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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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CA WRIISC's Staff

Who We Are

The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center at the Palo Alto, CA Campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (CA WRIISC), established in 2007 is the third such center funded by VA. We provide consultation services for post-deployment Veterans with a complex medical history that includes tests and treatment with little to no symptom improvement; possible deployment related environmental exposures; and for primary care physicians (PCP) who desire a second opinion using a multi-specialty team approach.

Our center utilizes a team of clinicians, researchers and educators who thoroughly review the history of the current complaint and offer recommendations for further testing and treatment. Veterans are referred to our clinic by their PCP through the WRIISC consult process in the VA Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS).

Our Staff

 

Wes Ashford, MD, PhD
Wes Ashford, MD, PhD
  • Position: Director

Dr. Ashford is the Director of the WRIISC at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, a Clinical Professor (affiliated) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, a Senior Research Scientist at the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center and Alzheimer's Center, and a staff psychiatrist at the VAPAHCS. Dr. Ashford is an authority on Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and experienced in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of these and numerous other neuropsychiatric disorders. He has contributed major innovations to the fields of neuropsychological testing, brain imaging, and dementia treatment, with more than 100 scientific publications on Alzheimer's disease, MCI, genetic factors in Alzheimer's disease, and testing methodologies.

Dr. Ashford is a Scientific Board Member of the Northern California Alzheimer's Association and Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Dr. Ashford's training includes a BA from UC-Berkeley; an MD from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA, where he set up the Alzheimer's PET Scan Study. He is a prolific scientific writer and speaker as well as a frequent presenter at international conferences.

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Maheen Adamson, PhD
Maheen Adamson, PhD
  • Position: Deputy Director of Research and PhD Fellowships

Dr. Adamson is the Deputy Director of Research and PhD Fellowships at the WRIISC at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California, and completed a post-doctoral Fellowship in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University Medical School.

Dr Adamson’s primary area of research is investigating structural and functional changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease and Traumatic Brain Injury. Her research studies focus on understanding the influence of genetics risk factors for Alzheimer Disease, age, skill learning, and brain structure and function on real-world tasks such as flying or driving in older adults. She is currently developing a measure sensitive enough to capture neural and psychophysiological changes that can differentiate mild cognitive impairment from cognitively healthy older Veterans during every-day activity such as driving. She is also implementing advanced clinical and research neuroimaging and cognitive measures that will improve the diagnosis and treatment of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Adamson has authored several peer-reviewed publications on cognitive and neural basis of Alzheimer’s disease and TBI and is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences. Dr. Adamson received the Kathryn Grupe award from the Alzheimer’s Association Northern California Chapter and an NIH/NIA Diversity supplement for advanced research. She was also selected as a Fellow to the 2005 NIA Summer Institute on Aging Research and 2007 NIMH Summer Research Institute.

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Janet Baldwin, BA, MPH Candidate
Janet Baldwin
  • Position: Research Assistant

Bio to be provided.

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Peter Bayley, PhD
Peter Bayley, PhD
  • Position: Associate Director of Cognitive Neuroscience

Dr. Bayley serves as a neuroscientist at the WRIISC. He has a research background in basic neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience and his research interests focus on memory disorders. He performed graduate research at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) where he studied memory disorders in patients with various forms of dementia. He completed his postdoctoral training at UCSD in the study of learning and memory in patients with brain lesions using brain imaging and neuropsychological techniques.

His current research interests include the identification of objective measures of traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder using both brain imaging and cognitive testing. He also has an interest in early detection of dementia and is a member of the Memory Screening Advisory Board for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, and is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Sandra Bell (Scaling), MSN, RN, CNL
Sandra Scaling
  • Position: Deputy Director of Clinical Care

Sandra Bell is Clinical Coordinator of the California War Related Illness and Injury Study Center at the VA Palo Alto.  She received her Master's Degree in Nursing from the University of San Francisco in 2011.  Additionally, Ms. Bell is a certified Clinical Nurse Leader and a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.  Ms. Bell is honored to have the opportunity to serve America's Veterans.

