how therapeutic recreation activities can for everyone.
After college Jonas moved to Colorado to work for the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park as an adaptive ski/snowboard instructor. During his time at the NSCD Jonas was able to work with various veteran groups teaching veterans how to snowboard, mono ski, and bi ski. After one winter and summer season Jonas knew he wanted to continue to work with veterans and accepted a full time job as a rec therapist at the Colorado State Veterans Community Living Center in Aurora. Jonas worked at the community living center for 6 years, running their adaptive sports outings (fishing, shooting, archery) and leading in house groups such as leatherworking, woodworking, gardening, etc.
During Jonas’ spare time he enjoys snowboarding, fly fishing, gardening, waterfowl hunting, and playing fetch with his dog.
Clayton Karr MSOT, OTR/L, NHA
Clay Karr is the Lead Occupational Therapist for the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders center. Clay received his Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in Saint Louis. He has over 20 years’ experience as an OT in acute inpatient rehab , out-patient, long-term care, and home health settings. His passion has always been helping individuals with neurologic disorders increase their quality of life and functional independence.
Clay’s interest in OT was sparked while volunteering at a rehabilitation unit while in college. Watching an individual regain independence they thought they had lost is what keeps his passion for this profession alive. Clay joined the SCI/D team at the Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC in 2022 and is honored to now serve our Veterans. Some of his past experiences include leading a team to Bogota, Colombia to provide care to individuals with SCI, being an adjunct professor of OT at Washington University in St. Louis, and being published in The Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy.
Heidi Kiely, PT, DPT, LIP
Heidi Kiely is a Physical Therapist on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit. She obtained her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Miami in 2019. In Miami, she fell in love with treating people with spinal cord injuries after volunteering at activities including adaptive beach day and sailing. She began her career as a physical therapist on the spinal cord injury team at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC. Driven by her passion for SCI, Heidi then chose to pursue a Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency at the Shepherd Center; a model SCI center in Atlanta, GA. She grew tremendously as a clinician through residency and is excited to serve as a mentor for the VA’s Neuro Residency program. Heidi will be sitting to become a Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist.
Heidi additionally holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in Aquatic Therapy and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, supporting her passions for aquatics, adaptive sports, and fitness. She is also certified in Trigger Point Dry Needling and is an APTA Level 1 Credentialed Clinical Instructor. Before moving to Colorado, Heidi often visited her brother who lives here. She absolutely loves to ski, hike and enjoy all things outdoors that the state has to offer. Heidi is thrilled to get to live here and work at the VA. She could not imagine a more deserving population, and is honored to serve the veterans who served our country.
Liam Kiernan PT, DPT, NCS
Liam Kiernan is a physical therapist in the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Kiernan received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. Additionally, he received his specialty training at the Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC as their inaugural Neurological Physical Therapy Residency graduate and subsequently attained his Neurological Clinical Specialty Board Certification. Kiernan has currently been at the RMR VAMC for about a year, while previously working at Craig Hospital, Saint Anthony’s Hospital, and University of Colorado Hospital.
Growing up in and around the outdoor community of Aspen Colorado, where many friends, family, and acquaintances acquired spinal cord injuries and brain injuries, Kiernan found a passion for physical therapy following a close friend’s spinal cord injury and successive rehabilitation journey that began at Craig Hospital. Kiernan finds immense value working with veterans due to family involvement in the military as well as the civic duty to support those who gave so much to ensure our freedom and safety.
Jessica Munson, SLP
Jessie Munson is a Speech-Language Pathologist providing inpatient and outpatient services to Veterans in the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center. She earned her Master's degree at the University of Northern Colorado and completed her clinical fellowship at the San Francisco VA Medical Center
Munson is passionate about supporting veterans with cognitive-communication difficulties. She works closely with veterans with Multiple Sclerosis and traumatic brain injury (mild to severe) to help identify significant or subtle cognitive challenges that impact functional success is daily life. Munson has been part of the SCI team since 2022 and she also serves on the Brain Injury and Polytrauma Teams.
Kaila Ott, MS, ATP, RET
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.
