CA WRIISC's Staff - War Related Illness and Injury Study Center
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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

 

J. 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 160 scientific publications on Alzheimer's disease, MCI, genetic factors in Alzheimer's disease, and testing methodologies.

Dr. Ashford has worked in the VA for 35 years and run several programs, including a memory disorders out-patient clinic and substance-dependence in-patient unit.  He has studied numerous clinical problems which afflict Veterans and published manuscripts on several of these, including PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and Gulf War Illness.  He is the 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 directed a geriatric psychiatry clinic 1980-1985 and 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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Peter Bayley, PhD
Peter Bayley, PhD
  • Position: Associate Director, WRIISC CA Research

Peter J. Bayley, PhD., is Director of Research at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) at VA Palo Alto, and Associate Professor (Affiliated) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. His postdoctoral training was also at UC San Diego where he studied human memory in the laboratory of Larry Squire.  His recent work focuses on integrative approaches to health and he has led several recent clinical trials involving yoga and meditation for chronic conditions including pain and PTSD.  He has published studies of yoga, including the first evaluation of telehealth in a clinical yoga program. 

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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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Rachel Cooper
Rachel Cooper
  • Position: Program Support Assistant

Rachel Cooper is a program support assistant for the CA WRIISC.

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Caro Fenno, E-RYT, TCTSY-F
Caro Fenno, E-RYT, TCTSY-F
  • Position: Yoga Coordinator

Caro Fenno (E-RYT, TCTSY-F) is the WRIISC CA Yoga Coordinator. She received her yoga certification from Avalon Yoga International. She is a Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga Facilitator and received her BA from Duke University. She coordinates the inpatient yoga classes in trauma and addiction recovery as well as the outpatient yoga and meditation classes that are open to all VA-Enrolled veterans.

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Ansgar Furst, PhD
Ansgar Furst, PhD
  • Position: Associate Director, WRIISC CA Neuroimaging

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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Jennifer Jennings, MD
Jennifer Jennings, MD
  • Position: Associate Director, WRIISC CA Clinical Services

Dr. Jennifer Jennings joined the CA WRIISC to focus on post-deployment research on traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease and chronic pain and has recently been appointed to the position of Clinical Director of CA WRIISC. Dr. Jennings graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Human Biology.  Prior to medical school, Dr. Jennings interned at the Native American Women’s Health Research Center on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota and worked for two years with Americorps at the South of Market Health Center and the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco. She earned a MD at UTHSCSA (University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio) in her home state of Texas, where she did rotations at the VA and Brook Army Medical Center.  She completed a seven year residency in Neurosurgery at SUNY Upstate (State University of New York) in Syracuse, NY.  During her research years, she studied the effect of selective NMDA blockers on TBI in CamKIV knock-out mice.

Dr. Jennings  served as the Chief of Neurosurgery of the Syracuse VA and a Clinical Associate Professor at SUNY Upstate for two years, specializing in Spine surgery as well as Deep Brain Stimulation for Neurodegenerative disorders such as tremor and Parkinson’s disease and subsequently worked as a minimally invasive spine surgeon in Cooperstown, New York and Sacramento, CA before refocusing her efforts to TBI and Neurodegenerative diseases and returning to serve the Veteran population.  

Ronit Katz, MD, FACPM
Ronit Katz, MD
  • Position: Associate Director, WRIISC CA Post-Deployment Health Services

Colonel Ronit Katz, MD is The Surgeon General for the CA Guard and a consultant to NASA Medical Unit. Professor Katz is Board Certified in Preventive, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and is a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Katz provides her expertise in occupational and environmental medicine to the CA WRIISC team. Colonel Katz attended Tel Aviv University and The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel at age 15. She emigrated from Israel after receiving a medical degree, magna cum laude (top 1% of her class), from Tel Aviv University, Sackler Medical School. She completed a fellowship in cancer research at Tufts-New England Medical Center, and later served as a Faculty Member at the Harvard University School of Public Health. She is a recipient of Lawrence Livermore National Lab's (LLNL) “Certificate of Excellence” for outstanding performance in support of the Health Services Department, received the NASA Group Achievement Award, and was selected as one of the "Top Doctors in Silicon Valley." In 2007, Dr. Katz received The American Medical Association’s (AMA) “Excellence in Medicine and Leadership Award.” She serves on many boards and committees for local and national professional organizations including serving as a a Judge for the AMA Research Symposium, chair of the AMA-IMG Leadership Development Committee, and chair of the AMA-IMG Governing Council and NASA – Ames CODE Q Diversity and Engagement Tiger Committee. In 2018, Dr. Katz was invited by Japan Medical Association (JMA) to be the keynote speaker at the JMA International Conference on CBRNE/Disaster Preparedness/Counterterrorism in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Colonel Katz, MD is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford University Medical Center where she was awarded the "Excellent Teacher Award."