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Jauhtai Joseph Cheng, MD
Jauhtai Joseph Cheng, MD
  • Position: Neurologist

Dr. Cheng is a staff neurologist at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System and is the primary neurology consultant for the CA WRIISC. Dr. Cheng received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati, completed his internship in internal medicine and residency in neurology at the Mayo Graduate Clinic in Minnesota, and a fellowship in neurology at the University of California, Davis.

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Kaci Fairchild, PhD
Kaci Fairchild, PhD
  • Position: Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Kaci Fairchild is a Clinical Psychologist at the Mental Illness Research Education Center (MIRECC) and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. She obtained her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alabama and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical geropsychology at the Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Fairchild has a strong commitment to clinical care, institutional service and research. She has pioneered new programs of clinical care through our MIRECC and in collaboration with other local centers and clinics, particularly the Stanford/VA Alzheimer’s Research Center and the WRIISC. Her clinical care includes implementing, testing and developing novel behavioral, psychotherapeutic, supportive and biological interventions with young and old. She has also developed a programmatic line of research in the development and implementation of efficacious non-pharmacological interventions for cognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders. She has authored numerous papers on aging, cognition, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

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Ansgar Furst, PhD
Ansgar Furst, PhD
  • Position: Associate Director of Neuroimaging Laboratory

Dr. Furst is Associate Director of the Neuroimaging Laboratory at the WRIISC in Palo Alto, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University Medical School.

Dr. Furst, a native of Germany and former officer in the German air force, received his MSc and PhD degrees in England where he trained with some of the leaders in short-term memory research Professors Graham Hitch and Alan Baddeley. He discovered his passion for neuroimaging during his post-doctoral training at the Henry H. Wheeler Brain Imaging Center at the University of California, at Berkeley (Director: Professor Mark D’Esposito). His initial research focused on basic science functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) but he was later given the unique opportunity to work on a novel positron emission tomography (PET) diagnostic tracer for amyloid called Pittsburgh compound-B (PiB), under the mentorship of Prof. William Jagust, a renowned leader in imaging of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This breakthrough in diagnostic imaging of AD allows the in vivo quantification of beta-amyloid plaques (one of the hallmarks of the disease) through a PET brain scan.

Together with his close collaborator Dr. Gil Rabinovici, Dr. Furst published the first west coast publication using PiB in 2007 demonstrating the usefulness of the compound in distinguishing AD from Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD) another common neurodegenerative diseases. His work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and has received praise from the American Academy of Neurology and multiple awards from the Alzheimer’s Association. Dr. Furst has recently joined the editorial board of the medical journal Neurology and recently co-edited a book on neuroimaging of Alzheimer’s disease. He also serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Currently his research interest has expanded into Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) for studying Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He is exploring the feasibility of DTI as a tool for improving early diagnosis and long-term outcomes of Veterans with TBI.

Dr. Furst is also a Tai Chi instructor and teaches Tai Chi to Veterans and VA employees as a VA volunteer.

