Get to know the team at the Road Home Program
Mark Pollack, MD
“We want to make sure that veterans and the families receive the kind of care that they need and have so dearly earned and get connected to resources that they can use to take control of their health, jobs, and social and family lives.”
In addition to Pollack’s clinical expertise in treating post-traumatic stress, he also understands the needs of military families firsthand. His brother served in the U.S. military for 25 years, including a stint in Iraq.
Will Beiersdorf, MPA
“Having served in the Navy and Army, I realize the important role people play when they put on that Navy, Army, Marine, Air Force or Coast Guard uniform. They place themselves on the frontline for our freedoms. That sense of sacrifice and service has driven me to be a part of the
community that supports our heroes if they get injured or suffer other challenges from their service to our country. They’ve stepped up for us, now it’s time to step up for them.”
Beiersdorf also has an accounting degree from DePaul University and earned his master’s degree in public administration from Troy University. He has worked in public accounting and health care for more than 20 years.
Niranjan Karnik, MD, PhD
“When a veteran returns home, they are not the only ones who have sacrificed. The children and families of veterans are also facing many challenges and need special care. The Road Home Program is unique because we will work with the entire family to support them through the
process of recovery and reintegration.”
Karnik completed his residency and fellowship at Stanford University. He spent a substantial part of his residency working at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California, where he provided care to veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and the first Gulf War.
He has a special expertise in homelessness, substance abuse, PTSD and military sexual trauma.
Patricia Normand, MD
“Our goal here at the Road Home Program is to help our veterans and their families rediscover their ability to be healthy and whole, now and into the future. I am grateful for this opportunity to honor their service and say thank you for your sacrifice for our country.”
Normand completed her psychiatric residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and trained in teaching MBSR at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society where the program was developed.
Alyson Zalta, PhD
“In my work with veterans, I have met some of the most admirable and inspiring people who struggled with PTSD and other emotional problems. These vets had the courage to seek help to overcome their challenges and pursue the life they wanted for themselves and their families. I feel honored that I had the opportunity to give back to those individuals, and I am grateful that I can continue to serve our veterans through the Road Home Program.”
During her time at the VA, Zalta worked with veterans who had experienced a wide variety of traumatic events including childhood sexual and physical trauma, military sexual trauma and deployment/combat related trauma.
In her clinical practice, Zalta has a strong interest in how technology can be used to improve access to treatment and treatment outcome. She earned her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania and her bachelor’s degree at Harvard University.
Tanjlisa Williams, MBA
“I left college to join the U.S. Air Force after 9/11 because I wanted to serve my country and make a difference. I am part of the Road Home Program team because I want to help the selfless men and women who also served our country. All of my training and experiences have prepared me for this important mission as part of this outstanding organization.”
After an honorable discharge from the military, Williams went back to school and earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and her master’s degree in business administration. She was also the office manager of a behavioral clinic for children, where she oversaw the everyday operations and offered encouragement to the clients and their families.
Sheila Dugan, MD
“As a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, also known as a physiatrist, I am an expert in diagnosing musculoskeletal and neurological problems, seen through the lens of functional problems. As the daughter of a Navy veteran and through my training at the Chicagoland VA hospitals, I have seen firsthand the acute and chronic impact to the mind, body and spirit resulting from military service for our country. My particular area of focus on pelvic wellness, including the important functioning of the pelvic floor muscles related to bowel, bladder and sexual health, provides our veterans with a comprehensive assessment that can have a profound impact on pain, pelvic floor dysfunctions and quality of life. It is my privilege to work with each and every veteran I meet.”
Sheila has published numerous scientific manuscripts, book chapters and articles, and lectures locally and nationally. Her research interests include pelvic wellness; health equity; the health benefits of physical activity, in particular in underserved populations; and pain, function and visceral fat in women at menopause.