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Louise Mahoney, MS, RYT-500, C-IAYT
Louise Mahoney, MS, RYT
  • Position: Meditation and Yoga Research

Ms. Mahoney founded the WRIISC Yoga Wellness program at the VA in Palo Alto. She is a co-investigator on a VA-DoD funded study to explore yoga and a group education program as treatment for chronic pain in Veterans from Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield (ODS/S) and has a deep interest in contributing towards the evidence base for yoga as treatment in medical settings.

Ms. Mahoney has a MS degree in molecular and developmental genetics, is a registered yoga instructor, and a Level II iRest teacher in training. Among other duties, she directs the WRIISC Yoga Wellness program that provides yoga classes to Veterans at the Palo Alto VA and its associated Community Clinics collaborating with the VA Palo Alto Clinical Video Telehealth program.

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Angela Malenfant, MSN, NP
Angela Malenfant, MSN, NP
  • Position: Nurse Practitioner

Ms. Malenfant has been employed at VA Palo Alto Health Care System since 2013 initially with the Department of Interventional Radiology.   She joined the California WRIISC team in August 2016.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and completed her graduate studies upon arrival to the beautiful West Coast at the University of San Francisco. Before joining the WRIISC team, she was employed at Hartford Hospital, Yountville VA, Kaiser Permanente and University of California San Francisco.  During her free time, she spends time with her family and friends but her hobbies including reading, traveling and exploring California’s National Park system.

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Leah Eizadi, MSN, NP, FNP-C
Leah Eizadi, MSN, NP, FNP-C
  • Position: Nurse Practitioner

Ms. Eizadi joined the CA WRIISC team in April 2019. She created, and runs, the CA WRIISC Telehealth Exposure Clinic (TEC). Ms. Eizadi is also the clinical coordinator for the CA WRIISC responsible for patient education for CA WRIISC Veterans. She has a BA degree from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University. She spent nine years as a bedside nurse in critical care before returning to Samuel Merritt University for her Master of Science in Nursing. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking, and traveling.

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Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
  • Position: Supervisory Program 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 CA WRIISC. In 2015, Ms. Moeder was promoted to the CA WRIISC Supervisory Program Officer.

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Lindsey Proctor, MS, RDN, LDN
Lindsey Proctor, MS, RDN, LDN
  • Position: Associate Director, WRIISC CA Education; Clinical Dietitian

Lindsey Proctor is a registered dietitian and certified health coach. She obtained her Bachelors of Science in Biology/Nutrition from NC State University and her Masters of Science in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia, both of which she graduated Summa cum Laude. Her graduate school research focus was on appetite regulation. Ms. Proctor went on to complete her dietetic internship at Meredith College, obtain certifications in Adult Weight Management Levels 1 and 2, certification in Childhood Weight Management, and her certification as a Health Coach. Lindsey is a well-rounded dietitian with experience in numerous areas of the nutrition field, from hospital settings and oncology centers to private practice and the military/government realm. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys long walks with her dog, practicing yoga, reading, and baking treats for others.

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Miguel Robinson, PhD
Miguel Robinson, PhD
  • Position: Database Manager

Dr. Robinson manages all of the clinical and research data for the CA WRIISC program.

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Vincent Torres
Vincent Torres
  • Position: Program Support Assistant

Vincent Torres is a Program Support Assistant for the California War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (CA WRIISC) program. He is a Veteran who served proudly in the United States Marine Corps and is honored to be working with and for fellow Veterans. Outside of work, Vincent enjoys coaching for a competitive youth fastpitch softball organization.

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Tamera Guess
Tamera Guess
  • Position: Program Support Assistant

Tamera Guess is a Program Support Assistant for the California WRIISC. A significant portion of her duties include partnering with providers in the administrative area for the TEC and Health Coaching Clinics. She is an eight-year Army Veteran of the Desert Storm Era. Tamera is honored to serve Veterans and has been with the VA for over seven years. Outside of work, Tamera is a Charter and founding member of Peninsula Veterans Lions Club that serve the local Veteran community.

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Marina Veltkamp, PhD
Marina Veltkamp, PhD
  • Position: Neuropsychologist

Dr. Veltkamp joined the CA WRIISC clinical team in 2017 as a Neuropsychologist. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychological Assessment. She completed an APA Neuropsychology Internship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston where she also collaborated on research examining the long-term outcomes of deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s. Dr. Veltkamp has extensive experience in neurocognitive rehabilitation, pain management and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT). Her research interests include the evaluation and treatment of neurobehavioral and cognitive symptoms in Gulf War Illness.

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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.