Kelly Szamborski, PT, DPT, NCS
Kelly Szamborski is a Physical Therapist who has been with the VA since 2008. Szamborski received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Doctorate in Physical therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. She is also a board certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist and is certified in aquatic therapy. She became a physical therapist because she is passionate about helping people regain their function and independence and stay active in as many was as possible. Szamborski has volunteered with a national adaptive triathlon program, an adaptive running group for people with amputations, and has also assisted as a coach for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
Szamborski started at the Edward Hines Jr. VA in the Chicago area working in Physical medicine and rehabilitation primarily treating patients with stroke, brain injury, Parkinson disease, people with amputations, MS flare ups, and acute spinal cord injuries post-surgery, moving to join the SCI/D team at the Denver VA in 2019. Her first experience with the VA was as a student PT at the Ann Arbor VA and she loved the ability to provide care and equipment needed to those that have served our country to enable them to live their lives to the fullest.
Erynn Troy, PT, DPT
Erynn Troy is a physical therapist on the Spinal Cord Injury unit. Erynn received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2012 from the Medical University of South Carolina. Erynn’s first experience with the VA began during her final clinical rotation at the Augusta, GA SCI center. She loved helping people regain their independence and appreciated the VAs heavy focus on interdisciplinary care. She subsequently began her VA career at the Augusta, GA SCI center, working there for 7 years, prior to transferring to the Rocky Mountain SCI center in 2019 to participate in it’s opening.
Erynn now specializes in wheelchair seating, operates an outpatient wheelchair clinic and runs a monthly custom seating clinic.
Jessica Valadez, OTR/L
Jessica Valadez is an occupational therapist who specializes in Spinal Cord Injury and Dysfunctions. She earned her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman’s University, is a board-certified occupational therapist, and is also a licensed independent practitioner. She has had the privilege of working with patients in neuro rehab since 2014, beginning at Baylor Scott and White Institute for Rehabilitation, then at the Dallas VA Medical Center, before making her way to Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in 2022.
Valadez originally became interested in occupational therapy when her cousin was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Throughout her journey in pursuing a career as an OT, she became acquainted with patients with spinal cord injuries, and has not looked back since. Her love for how each patient’s needs are unique and individualized, has motivated her to work with this population, to support them in achieving their goals to their fullest potential.
Valadez primarily works on the inpatient unit. Her skills include providing neuro reeducation, splinting, casting, use of functional electrical stimulation, but most importantly, providing ongoing education to ensure our Veterans are self-empowered, and thus, able to navigate any challenge that may be presented outside the walls of this well-respected facility.
Darryl Etter, Psy.D
Darryl Etter is a clinical health psychologist on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit. He completed his graduate education with the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium and his postdoctoral fellowship at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute. He has been with the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit since 2019.
Dr. Etter loves digging into big questions about life and helping people find fulfillment and meaning in their lives. Dr. Etter has worked in multiple VA systems and appreciates that the integration of care throughout the VA lets providers 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.
Dr. 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.
Michael Petrelli, Psy.D
Michael Petrelli, Psy.D serves as an Outpatient Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders (SCI/D) Clinical Psychologist. He joined the SCI/D team in 2019 following 5 years of clinical training within the Denver VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System as a practicum student, pre-doctoral psychology intern, and post-doctoral psychology resident. This training focused on delivering evidenced based treatments to Veterans in a variety of clinical settings, with an emphasis on Rehabilitation Psychology. He earned his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver, Graduate School of Professional Psychology.
Dr. Petrelli chose to pursue Clinical Psychology at the VA because of the hospital and staff’s shared mission of serving the Veteran community. Dr. Petrelli is an active member of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Clinic team, providing supportive care to Veterans and families. Additionally, he provides direct individual and couples clinical services to Veterans and families impacted by the life altering events of SCI/D. He leads a “Living Well With Disabilities Group,” which strives to foster a sense of community among the SCI/D Clinic Veterans, and provides an opportunity for Veterans to offer and receive support from one another.