Sheila received her bachelor’s degrees in Biology from the University of Chicago and Physical Therapy from Northwestern University and her MD from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She did her internship at the University of Chicago in Internal Medicine and her residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in PM&R. Prior to coming to Rush she was on faculty at the Harvard Medical School and worked at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Tanya Friese MSN, RN, CNL
“The greatest honor I received while serving in the United States Navy was earning the title ‘Doc.’ When the Marines have complete confidence in a Corpsman, they bestow this honor on the individual who cares for them body and soul, night and day. ‘Doc’ signifies their ultimate trust. Now that I am retired, I am honored to serve fellow veterans and their families through the Road Home Program and still answer the call ‘Corpsman, Up.’ I look forward to earning the trust of the veterans we serve here.”
After service-connected disabilities resulted in her retirement from the Navy,Friese completed a bachelor’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in nursing. She is currently working on her doctorate in nursing practice with a focus on system’s leadership.
Friese teaches in the Department of Community, Systems, and Mental Health Nursing at Rush University College of Nursing and is the nursing education manager for interprofessional continuing education. Her areas of expertise include veterans and their families, individuals with disabilities and people who identify as LGBTQ.
James A. Young, MD
“One of our missions at the Road Home is to offer veterans with traumatic brain injuries and their families opportunities to plan their future. We do this by restoring their confidence and providing them with medical treatment and support. I am proud to be a part of this program, and I look forward to continuing Rush’s vision of serving our veterans.”
Kevin Russell, MA, LCPC
“I have learned so much from each and every veteran and family member I have worked with over the years. I have been truly inspired by the stories of courage from our returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans and our Vietnam combat veterans. I feel honored to be trusted with something so personal.”
Russell has 27 years of experience in the mental health field and is a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). He was the past director of mental health services at Pioneer Center for Human Services located in the northwest suburbs.
For the last three years, Russell has been managing the Veterans and Family Services Resource Center at TLS Veterans. He was also an active member of the McHenry County Suicide Task Force and a board member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Thad Rydberg, MA, LCPC
“Our country’s service members and families are one of the most valued groups in our society. Their committed duty to our country to keep us safe is immeasurable. I am honored to be part of the community to serve veterans and their families as they transition back to their lives as civilians.”
He is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Michael B. Brennan, PsyD, ABPP
“I have chosen to dedicate my career to helping those who have proudly served our country and helped protect our country’s values. I served on active duty, and I will continue to be part of programs that support military personnel, such as the Road Home, until I retire. One of my favorite quotes is from John F. Kennedy who said, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ His words help explain my commitment to our veterans.”
Brennan served five years on active duty in the United States Army. He was assigned to San Antonio Military Medical Center, and he became the first psychologist embedded within the 3d Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas. He deployed to the eastern region of Afghanistan for nine months with the Regiment and was responsible for the mental health care of more than 7,000 military personnel. While stationed at Ft. Hood, he served as a clinician, consultant, teacher and administrator for more than 4,200 soldiers, 50 Commanders and 25 medical personnel.
Kathryn Kelly Carroll, MSW, LCSW
“It requires an immense amount of trust to talk to someone about difficult experiences, let alone a complete stranger. Bearing this in mind, I consider it to be a privilege to work with our nation’s Veterans, and make every effort to begin each therapeutic relationship with a genuine foundation.”
Kelly earned her BA in Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and then moved to California where she completed her Masters in Social Work at the University of Southern California. While living in Los Angeles, Kelly worked with formerly incarcerated homeless Veterans as well as Veterans hospitalized at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. In 2013, Kelly moved to Chicago and began working as a trauma counselor with Veterans who experienced combat and military sexual trauma. She is proud to be a part of the Road Home team and continue serving our nation’s Veterans.
João Busnello, MD, PhD
“It has been an enlightening experience to meet our veterans in a mental health care setting, and witness how efforts such as the ones at the Road Home Program have been breaking through barriers and educating our society about the invisibles wounds of war. I feel fortunate to belong to a group that has been providing the humane care so necessary to deal with the complexity of the issues that can touch our countrymen and women in the military.”
Johanna Buwalda, MED, MA, LCPC
“As a society we have the responsibility to support veterans when they are returning into civilian life. I am particularly excited that the Road Home Program understands what it means to love a veteran and is providing services to both veterans and their loved ones.”
Buwalda has worked and lived in a war zone. She is also raising children with a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. These experiences have made her particularly in tune with how military service and war directly and indirectly affects the lives of all family members.
