Skip to Content
Learn what the PACT Act means for your VA benefits

Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program

The JAHVH Physical Therapy Department offers a Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program that is accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) since 2012.

Neurologic Residency Overview

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) is located in Tampa, Florida and provides comprehensive services to more than 116,000 Veterans. We are one of the largest VA hospitals and one of five Polytrauma facilities in the nation.

The JAHVH Physical Therapy Department offers a Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program that is accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) since 2012. This exciting and innovative program is designed to offer the recently licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy an opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills in the area of neurologic specialty practice in preparation for Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS) examination through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

Residents are employed full-time by the JAHVA for the year long program and thus must be U.S. citizens. Clinical training consists of managing a caseload of patients with Neurologic involvement, mentoring sessions with highly experienced clinical staff (2 to 4 hours/week), as well as a didactic curriculum and NCS Prep component. Clinical training opportunities/rotations exist within the following clinical areas: Acute Care Medical/Surgical/ICU, Polytrauma/Traumatic Brain Injury, Neurologic Gait and Balance, Spinal Cord Injury, Vestibular and an optional Pediatric rotation. Residents will also have opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary patient rounds, journal clubs, in-service/poster presentations, scholarly activity, and mentoring doctoral students.

JAHVH Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency has a 100% Program graduation rate and 95% NCS pass rate.

Mission Statement, Goals, Objectives

Mission Statement:

The program prepares qualified physical therapists for neurologic specialty practice who provide exceptional healthcare for those who they serve. The faculty cultivates highly skilled independent clinical specialists utilizing diverse clinical experiences, meaningful mentorship, and comprehensive didactic education. This leads to the development of clinicians who are critical consumers of evidence-based research, consider the whole person, value teaching & learning, and uphold the program’s core values.

Program Goals:

  1. To recruit and passionately mentor residents equipping them to deliver exemplary specialty rehabilitative care for those they serve.
  1. Critically assess and appraise the cur-rent literature and integrate the latest relevant evidence into advanced practice.
  1.  Exhibit the skills and knowledge to be competent mentors, instructors and advocates of neurologic physical therapy practice.
  1. To provide opportunities through direct patient care and specialty observation for residents to excel in neurologic practice for a diverse patient population and within a variety of practice settings.
  1. To graduate caring and compassionate residents who are prepared and com-mitted to pursue and obtain board-certification through ABPTS.
  1. The program maintains ‘good standing’ and full ABPTRFE accreditation.
  1. The program will maintain financial stability and program sustainability.


The program’s didactic curriculum is primarily based on the APTA Neurologic section’s Description of Specialty Practice (DSP) which integrates didactic learning activities from the Neurologic Certification Prep section of MedBridge, journal clubs, NCS reviews, lunch and learns, case studies and assigned webinars.

Clinical mentoring will occur weekly with faculty in each of the clinical practice settings which include but are not limited to Acute Care Medical/Surgical/ICU, Polytrauma/TBI, Neurologic Gait and Balance, Spinal Cord Injury, and Vestibular. It is estimated that approximately 30-32 hours a week will be dedicated to clinical practice with the remaining hours available for educational experiences such as journal clubs, scholarly activity, teaching opportunities, interprofessional experiences, observation in specialty clinics, and mentoring doctoral physical therapy students.


Varied and dependent on the clinical setting. Formal clinical mentoring will be performed weekly with direct resident supervision, assistance, and feedback to enhance clinical practice for an average of 3 hours a week.

Scholarly Activity

A scholarly activity in the form of contribution to the physical therapy evidence will be performed by each resident. Examples include but are not limited to case studies, case series, literature reviews, or program development strategies. The scholarly activity will consist of a written paper and a poster presentation given during a formal hospital-wide annual Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Research Day. Opportunities to publish or submission for conference poster presentations will be given as needed/desired by individual residents.

Journal Clubs

Each resident will be responsible for participation in monthly journal clubs. These department-wide meetings are opportunities for residents to explore current evidence and develop case-based presentations. These will be presented to the resident faulty, mentors, and staff for development of case-based critical literature appraisal and public speaking skills.