Dr. Petrelli’s approach to treatment is collaborative in nature, working with Veterans to understand their unique history, and identify their specific values and goals for treatment. He works to promote behaviors consistent with those values and goals using a biomedical, social, and cultural understanding of human behavior, and applying principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a well validated and evidenced based approach to psychotherapy. When determining treatment plans, Dr. Petrelli will also integrate other evidenced based approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to best meet the needs of the Veteran or family.
Sharon Radomski, PhD
Dr. Radomski is a Clinical Psychologist who received her PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She engaged in training as a practicum student at the Syracuse and Buffalo VA Medical Centers, completed her predoctoral internship at VA Boston, and received post-doctoral training at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. During her training, she specialized in understanding the impact of trauma, and how one comes to make sense of such experiences. This includes the assessment and treatment of PTSD. She feels passionately about helping individuals reclaim important aspects of their lives and engage in what’s most meaningful to them.
Her current work spans across the inpatient and outpatient components of the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit, often providing a bridge for those transitioning from inpatient rehab to receiving care on an outpatient basis. As a part of your care team, she strives to promote collaboration in helping Veterans to identify and reach their goals, recognizing that every Veteran is unique and life experiences shape how they experience the world.
Sarah Clay, PharmD
Sarah Clay is a clinical pharmacy specialist on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit. She attended Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to obtain her Doctorate of Pharmacy in 2008. Upon graduation, Sarah was hired as an inpatient staff pharmacist at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center. In 2013 she completed her post graduate residency and continued to work in internal medicine, inpatient pharmacy, and spinal cord injury pharmacy. Sarah has worked as a spinal cord injury pharmacy specialist since 2020, first in St. Louis, and then joined the Rocky Mountain Regional VA SCI/D Program in 2022. She is passionate about spinal cord injury pharmacy for personal reasons, as she experienced a spinal cord injury as a teenager – and she strives to improve quality of life for veterans with SCI/D by optimizing their medication regimens. Sarah knows first hand how much medications can affect her life, and she desires to use this first hand knowledge in combination with her formal education in pharmacy to continue to educate others, listen carefully to veteran goals, and advocate for a medication plan that works to meet the Veteran’s goals.
The VA has allowed Sarah to discover, develop and practice in this area of pharmacy. She enjoys working with the many different health care providers that work together make a veteran’s stay on our unit successful. She takes real pride in seeing a Veteran’s progress from beginning to end and working with a Veteran to ensure safe medication management is carried over to the next phase of recovery.
Weronika Dorman, LCSW
Weronika Dorman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2014. Her past community experience includes Adult Protective Services, case management and guardianship work. Weronika has been with VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System since April 2020 when she started as a PACT Social Worker with the Aurora CBOC. She was excited when the opportunity arose to join the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center in September 2021. While with SCI/D, she has worked with admissions and the inpatient team.
Carrie A. Henry, LCSW
Carrie A. Henry is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). She graduated from the University of South Florida in 2011 with a Masters in Social Work. She has worked with patients with spinal cord injuries and disorders for the majority of her career in a variety of settings including acute inpatient units, acute rehab, and now outpatient. She has been within the VA system since 2015 and sees it as a privilege to work with our nation’s heroes. She joined the ECHCS SCI/D Team in Summer of 2022.
Barbara (Barb) Wisott, LCSW, BCD
Barb Wisott is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the spinal cord injury and disorders (SCI/D) outpatient clinic. She received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Barb has been with the VA for almost 20 years; initially working in mental health and then transitioning to the SCI/D Center in August 2019. Barb is part of the SCI/D PACT team and the ALS team. Barb is passionate about advocating for veterans and their families and is honored to be able to serve those who have valiantly served our nation.
Daniel Hamill, RT
Dan Hamill is a Registered Respiratory Therapist on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at RMR VAMC. Dan obtained his degree in Respiratory Therapy from Concorde College in 2011. His past experience includes Inpatient Care and diagnostic testing and procedures in the Denver community. Dan began working with the VA in 2018 as a member of the outpatient Pulmonary department. When the opportunity arose, he joined the SCI team in November 2022 and provides respiratory support through clinic and home visits.
