Associated Health Education - Success Stories
Susan E. Drevo, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
"I earned my doctorate (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, OK. During this time my research and clinical focus was on trauma and stress-related disorders, and I worked with highly and frequently stress-exposed occupations including journalists, first responders, and Veterans. Given my area of focus and the quality practicum experiences I had early in my career training at the local VA Behavioral Medicine Clinic, I knew without a doubt that I would be seeking my internship experience at a VA. The mission and values of VA service strongly align with my work values and personal mission to serve those that serve(d) others, and from a whole person and compassionate perspective.
I completed my predoctoral internship at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock, AR where much of my training focused on the assessment and treatment of Veteran PTSD and other stress-related and comorbid difficulties. I worked with such quality, motivated, professional, and competent supervisors and mentors that were true experts in the field of trauma. Here, I also seized some unique internship experiences and learning opportunities that went beyond individual intervention. Specifically, I engaged in an organizational health focused rotation where I had the opportunity to consult with, educate, and support the workforce. I also engaged in additional experiences with the onsite Law Enforcement Training Center where I consulted with officer leadership to bridge and better communication with mental health providers and aided in modification to educational curriculum for VA officers nationwide. These experiences were absolutely invaluable to my development, broadened how I viewed my skillset and application of change principles, and stimulated a lot of reflection on what I really wanted my daily working life to look like and the type of impact I wanted to have on others (and while still positively influencing patient quality care).
In addition to the organizational and occupational health bent of much of my previous clinical and research work, these pivotal internship experiences with clinical consultation, systems approaches, and system level change and impact, inspired a career transition from individual clinical intervention to enhancing organizational systems and the people who work in them.
VA had become such a professional training beacon for me and I was thrilled to learn that VA at that time offered a specialized fellowship training experience that seemed like the perfect fit for the career transition I was looking for. I completed a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship with the VHA National Center for Organization Development (NCOD) where I am now a permanent staff member. My work focuses specifically on supporting and developing VA executive leaders throughout the system by providing leadership team and organization consultation and executive leadership coaching services. I am proud to be serving my nation through engaging and developing VA’s high performing, competent, and compassionate leaders that are committed to engaging their workforce and delivering exceptional care to our nation’s heroes.
I’m fulfilled working in such a mission-driven environment where learning experiences, development opportunities, and position advancement or role transitions, are abundant and supported. Starting my VA journey as a trauma-focused clinical psychologist and now an organization development psychologist, consultant, and coach is a strong testament to the fact that there is so much room to learn, grow, and evolve here at the VA. "
Allison Weber, OTR/L, CPRP, Occupational Therapist Clinical Specialist, New Mexico VA Healthcare System
"In 2014, I had the pleasure of participating in the Interprofessional Fellowship in Psychosocial Rehabilitation & Recovery Oriented Services, hosted at the San Diego VA Healthcare System. I had my eye on this fellowship through occupational therapy graduate school as I focused on specializing in mental health, and I ended up applying as a new occupational therapist. During my time in fellowship, I learned invaluable lessons about working with veterans experiencing psychosis, and how to support their recovery and reintegration into the community. After completion of this training, I was eligible for certification as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner, which I now use serving veterans, as I work as an occupational therapist, in the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Clinic. Without the existence of the VA Advanced Fellowship Programs, I would never have had the opportunity to be immersed in a different VA culture, or participate in some of the wonderful trainings and projects that were available to me. This was certainly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I’m grateful every day for the time I was blessed to spend with my mentors and co-fellows during this year of training."
Justin Foster, MSpecEd: Administrative Officer, Experience Office, Long Beach VA Healthcare System
"In the summer of 2013, I completed an Orientation and Mobility Internship with the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC) at Menlo Park VA. As a Navy Veteran and recent graduate from California State University Los Angeles, I was challenged with learning new methods of instruction and assessment for practice with the Veteran population. The course was very structured, and the information was so valuable and efficient I adopted the methods in my private practices after finishing the internship. The staff in the WBRC were amazing and always made time to answer my questions. My supervisor spent several lunches with me to provide the extra training I needed to be proficient in every necessary skillset. Although I only practiced privately for a few years, I adhered to the same culture and methods represented by the WBRC at the Menlo Park VA. I currently work for the Long Beach VA Healthcare System. I started as a Management Analyst with the Education Department, currently I am an Administrative Officer with the Experience Office, and I was recently nominated for the Employee of the Quarter. All these successes and many more I can attribute the outstanding curriculum, and the support and disciplined instruction I received from WBRC staff. My college classmate completed the internship two quarters before me. She told me I should choose this location, and it would be tough, but I would learn much more in comparison to other Blind Rehab Centers. She was right, and I am glad I completed the internship. My accomplishment inspired me to complete a second internship with the Blind Rehab Center in Tucson, AZ for Low Vision. I am grateful for the impact this experience had on my career. "
Rosalyn Conanan, COMS: National Program Consultant, VHA Blind Rehabilitation Service
"I trained at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Palo Alto HCS from June 2008- September 2008. I always tell current trainees that it was more than just an internship, but to me it was a valuable life experience. While gaining the knowledge and confidence to empower Veterans to improve their quality of life, I also was able to learn the skills to work as a team member and to manage life and work. I was provided the opportunity to learn about other services, such as Recreation Therapy, in which I planned group outings and assisted with recreational activities. My internship coordinator was tough at times, but it was because she believed in me. She saw my potential and was able to tap into that potential to foster my growth as a professional and as a person. To this day, I continue to talk to her and value her feedback and friendship. I was officially hired on as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist in 2009. I transitioned to Admissions Coordinator in 2012 and then Assistant Chief of the Center in 2015. I then became BRS National Program Consultant in 2018. Statistically, based on my background and up-bringing, I shouldn’t be where I am today. I give a lot of credit to the internship on starting off my career in blind rehabilitation and in the VA."