 Lunch and Learns

Each resident will be responsible for participation and leading biweekly lunch and learn discussions. These meetings are performed in conjunction with the online learning assigned in MedBridge, webinars and case studies to facilitate discussion for examination, evaluation, differential diagnosis, and treatment of various neurologic specific topics.

 Program Outcomes:

Demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities described in the current ABPTRFE Description of Residency Practice (DRP) in neurologic physical therapy. Perform patient examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention and clinical reasoning consistent with advanced level neurologic physical therapy practice.

Demonstrate skills necessary to locate and critically review the current scientific literature and the ability to consistently and appropriately apply and integrate current neurologic physical therapy evidence into patient care.

Demonstrate the ability to self-reflect and collect ongoing assessment/input from self and others to use as a tool for professional growth and ongoing development.

Demonstrate effective interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral) to communicate information pertinent to patient management and facilitate coordination of care with interdisciplinary team members, while demonstrating the highest level of professional behavior and integrity.

Be prepared to sit for and successfully pass the ABPTS board certification examination following satisfactory completion of the residency.

Demonstrate the ability to clearly explain and model neurologic  physical therapy and patient management principles to interns, colleagues, peers and other healthcare professionals.

How to Apply

US citizen

Applicant must have a degree from CAPTE accredited program

Successful/satisfactorily completed National Physical Therapy Examination

Applicant must obtain PT license prior to beginning the program (may be obtained from any state). A temporary license is sufficient to begin the program but the applicant must obtain their permanent license while in the program.

Health Professions Trainees (HPTs) are appointed as temporary employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. As such, HPTs are subject to laws, policies, and guidelines posted for VA staff members.  There are infrequent times in which this guidance can change during a training year which may create new requirements or responsibilities for HPTs.  If employment requirements change during the course of a training year, HPTs will be notified of the change and impact as soon as possible and options provided. The VA Training Director for your profession will provide you with the information you need to understand the requirement and reasons for the requirement in timely manner.

Application Procedures

If you have or will meet requirements prior to residency start date you may apply using the APTA Residency/Fellowship Physical Therapist Centralized Application Services (RF-PTCAS). Should you have any other questions please contact the program coordinator, Dr. Sarah Weaving at or Residency Director, Dr. Amy Firestone at

Faculty & Staff Neurologic Residency

Dr. Amy Firestone,  DPT, SCCE, Residency Program Director, PT Supervisor received a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in 2006 and joined on with the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital as a staff physical therapist immediately following her graduation.  She went on to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Temple University in 2010.  Her clinical experience has included: Polytrauma/TBI, acute care, spinal cord injury, inpatient rehabilitation, orthopedics, and locomotor training.  Dr. Firestone has served as a Neurologic PT residency faculty member since its establishment in 2012 and has been a clinical specialist in locomotor training since 2013.  In 2016 she became the Site Coordinator of Clinical Education (SCCE) and Orthopedic & Neurologic Residency Program Director for the physical therapy department. She continues to serve at the JAHVH in these manners in addition to other duties including being a PT Supervisor, Chair of the Hospital Affiliations Committee, and a member of the hospital education committee. She also serves as an adjunct faculty and member of the Curriculum Committee at the University of South Florida School of Physical Therapy.

Dr. Sarah Weaving, PT, DPT, NCS obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of North Florida in 2013. She completed the James A. Haley VA Neurologic Residency Program in 2014 and became a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy. Dr. Weaving has been a faculty member of Neurologic Residency Program since returning to the James A. Haley VA in 2015. She has clinical experience in Acute Care, Inpatient Rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, spinal cord injury, neurologic gait and balance and currently serves as a mentor in the Vestibular and Post-Concussion Clinic. Dr. Weaving facilities the bimonthly Lunch N’ Learn sessions which are designed to enhance the residency experience by further connecting the didactic and clinical aspect of the Neurologic Residency Program. Dr. Weaving was named Neurologic Mentor of the Year in 2018

Dr. Samantha Michael, PT, DPT,  received a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in 2010 and joined on with the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital as a staff physical therapist in 2012. Her clinical experience has included: Polytrauma/TBI, acute care,  spinal cord injury, inpatient rehabilitation, orthopedics, and vestibular and post-concussion rehabilitation.  Dr. Michael has achieved several advanced APTA credentialed certifications and clinical competencies focused on the full spectrum of vestibular rehabilitation. She continues to advance the practice of her physical therapy specialty by  serving as  faculty within in the physical therapy neurological residency program. She currently serves as a content expert in vestibular and post-concussion rehabilitation, presenting on these topics within the VA system of care and the Department of Defense.