Referrals from outside hospitals or other healthcare facilities
Please send a request using the form below via fax 720-723-3305) or email (VHAECHSCIAdmissions@va.gov). The inpatient social work team will contact the referring discharge planners to request a packet of information. The information will be reviewed by a physician to determine eligibility for admission. Availability for admission and timing of transfer will be discussed by the admission team.
Consultation within the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center
The SCI/D clinical team is available during SCI/D Center hours Monday through Friday (except Federal holidays) to review consults, assess Veterans, provide recommendations, and determine eligibility for SCI/D inpatient admission.
Admission Inclusion Criteria
- Acute traumatic SCI due to etiologies such as motor vehicle accidents, falls and acts of violence
- A non-traumatic SCI etiology such as vascular injuries, tumors, stenosis or infections
- multiple sclerosis (MS) with primary spinal cord involvement
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Admission Exclusion Criteria
- Tetraplegia/paresis or paraplegia/paresis due to intracranial hemorrhage (e.g., secondary to stroke or traumatic brain injury) or peripheral nerve disorders (e.g., Guillain-Barre)
- Conversion disorder/functional neurologic disorder manifested as tetraplegia/paresis or paraplegia/paresis
- Rancho Level below six (6)
- Unstable progressive disorders (e.g., during an acute multiple sclerosis [MS] flare)
- Mechanical ventilatory management (some exceptions may be allowed pending chronicity or stability of ventilatory use or if using for sleep disorders)
- Mental status or behavioral diagnosis that may require locked unit
- The Veteran’s medical needs represent a level of acuity that requires management by a medical team outside the SCI/D Center (e.g., intensive care, Medicine Service, Surgery Service)
Comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehabilitation Program (CIIRP) (Acute Rehabilitation)
- Admission and eligibility to CIIRP is based upon the reasonable expectation that rehabilitation will result in increased function, reduced impairment, or improved quality of life.
- The Veteran must have a change in status affecting their mobility, self-care, or safety and able to participate in at least three (3) hours of care daily (minimum five  days per week).
- The Veteran and/or caregiver must be able to follow directions, have the capacity to learn, and be medically stable enough to participate actively in the program.
- Behavior problems will preclude admission if it is determined that the nature and intensity of the behavioral dysfunction prevents participation in rehabilitation.
- Pre-consultation with the pulmonary and respiratory teams will be pursued if the patient requires ongoing ventilator support at time of transfer. The patient must meet eligibility criteria identified in the SCI/D Scope of Services and the VHA Directive 1176(2).
Sustaining care is the treatment for the spectrum of conditions that arise after acute medical stabilization and initial rehabilitation. Admission of individuals with non-acute clinical needs will be admitted to the SCI/D Center consistent with policies addressing hospital admission processes in VHA Directive 1176(2) and local medical center admission policies.
Examples of sustaining care admissions include:
- subacute rehabilitation needs
- complex wound management
- medical or surgical conditions which result in change of functional status
- peri-procedural care (e.g. colonoscopy)
- limited sleep studies
- routine annual examinations for Veterans with complex care needs
Veterans admitting to the inpatient unit will be expected to comply with all inpatient SCI/D Center requirements and SCI/D standard operating procedures.
Respite care admission is offered to relieve SCI/D Veterans' caregivers' responsibilities. Comprehensive care is provided to the SCI/D Veteran with intent to maintain home routines. The duration of any respite care admission, absent of complicating medical factors, will not exceed 14 consecutive days or a total of 30 days in a fiscal year.
Hospice care will only be offered with extensive support from the Palliative Medicine team in extenuating circumstances pending no availability of hospice services within the Veteran’s home or no available facilities able to provide care to the Veteran. The Veteran’s custodial needs will determine if appropriate for the SCI/D Service.
Discharge from the Inpatient Unit
Veterans may be discharged when one or more of the following conditions exists:
- The Veteran has met the functional or medical goals established for the admission or duration of admission has been met (respite).
- The Veteran’s function has plateaued or the Veteran is not demonstrating gains towards projected functional goals.