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Minna Hong, PhD, PT
Minna Hong, PhD
  • Position: Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Hong is a post-doctoral fellow at the Palo Alto WRIISC and is affiliated with the Spinal Cord Injury Service in the VA Health Care System. She received her Ph.D. in Movement Science from Washington University in St. Louis. Her NRSA-funded doctoral work focused on developing new therapeutic approaches to address gait disorders in those with Parkinson Disease. Dr. Hong’s research career at the VA started as a Career Development Awardee, studying the effects of using power-assist wheelchairs in individuals with spinal cord injuries. Her current work at WRIISC focuses on applying alternative therapeutic approaches to promote wellness and enhance quality of life in those with spinal cord injuries. Her research is supported by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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Linda Isaac, PhD
Linda Isaac, PhD
  • Position: Clinical Neuroscience Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Linda Isaac is a cognitive psychologist who specializes in clinical neuroscience research. She is currently an advanced research fellow at WRIISC and the Department Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, School of Medicine. Dr. Isaac conducted her thesis work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience where she studied face processing strategies in a rare genetic disorder (Williams Syndrome). Dr. Isaac also completed a pre-doctoral research fellowship in anxiety and psychophysiology at Stanford University. She has international research and teaching experience from her appointment at Radboud University in the Netherlands where she taught several research methodology courses and used EEG to study cognition and emotion. Dr. Isaac is interested in using neuroimaging techniques to study prefrontal (dys)function, in particular, neural substrates associated with emotional processing and the interaction of emotion and executive function in neuropsychiatric illness (depression, PTSD). She is particularly interested in characterizing brain alterations that lead to emotion dysregulation in these populations using a combination of neuroimaging methods (fMRI & EEG).

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Louise Mahoney, MS, RYT
Louise Mahoney, MS, RYT
  • Position: Deputy Director of Education and Risk Communication

Ms. Mahoney directs educational and risk communication projects for the CA WRIISC and developed a Mind/Body wellness program at the VA in Palo Alto. She attended UC Berkeley and UC Davis and holds a BA in humanities and an MS degree in molecular and developmental genetics. She has worked in genetic research and as a computer programming consultant in industry and academic institutions.

Ms. Mahoney is certified in yoga and Level I iRest and teaches mind/body classes to Veterans at the Palo Alto VA (Mind/Body Class Flyer) and is collaborating with other WRIISC research staff to develop a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) research program at the WRIISC.

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Keith Main, PhD
Keith Main, PhD
  • Position: Neuroscience Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Main is a cognitive psychologist who specializes in clinical neuroscience research. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at WRIISC and the Department Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University's School of Medicine. He received his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology working under Eric Schumacher, then spent a year as postdoctoral fellow in Brian Wandell's laboratory at the Stanford Psychology Department before coming to WRIISC. Dr. Main's research involves behavioral and neuroimaging measures of human perceptual and cognitive performance. His dissertation research focused on cortical plasticity in patients with the progressive eye disease macular degeneration. He now uses diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to study the neurology of reading in those with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Dr. Main is a student of MRI methodology, has experience with special populations (i.e. individuals with eye diseases or neurological conditions), and has a strong interest in vision research with clinical and/or rehabilitative applications.

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Anna Clare Milazzo, PhD
Anna Clare Milazzo, PhD
  • Position: Neuroscience Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Anna-Clare Milazzo is currently a post doctoral fellow at WRIISC and the Department Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University's School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Chemistry from UC San Diego in 2009 where her graduate work focused on developing a new generation of CMOS cameras for transmission electron microscopes. However, a longstanding interest in neuroscience prompted her to seek training in resting-state functional neuroimaging. Her research work at the WRIISC is primarily focused on using resting-state fMRI to improve the differential diagnosis and measurement of clinical treatment outcomes for post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury in veterans.

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Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
  • Position: Administrative Officer

Ms. Moeder started with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1994 as an Administrative Fellow at the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California. In 1995, she transferred to the VA Health Care System in Palo Alto, California as an Employee Relations Specialist. In 2000, Stacy became the Administrative Officer for Surgical Service and in 2003, she moved to Research Service. In 2007, she became the Administrative Officer for the new WRIISC. In her personal time, Stacy enjoys spending time with her two young daughters and husband.

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Jordan Nechvatal, PhD
Jordan Nechvatal, PhD
  • Position: Neuroscience Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Jordan Nechvatal is a postdoctoral fellow at the WRIISC and Stanford University School of Medicine department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He received his PhD in Neuroscience from Stanford University and his BS in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Michigan.