Dr Bernice Braun, PT, DPT, NCS, received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Florida in 2008. Immediately after she began her career at James A Haley VA with an interest in the neurological population. She received her Neurologic Clinical certification in 2014 and became LSVT certified in 2018. Additionally, she is a certified instructor of adaptive Tai Chi.

Dr. Will Haven, PT, DPT, NCS, obtained his Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in 2004 and his doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University in 2015.  He obtained his neurologic specialization from the APTA in 2013.  He has 15 years of experience at JAHVH.  Mr. Haven's primary interest is in the spinal cord injury patient population.  He has been involved in the National Veteran's Wheelchair Games as a coach and weightlifting event coordinator in recent years.

Dr. Michael Firestone, PT, DPT, ATP obtained a Certificate of Education in Physical Therapy from Cleveland State University in 1996.   He obtained his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in 2013.   He has 23 years of experience at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.   Dr. Firestone is currently the lead physical therapist in the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) center and has over 16 years of SCI experience.  Dr. Firestone is ATP certified (Assisted Technology Professional) and has extensive seating and mobility experience.   Dr. Firestone has been trained and certified in locomotor rehabilitation thru the use of the Lokomat, manual locomotor skills, and in the use of multiple Exoskeleton devices.   Dr. Firestone has been a coach for the JAHVAH team at the National Veteran's Wheelchair Games on multiple occasions.

Dr. Karen Skop, PT, DPT, MS serves as a faculty for both the orthopedic and neurological residency program. She has been working in the field of vestibular/balance rehabilitation, sports and orthopedics since 2000. This diversity in clinical experience makes her well suited to manage complex concussion / mild TBI population. She currently works in our post-deployment/mild TBI program (PREP) as well as an outpatient vestibular clinic. Dr. Skop serves as a consultant throughout the hospital system to assist with the management of "dizzy" clientele. She has successfully completed all 4 APTA sponsored vestibular clinical competencies and is an active member of both the orthopedic and neurological section of the APTA. She is a nationally nominated member of the Vestibular Rehabilitation Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) task force, holds a role in ANPT’s taskforce on telehealth and is involved with the development of CPG for the VA/DOD for the management of headaches. Dr. Skop holds an adjunct faculty position at University of South Florida and lectures nationally on the topic of TBI and Concussion Management. Her current research interest includes cervical, visual, auditory, vestibular dysfunction associated with traumatic brain injury, assessment and interventions.

Dr. Mason McDonald, PT, DPT, NCS is a board-certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist who serves as a mentor in the Vestibular & Post-Concussion Clinic. He completed his neurologic residency at James A Haley in 2018 and went on to complete a 1-year VA fellowship at James A Haley to further specialize in rehabilitation for vestibular dysfunction and mild traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Jessica E. O’Connor, PT, DPT, NCS is a board-certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist who serves as a mentor in a variety of our Neurologic clinics. She completed her PT internship at the James A. Haley VA hospital in 2014 and has been a staff member since 2015.

Dr. Barbara Darkangelo, PT, DPT, NCS  is a senior clinical specialist physical therapist for the Acute Polytrauma and Brain Injury Inpatient Program at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa Florida.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from University of New England in 1996 and her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Drexel University in 2006.  She is an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine,  School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences.  Dr. Darkangelo has earned the designation of Neurologic Clinical Specialty from the APTA since 2007.    Dr. Darkangelo has over 20 years’ of experience treating patients after a brain injury from acute to chronic stages of recovery.   She is actively involved in multi-site research to further brain injury intervention and evaluation with CENC and PCORI funding.