Jennifer Edidin, PhD
“The Road Home Program serves the whole family, because the children and families of veterans may also experience challenges and benefit from support. I appreciate the opportunity to help parents better understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as to help them develop a plan to meet their child’s unique needs.”
Before coming to Rush, Edidin received her bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and her doctorate from Loyola University Chicago, with a focus in children and families. She completed her internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. During her fellowship, she worked extensively with homeless youth. Edidin has particular interests in the development of executive functioning, psychosocial development, and neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Jonathan Goldner, PhD
“I am proud to have joined a program committed to helping serve the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving us and our country. The Road Home program understands the impact that veterans’ experiences have had on them and their loved ones. I appreciate the opportunity to help veterans and their families reconnect and reintegrate into civilian life.”
Oluwatoyin Hines MA, MS, MEd, LPC, AMFT, NCC
“I am passionate about assisting veterans, veterans’ families and veteran communities in their processes of transition, growth, resiliency and wellness. Being a member of the team at the Road Home Program enables me to continually support and engage the community of veterans and their families.”
Krista Hopper, BSN, RN
“I am honored to be a part of such a dedicated and passionate team at the Road Home Program. The veterans and families that we work with have been through so much. Being able to support them in successfully reintegrating into civilian life is the least we can do to say thank you.”
For the last four years, Krista has worked as a bedside and charge nurse for both the IU Health Network and Rush University Medical Center. She has experience working with a variety of patients including those suffering from PTSD, substance abuse, and traumatic brain injuries.
Ravi Kasi, MD
“Even subtle effects from a mild traumatic brain injury can have a profound impact on a veteran’s life. My job is to work with a patient to help identify the visible and invisible effects of the TBI. We then work collaboratively together to create unique solutions to problems that are inhibiting the patient from reaching their goals.”
In addition to his clinic work, Ravi is passionate about disability advocacy, serving as the co-president of the Young Professionals Council at Access Living, a national disability rights organization, since 2014.
Ravi clinically specializes in neurorehabilitation, assisting patients with brain injuries transition back into their communities with their new visible and invisible disabilities.
Brian Klassen, PhD
“Many veterans have witnessed moments of real human connection and camaraderie alongside moments of abject terror –literally, the best and worst of the human experience. Often, veterans who want to talk about these experiences with others find that they are judged, misunderstood or simply ignored. It is for this reason that I strive to listen carefully and understand each veteran’s individual experience. For more than a decade, conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror have placed heavy burdens on service members and their families, and they have responded with honor and integrity. Now, it is time we respond to their challenges with the best we have.”
Brian earned his doctorate at Wayne State University and his bachelors at Calvin College. Brian’s scholarly work has been recognized by the American Psychological Association and the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Ashton Lofgreen, PhD
“The veterans I’ve worked with have taught me the value of community, the meaning of sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit. It has been an honor to bear witness to each veteran’s unique journey of recovery. I am grateful to continue working with and learning from veterans and their families as part of the team at Road Home.”
Before joining the Road Home Program, Lofgreen completed her internship at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital and her postdoctoral fellowship at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
Lofgreen has specialized training in evidence-based therapies for PTSD. She has a particular interest in treatment of the emotional and relational aftermath of interpersonal traumas, such as military sexual trauma. Her training has also prepared her for work with a variety of the complex challenges that vets often face upon returning home, including chronic pain, substance use disorders, and moral injury.
Lofgreen received her doctorate from Auburn University and her bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University.
Patricia McDaniel, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker
“Before I retired from the Army, I knew that my next career would be helping others who have served in uniform and who suffer from PTSD. Now, I am honored to be a member of the passionate and dedicated helping community of the Road Home Program as I compassionately assist my fellow veterans and service members along their path to wellness and reintegration.”
McDaniel is a licensed social worker and a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
Becca Purnell, BSN
“I am excited to be a part of such a great team dedicated to the care and wellbeing of veterans and their families. As a nurse, I look forward to working with individuals to fulfill their integrated health needs and goals while supporting the mission of the Road Home Program.”