- Veterans may be involuntarily discharged from the CIIRP designated beds when it becomes clear that the Veteran is unable or unwilling to benefit from acute rehabilitation services.
- The Veteran chooses and has the decisional capacity for elective discharge.
Inpatient Admissions Official Documents
Preparing for Inpatient Rehab
The Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders (SCI/D) 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 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The SCI/D 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 SCI/D Center parking area.
The North parking garage is closest to the SCI/D Inpatient unit, which is located on the first floor of Building H. Please note that the section of this garage marked “Reserved Parking – SCI/D Center” is only available to vehicles that have been issued a parking sticker by the SCI/D Center. The sticker will be provided to eligible patients once they have been admitted to the unit. All others will be ticketed and towed. Vehicles should only be parked in the SCI/D section if dropping off or picking up a qualifying Veteran. Additionally, the SCI/D area of the garage is gated off between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am. Cars left in the SCI/D area of the garage after 6:00 pm will not be able to leave until the following day. The rest of the garage is open 24 hours. Volunteer services provides transportation in courtesy golf carts from all levels of both parking garages to the hospital entrances and vice versa. They are available between 7:30 am and 5:00 pm and may be reached at 720-723-6327.
Fisher House Foundation
Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where military & Veteran families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital. This lodging option is provided as space available. Your family will be responsible for their own travel. If you feel your family will utilize Fisher House at your admission, please communicate this to the RMR SCI/D Admission Coordinator or SCI/D Social Worker. https://rockymountainfisherhouse.org/
We understand that service animals can be an important part of the rehabilitation process. However, they are not permitted on the unit overnight and are only able to accompany a Veteran during an inpatient stay under special circumstances. Service animals are allowed in therapy sessions when learning new skills for home care. VA staff members are not allowed to assume any care for or supervise a service animal.
Please note that a service animal is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as:
a dog individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability (including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability), such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure or performing other special tasks.
Dogs that provide emotional support but do not otherwise meet the definition above, and any animal other than a dog, are not permitted on the RMRVAMC campus.
What to bring
- Glasses and/or contact lenses
- Clothing that is comfortable:
- Loose-fitting sweatpants, shorts or workout/yoga pants
- Pullover t-shirts or sweatshirts
- Athletic-style shoes (For people with new injuries, we recommend shoes that are two sizes larger than what was worn prior to injury)
- Shoes (For people with new injuries, we recommend shoes that are two sizes larger than what was worn prior to injury)
- Hearing aids
- Personal grooming items
- Personal catheters (if using before admission, bring a one-week supply)
- Bowel program or Ostomy supplies
- Other specialty supplies if they are not provided by VA
- Your primary wheelchair and cushion, along with charger for power chairs
- CPAP / BIPAP machine or other respiratory devices
- Personal cell phone and charger
- If you have a new level of functioning or new condition, digital photos of your home can be very helpful
What not to bring
- Personal medications
- includes prescription, over-the-counter, homeopathic remedies, supplements, CBD oils, etc.
- All prescribed medications available in our formulary will be provided by the VA while you are here.
- weapons or firearms
- expensive electronic devices
- valuable jewelry
- E-cigarettes vape pens, tobacco products, etc
- Illicit drugs, cannabis (marijuana) or any cannabis product. Note that possession of canabis in any form on federal property is a felony offense
Annual examinations (AEs) of SCI/D Veterans are completed as a health screening and maintenance tool and are typically arranged as outpatient visits unless the Veteran’s status requires inpatient admission. Distance from the SCI/D Center, multiple procedures or complexity of care are all situations considered when deciding if admission for an AE is required.
The following handouts are from our series of inpatient classes for patients.
- Winter Sports Clinic
- Steamboat Resort - ski camp for Veterans
- Eldora - Skiing on Wednesdays
- Winter Park - adaptive skiing
- Air Rifle - Red Shield Salvation Army 2915 N High St, Denver, CO 80205
For beginners to seasoned shooters, you will be taught the finer points of target shooting. Air Rifles will be provided, but feel free to bring your own gear if you have it. Lessons taught in conjunction with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD).