Using a multi-modal neuroimaging approach, Dr. Nechvatal’s research focuses on understanding the structural and functional neurobiology of stress coping. Coping appears to counteract the deleterious effects of stress and is thought to induce long-lasting neuroadaptations in corticolimbic brain systems. Through his research, Dr. Nechvatal aims to provide mechanistic insights for the development of diagnostic tools and therapeutics that mimic or enhance stress coping and recovery.

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Desmond Oathes, PhD
 Desmond Oathes, PhD
  • Position: Clinical Neuroscience Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Oathes is an advanced fellow in the Palo Alto WRIISC and affiliated with the Stanford Department of Psychiatry. His doctorate is from Penn State University in Clinical Psychology (Psychophysiology minor) and he completed an NRSA funded (NIH/NIMH F32) postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin before coming to PAVA/Stanford. Dr. Oathes has a background using neuroimaging (especially functional MRI) and other psychophysiological measures to study anxiety and depression. He is currently working on a project with Amit Etkin (MIRECC and Stanford) using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to map neural networks measured with fMRI in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients.

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Tong Sheng, PhD
 Tong Sheng, PhD
  • Position: Neuroscience Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Sheng is a postdoctoral fellow at the WRIISC. He received his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California and his BS in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley. Dr. Sheng is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies neural networks that support affective and social processes.

At the WRIISC, Dr. Sheng uses functional and structural functional neuroimaging to investigate how variations in fundamental neural networks’ properties predict physical and mental symptoms in Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other war-related illnesses.

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Salil Soman, MD, MS
Salil Soman, MD, MS
  • Position: Radiologist, Clinical Neuroscience Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Salil Soman is a neuroradiologist with a background in computer vision who specializes in neuroscience research. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at WRIISC and the Radiological Sciences Laboratory (RSL) within the Radiology department at the Stanford University School of Medicine, as well as a neuroradiology attending at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital. Dr. Soman completed his undergraduate studies in Chemistry and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. He then received his MS in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), working on image registration research under Drs. Grimson and Wells within the computer vision group of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (now CSAIL) and the Surgical Planning Laboratory (SPL) at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He later completed his MD and Diagnostic Radiology residency at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, followed by neuroradiology fellowship at Stanford. During his clinical training, Dr. Soman has presented and/or published work on medical informatics, radiology education, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI), 3D Multi-Shot Multiecho (3D MSME) imaging, fetal neuroimaging and 3D MRI techniques. Dr. Soman's research involves combining advanced neuroimaging techniques (including DTI / high order tensor imaging, quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), and arterial spin label (ASL) perfusion imaging) with clinical and neurocognitive measures to better characterize the sequelae of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Dr. Soman has a strong interest in neuroimaging research with clinical and/or rehabilitative applications.

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Michael Stanton, PhD
Michael Stanton, PhD
  • Position: Complementary and Alternative Medicine(CAM) Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Michael Stanton is a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Post-doctoral Fellow at the WRIISC, VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine. He obtained his PhD in Clinical Psychology with a focus in Behavioral Medicine from Duke University and completed his clinical internship in Behavioral Medicine at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System.

Dr. Stanton’s clinical interests include behavioral medicine and complementary medicine (e.g., yoga, mindfulness) interventions for obesity, addiction, and chronic pain. His research interests include gene by environment interactions in the development of compulsive eating and complementary medicine-based treatments for obesity and diabetes, such as yoga and mindful eating. He has authored many papers on addictive behaviors, genetics, and physiological pathways of stress and coping.

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Jerome Yesavage, MD
Jerome Yesavage, MD
  • Position: Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health

Dr. Yesavage is the Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health and Chief of Psychiatry, VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) and the Executive Director of the VAPAHCS WRIISC. His research focuses on Alzheimer's Disease (senile dementia), Age-Associated Cognitive Decline (normal changes in cognitive function seen in older adults), depression in aging, sleep disorders in aging and lifespan changes in complex tasks such as aircraft pilot performance. He has authored numerous papers covering topics in Geriatric psychiatry including Alzheimer's disease, cognitive assessments, and aviation safety.