Dana Rosado, PhD
“I am grateful for the opportunity to work within the Road Home Program alongside colleagues who share the same commitment in helping veterans and their families. They have sacrificed more than most can imagine and it is our goal to help them through these difficult times. For veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is often difficult for them to describe their cognitive, physical, and emotional difficulties to their family and friends. In my role, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to evaluate and support veterans and their families manage the outcomes of a traumatic brain injury with the primary goal to have them experience the best quality of life possible.”
Over the course of her academic career Rosado has worked with both civilians and veterans in various settings, completing neuropsychological evaluations and evidenced-based psychotherapy. Within the Road Home Program, she performs specialized neuropsychological evaluations to assess for the presence and severity of cognitive dysfunction in veterans with a history of traumatic brain injury.
Before coming to Rush University Medical Center, Rosado completed her clinical psychology internship at the Orlando VA Medical Center which included participation within the polytrauma/TBI unit. Rosado attained her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, specializing in clinical neuropsychology.
Anne Rufa, PhD
“Not only does it take immense courage to serve our country – it also takes courage to seek help once one comes home. I believe we are all inherently resilient and thrive best when we are supported by our families, friends, and the communities to which we belong. I am honored to be part of this community, which is so dedicated to caring for our veterans.”
Rufa is interested in prevention and treatment of PTSD, MST, and complex trauma. In addition to clinical work, she is interested in how systems with which we engage impact our daily lives, and thus strives to engage in outreach and advocacy to improve the lives of marginalized populations.
Blake Schroedter, PsyD
“As a fellow veteran, I am honored to continue serving my country by assisting our brave men and women returning home from the battlefield and military service.”
Schroedter has served for over 15 years in the Illinois Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of Sergeant First Class (Cavalry Scout). Blake deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 before re-deploying as a combat advisor to the Afghanistan National Army from 2008-2009.
Schroedter earned his doctorate from the Adler School of Professional Psychology (Military Track Program) and a bachelor degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Blake is a 2013 Pat Tillman Military Scholar.
Benjamin Shulman, MA, LPC
“I believe in taking a holistic approach to mental health care. Seeing a patient as a whole allows clinicians to understand the patient and how to help. I am very excited to be a part of the Road Home Program and to help support veterans and their families. Military service men and women have given so much to our country, and I am honored to be part of a team that can give back.”
Shulman’s grandfather served in the United States Army during the Korean War. His grandfather was a physician at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, where he ran one of the first outpatient mental health centers in the Army at that time.
Charles F. Small, MSW, LCSW
“Providing compassionate clinical care to our veterans and their families is one way to give back to those individuals and families who have given so much of themselves. As someone who enjoys the freedoms that veterans and families have sacrificed for, I consider it a personal calling to dedicate my abilities as a social worker to assist these incredible people.”
For two years, he assisted veterans and their families obtain independent housing, while providing supportive counseling and case management to address a wide range of psychosocial needs. Charles joined Road Home Program in 2014, and has worked individually with veterans to help them heal from the invisible wounds of war. In addition to his role as a therapist at RHP, Charles is a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.
Charles obtained his Masters of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work. Previous to his graduate work, he obtained his BA (also from Loyola University Chicago) in Religious Studies. There are many veterans who Charles is proud to call friends and colleagues.
Christine Szewczyk, MSW, LCSW
“It takes incredible courage and integrity to make the sacrifices our veterans make. I am grateful for the opportunity to devote my service to them in the Road Home Program.”
She has previous experience as a clinical therapist and administrator in community mental health and therapeutic day school settings. Szewczyk believes strongly in the need to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to veterans.
Kaitlin Thompson, LCSW, CADC
“Veterans bravely sacrifice so much for the greater good and deserve all the support they need while serving and when coming home. Every veteran’s experience is unique and complex and the journey rarely ends at the completion of service. I am proud to become part of that journey by working with veterans in a collaborative, compassionate style to help navigate through any residual turmoil and conflict from their service and uncover new strategies for coping, taking control, and moving forward.“
Thompson is a registered yoga teacher and incorporates a whole person approach. She is interested in exploring the mind-body connection to support ongoing positive change and increased awareness.
Before coming to the Road Home Program, Thompson was at Heartland’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, working with veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Thompson is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) with a master’s degree of social work from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Northeastern University in Boston, MA.