- Sailing at Cherry Creek
- Discover Scuba (A-1 Scuba, Coral Key Scuba, TVAP)
- Colorado Rockies Games
- Sled Hockey (Ice Ranch, 841 South Park Dr Littleton, CO)
- Tennis - World Class Coaches Clinic at Boulder Millennium Harvest House (Pro shop 303-449-5033)
- PVA Walk and Roll - Colorado Springs Memorial Park
- Indoor golf (Kat Crocker and Jessie Durham)
- Washington Park or Colorado Mills Mall to do a cardio workout and/or resistance training on Wednesdays
- River Deep Alliance has monthly opportunities for art, blacksmithing, and fishing
- Wheelchair Games will take place in Portland, Oregon in July 2023.
- National Creative Arts Festival will be here in 2024
- Hiking Boulder - Join us at the Ute/Sensory Trail at the Flagstaff Summit hike with Topher Downham, Boulder Open Space
- Adaptive Mountain Biking in Boulder Open Space Park
- Adaptive Crossfit: Tuesdays and Thursdays @ CrossFit Watchtower 10:30-11:30am (contact Katherine Crocker)
- Adaptive Crossfit: 3rd Tuesdays @ CrossFit Ridgeback 10:30-11:45am (contact Katherine Crocker) 1800 W Oxford Ave, Unit L, Englewood, CO 80110
- Bowling at Crown Lanes (Free for Veterans Monday-Friday open-5pm. Register in advance)
- Adaptive Yoga every Tuesday 1:00-2:00pm. Bill Daniels VOA, 1247 Sante Fe Dr, Denver, CO. Come Join us in practicing yoga for all abilities. Yoga is a practice that brings together mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. (Contact Jessie above to RSVP)
Volunteer as a Co-Pilot with SCI/D!
SCI/D Co-Pilots support other Veterans by listening, sharing about their own experiences, and modeling a meaningful life with SCI/D. If you’re interested in learning more about the program and becoming a Co-Pilot to support fellow Veterans with SCI/D, please contact Dr. Darryl Etter at 720-723-3360.
Colorado Community Programs
- Adaptive Adventures, 303-679-2770
Free Veteran programs such as cycling, dragon boat, yoga, rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, waterskiing, whitewater rafting, indoor adapted skiing lessons year round, and more. All activities can be adapted to all skill levels and physical abilities. In person and virtual available.
- Comeback Yoga, 507-881-9642
Free yoga classes for Veterans. Virtual and in person available.
- Move United - Colorado
Organizations around Colorado providing adapted sports and veteran programs
- National Sports Center for the Disabled, 970-726-1518
Free Veteran programs such as rock climbing, shooting, skiing, water sports (kayak, canoe, rafting, etc.), horseback riding, and more. All activities can be adapted to all skill levels and physical abilities. In person and virtual available.
- River Deep Fishing, 303-881-0400
Fishing lessons for Veterans
- Victory Service Dogs
Provides free service dog training to Veterans in Colorado Springs & Denver
- Archery School of the Rockies, 719-272-4379
Archery lessons in Colorado Springs
- Project Hero Cycling Mike Turek, 775-997-5506
Free cycling meet ups
The Paralyzed Veterans of America is focused on serving Veterans who have experienced Spinal Cord Injury or dysfunction. The organization is a leading advocate for quality health care, research and education, benefits, and civil rights. If you would like to learn more about becoming a member, please contact Laura Gibson at 909-208-3635. If you want to learn more about PVA benefits, please contact Joni Lawal at 720-723-3127. You can also visit PVA.org for general information.
In the United States, approximately 17,700 people sustain new spinal cord injuries each year. These injuries include: 12% complete tetraplegia, 47% incomplete tetraplegia, 20% complete paraplegia, 20% incomplete paraplegia, and 1% complete recovery.
We release information annually about our clinical outcomes. Reports will be available here when ready.
Process Improvement Achievements
Always striving to offer the best care for Veterans, we conduct several process improvement projects every year. Reports will be available here when ready.
- 2022-2023 Process Improvement Report (pending)