Jeana Brown, COMS CVRT: Vision Impairment Services Team Coordinator, Columbia VA Healthcare System
"While completing my dual master’s degree at Western Michigan University, I had the opportunity to intern at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, GA in their inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Center. Charlie Norwood graciously allowed me to complete back to back internships in Orientation and Mobility and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, respectively. I gained the opportunity to learn from those who had been in the field of blind rehabilitation for several years and be mentored by an employee who is also a blinded Veteran. I had the ability to witness a Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) survey by the Blind Rehabilitation Center and be a part of them successfully passing. During my internship, I learned the importance of being involved outside of our day to day service line by contributing to the LGBT Pride Month Program. As my internship ended and I began to apply for positions in the field of blind rehabilitation, my service chief and supervisor served as references which aided me in gaining a full time position as a Blind Rehabilitation Specialist at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, OH. After some time teaching blind rehab skills to visually impaired Veterans, I wanted to provide more service to those who were facing the life changing moment of vision loss. I applied and was awarded the position as Vision Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinator at the Columbia VA Health Care System in Columbia, SC in late 2017. Gratefully again, I have the opportunity to work with the Augusta Blind Rehabilitation Center where I refer Veterans for blind rehab training."
Hannah Gravrand, DC, (Doctor of Chiropractic), Sierra Nevada Healthcare System
"My training at the VA began when I was a chiropractic student. The quality training, I received motivated me to continue to residency. I was fortunate to train with some of the best chiropractors in the field and top-notch Yale-New Haven physicians. The training I received was built upon evidence-based practice, which I believe gave me the best qualifications to work in a hospital setting. Among the many opportunities, I was able to receive acupuncture clinical training and work alongside great minds on cutting-edge research projects. Working at the VA is highly sought-after position in the chiropractic profession, and it was my residency training that opened the way to employment at the VA. I now am employed as a Chiropractor at the VA Sierra Nevada Healthcare System in Reno, NV and I couldn’t ask for a better position."
Tamar Tashjian, Blind Rehab Specialist
"I went to school at Cal State Los Angeles, CA. I got my master’s in special education with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility for the blind. I am also nationally certified through ACVREP (Academy for Certification of Vison Rehabilitation and Education Professionals). I graduated in 2011. I did an Orientation and Mobility Internship at WBRC (Western Blind Rehab Center) at the Palo Alto VA. After graduating I went into the non-profit sector and worked at the Braille Institute, Los Angeles for 6 ½ years, as an Orientation and Mobility specialist. I then started working at the Long Beach, BRC (Blind Rehab Center) in January 2019. I am currently working in the Manual Skills department. My greatest accomplishment was the ability to utilize all my training from the VA and my Cal State LA’s Master’s program to successful help and train my Veterans and Students. It was a joy to see them using the skills and techniques to live a more confident, independent and hopeful life. My time at the VA during my internship allowed me to jump into the career in the non-profit sector with much more confidence. The appeal of returning to the VA was that it was a great opportunity. The VA has the ability to allow its employees to stay up to date on latest technologies in the Blind Rehabilitation field. It also allows us to provide these technologies directly to the Veterans which is unique to the VA."
Laura Taylor, MSW, LSCSW – National Director of Social Work, VA Central Office
"When attending graduate school, I was encouraged to pursue a highly competitive Social Work internship at the VA... I was a young single mother at the time and would not have been able to pursue the placement without a paid internship… I realized my passion was to serve Veterans, their family members and Caregivers."
Brian Tate Guelzow, Ph.D.: Suicide Prevention Psychologist, San Francisco VAMC
"I felt so fortunate to have the support of supervisors who were so clearly, deeply committed to my professional development and personal growth."
Whitney Havins, Ph.D.: Neuropsychology Fellow – Baltimore VA
"I was impressed by VA’s clear commitment to training in psychology and to evidence-based practices… I have been honored to work with our nation’s Veterans and plan to pursue a career in VA."
Chebon Porter, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist and Director of Clinical Training – Birmingham VA
"I chose the VA because of the quality and breadth of training experiences… it seemed to be the most honorable career path I could choose."
Lisa Chan-O’Connell: Low Vision Optometrist, New York Harbor Healthcare System, Brooklyn Campus
"My residency was an "eye-opening experience"… at the Brooklyn Advanced Low Vision Clinic I am able to use that knowledge to think outside the box when presented with new problems…"
Jack Trainor – Orientation and Mobility Blind Rehabilitation Intern, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven Campus
"I didn’t know that there were careers in blind rehabilitation. It is wonderful to know Veterans will take home tools to be successful in reaching their goals of independence."
Clinton Daniels, DC. Chiropractic Care Resident, St. Louis VAMC
"The chiropractic residency program has great potential as a tool to be an ambassador for chiropractic and build stronger interprofessional collaboration. Several of my rotations have resulted in an increase of referrals from those departments."