Nicholas Turner, LCSW, CADC
“I aim to help those in need in a compassionate, person-centered and respectful manner. I look forward to helping veterans and their families heal and begin their journey toward living the lives they want to lead.”
In addition to his work with the Road Home Program, Turner is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Chicago. He also co-authored the book Mindfulness-Based Sobriety, a treatment guide for addiction recovery that was published by New Harbinger Publishing in January 2014.
Turner is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) and a member of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science and the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.
Rebecca Van Horn, MD
“Our veterans have placed the protection of our collective freedom and values above their own needs. Road Home offers veterans and their families trauma-informed care to help them navigate the challenges of returning home.”
Prior to her medical training, Van Horn completed graduate work in Media Studies at UCLA and maintains strong clinical interest in the ways in which imagery shapes social perception and understanding. She is the granddaughter of two WWII veterans.
Wellness and Integrative Health
“It is a privilege to be a part of The Road Home Program and serve our country’s bravest men and women. I believe healing happens when individuals get the opportunity to reunite the mind, body and spirit. Mindfulness is a tool that helps create a deeper sense of self-awareness and empowerment. This increased awareness allows one to deal with life’s challenges with greater ease and resiliency.”
Gray has been meditating since 1996 and studies mindfulness-based stress reduction at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Stephanie Owen, MA, LPC, ATR
“Having the opportunity to provide an avenue of non-verbal expression to our veterans during a time when words may be too challenging allows complex internal experiences to become visible to those around them through their art-making process. I am humbled to be a witness to the creations made in that space and to be a part of such a compassionate team.”
Owen received a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in studio art from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She is a licensed professional counselor and a registered art therapist.
Owen’s father served in the United States Marines during the Vietnam War with HMS164 on both the USS Inchon and USS Okinawa. This was to be the last marine aircraft squadron to fly combat missions in country as the war was deescalating. During this period of time he earned his Aircrew Member wings for participation in multiple missions in support of South Vietnam forces.
“Being a part of such a caring, collaborative team at the Road Home Program is both humbling and inspiring. I am grateful for the privilege to teach yoga to the men and women who have served our country with sacrifice and bravery. Each person I meet has a unique story of accomplishment, honor and sometimes obstacles. Wellness for the body begins in the mind; they are deeply connected and rely on each other for balance. During yoga class, I encourage each person to listen to their own body and simply focus their attention there. This allows a quieting of the mind and a self-awareness, which many do not experience in everyday life. This can be an incredibly challenging, yet powerful and rewarding journey.”
She also develops fitness and wellness programs within large corporations, hoping to transform the often-stressful workplace culture and promote work-life balance. She is excited to bring her expertise of yoga and body movement to the Road Home Program.
Julia Sarazine, DNP, FNP-BC, ACHPN
“I am honored to be part of a passionate and dedicated group of practitioners who are focused on serving the most honorable members of society: our veterans.”
Sarazine incorporates mindfulness practices into her work with patients and students. She has created and led several educational and experiential mindfulness presentations and a mindfulness and resilience course for health care providers.
Jennifer Ventrelle, MS, RD, CPT
“This country is a better, safer place thanks to our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made. I feel grateful to be able to help improve the lifestyles of these veterans and their families, and give back in thanks for their honorable service.”
“Twelve years ago, I left banking to pursue a career focusing upon a different kind of investment—an investment in people and their mental health and holistic well-being. Since that time, I have worked as a counselor, chaplain, and clinical pastoral educator to support individuals in a process of reconnecting with inner resources to strengthen resilience and improve quality of life.
I consider it a tremendous privilege to now give back to our country’s veterans by introducing them to mindful awareness practices that help reduce stress and serve to connect us more fully with life.”
Wilson is a licensed professional counselor, and has earned master’s degrees in Pastoral Counseling and Mythological Studies.
“It is an honor to contribute to research that helps ensure that veterans are receiving the best care possible. Having been in the Army myself, and having known several veterans in my personal life who have struggled with returning to civilian life, it is clear that there is a need to help provide support for those that have sacrificed so much for our country. I am proud to be part of an organization that has risen to this challenge.”
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where he majored in Psychology and conducted research focused on trauma and rehabilitation.
Walter Faig, PhD
“It’s a distinct privilege to be part of a group dedicated to helping those who have sacrificed the most. The commitment I share as part of the Road Home Program is to always strive to improve the care and resources available for our returning veterans and their families.”
Originally from the Chicago area, Faig moved back in early 2014 to be closer to family and pursue career opportunities in the city. He joins the Road Home Program most recently following the dissolution of GE Capital, marking a welcome return to medical research.
Faig is the grandson of a WWII Army Veteran.
“I have the utmost respect for our service members and veterans. The sacrifices that they and their families make are not small and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to be involved in research ensuring that they get the best care after returning home. I want to contribute to the support of our veterans and military families and make sure that they have access to resources they can use to improve their lives.”
Crissy Glover has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Chicago.
Crissy Glover is the niece and granddaughter of U.S. Air Force and Army Veterans.
Philip Held, PhD
“I both admire and am extremely grateful for our veterans’ service. Joining the Road Home Program is my attempt at giving back to the men and women who have given their all. I feel honored to continue to closely work with our veterans and to assist them with getting back on track after they have mustered the courage to ask for help.”
Held specializes in the treatment of trauma and related disorders, specifically PTSD and substance use. In his clinical work, Held is interested in self-compassion and its role in buffering the negative consequences of trauma, especially the experiences of trauma-related guilt and shame.
John A. O’Toole
“A quote that has stuck with me is ‘You will spend the great majority of life at work, so you better do something that you enjoy.’ I decided I didn’t just want to enjoy work, but wanted it to matter – which to me translates to improving lives in some way. I saw the comradery and dedication of our men and women in the military, and I couldn’t think of a better group to help, so I attempted to join the Marines, but was disqualified during MEPS due to medical reasons. Instead, I have tried my best to use my strengths and time at work to help those in need/support those that are helping, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people than those that work at Road Home and the people they serve.”
“I am honored to be a part of a program that is dedicated to recognizing and responding to the needs of veterans and their families through research, counseling, and services that address the challenges of readjusting to civilian life. It is a privilege to work closely with our nation’s veterans and serve them through research that aims to build efficacious treatment interventions and improve veteran health care.”
Valdespino-Hayden is the niece of a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
“I am in awe of all of the wonderful research that is being conducted here at the Road Home Program because of the possibilities to provide and create even better care for our veterans who have sacrificed so much.”
“I am dedicated to contributing to the health sciences that make transitioning easier for our veterans. I will welcome them home as best I can.”
After college, Zou became a sexual assault crisis intervention advocate with Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault in Arlington Heights, IL. There she provided mindfulness training and grounding support to rape survivors in hotline and emergency room settings.
Zou has a particular interest in trauma-related chronic pain. She is also interested in researching evidence-based mental health treatment, human adaptation, declarative memory loss and self-care practices in individuals affected by trauma.
“As a vet living with PTSD, I know how hard it is to ask for help. It is part of who you are as a Marine to be self-reliant. Asking for help can be scarier than combat itself. I want to make that easier for other vets. I want to go out into the community and find them and ask them, ‘How can I help?’ so that they don’t have the anxiety of doing it themselves.”
His platoon was awarded a Presidential Citation by President George W. Bush for extraordinary heroism on the battlefield. After leaving the Marine Corps, Miller worked as a mental health worker at a children’s psychiatric hospital, working with children with severe behavioral disorders.
Miller attended University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he studied economics and earned a degree in the culinary arts.
Sheri Gross, M.S.Ed
“As the spouse of an Army veteran, I know firsthand how difficult coming home can be — and, even more so, how much family and community support is critical to making a successful transition into civilian life. While each person’s needs are unique, I have found that most veterans yearn for the sense of belonging and community they found in the military. Helping them find this feeling of ‘family’ in civilian life is essential. I am honored and humbled to be a part of an organization dedicated to connecting service members and their families to the help they need — and to each other.“
Gross received both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master of Science in Education in counseling from Northern Illinois University.
Modie Lavin, USMC Gold Star Mother
“As a Gold Star mother, I understand the challenges parents and families face in moving on with their lives. In the steps of Gold Star Mothers founder Grace Darling Siebold, I feel that I am honoring my son and his sacrifice for our country by helping our returning veterans and families adjust to civilian life.”
Modie Lavin is the Family Outreach Coordinator at Rush University Medical Center. Prior to coming to Rush, she was the Program Facilitator for Veterans at the Chicago Park District and worked closely with the Jesse Brown VA and other community service providers and organizations. Lavin chartered recreational-based programs for veterans as well as coordinated events. Lavin also directed resource fairs for veterans at various locations throughout Chicago, including a Resource Expo at Soldier Field alongside the Valor Games Midwest.
Lavin and her family consistently attend ceremonies and events honoring our fallen and veterans.
“In the Marines we are taught that we never leave another Marine behind. I have taken that philosophy with me as I entered the civilian world. It is my passion to assist my fellow veterans, to help deal with any issues they encounter. I know personally how difficult the transition from military life to civilian can be. It is an honor and pleasure to ensure that we can safeguard a successful transition for as many veterans as possible.”
After leaving the service, Brown attended Portland State University, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology (Physiology/Zoology), with a Graduate Certificate in Biomedical Ethics.
“Knowing that I can personally make a difference in the life of a veteran struggling with PTSD or any other problems made me want to join the Road Home team. As a veteran myself, I know the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. With all the help the Road Home Program offers, I know we can help make the transformation smooth.”
Lyman deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2013 with Regimental Combat Team 7. He is currently attending DeVry University, pursuing a degree in business administration with a focus in project management.
Rebecca K. Galicia
“It’s a great privilege to work with colleagues that not only served our country but that are also providing service and hope to their comrades transitioning from military to civilian life. The Road Home Program is an environment where the entire staff is passionately committed in assisting and working with our country’s service members and their families. I am truly honored to be a part of this unique team, in a way, it’s a way of serving our country by providing excellent service to those who fought for our freedom! During the Vietnam War family members and friends were greatly affected both psychologically and physically. There were many invisible wounds of war, and I am glad that the Road Home Program exists today. Through this program veterans and their families are able to get services that they so desperately need.”
“The price each veteran pays for our freedom is a high one — and one that lasts for the duration of his or her life. It is critical that we recognize each veteran’s sacrifices for us, not only on national holidays, but every day. This recognition includes responding to veterans’ emotional and physical pains and helping them with all of their needs. I am honored to be part of the Road Home Program, which provides a welcoming and safe environment for veterans and their families to heal, as well as resources to help them transition home.”
Keeping with the “Service to Country” mantra, Michalski has been passionately serving the local and global community in numerous capacities and initiatives, including outreach, pastoral care and social justice ministries for our most vulnerable. Michalski is a member of the American Legion, Naperville Post #43 where she is Senior Vice Commander.
Mary Ossowski, MA
“I grew up listening to my dad’s stories of his WWII Navy days. He was profoundly affected by it and never got over some experiences. I am so glad the Road Home Program exists to help today’s Veterans cope with and heal from their experiences. What an honor to be a part of it!”
“It is important for me to continue to work with veterans of all branches to ensure that their separation is met with open arms and open mindedness, so that they can feel welcomed and comfortable.”
Scott is honorably discharged and has attended DeVry University for the past 2 years, where he majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management.
Marie Van Steenwyk
“I was 19 when I joined the US Navy. I wanted to see the world, serve my country and make a difference. Being a part of the Road Home Program allows me to help other service members who have returned home yet face many difficulties. I feel my experiences in the Navy and those as a veteran have prepared me to provide quality service and to all the veterans that need our assistance.”
After her time in the military she went back to school using her GI Bill and took a work/study position at the Evanston Vet Center where she found her passion for working with veterans and ultimately led her to her current position at the Road Home program. Marie is also Commander of VFW Post #198, Pvt. Georgle Harles.
Erin Sutton, JD
“I am grateful to work with the Road Home Program to advocate alongside veterans and their family members for the benefits and protections they have earned so that they can lead healthy, stable, civilian lives.”
Erin received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, with a certificate in health law.