Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

Menu
Menu

Quick Links

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My healthevet badge
EBenefits Badge
 

DC WRIISC's Staff

Our staff consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, research scientists, epidemiologists, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, and environmental health scientists who have many years of experience seeing veterans with post-deployment health concerns. Below is a description of the clinical and research backgrounds of our current DC WRIISC staff members:

 

Matthew J. Reinhard, PsyD
  • Position: WRIISC Director

Dr. Reinhard is the Director of DC WRIISC. He has been with the WRIISC-DC since 2008 as a clinical neuropsychologist and has seen many Veterans with a variety of post-deployment health concerns. He obtained his BA from Long Island University, his MA and PsyD from Pepperdine University (APA), and interned at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center (APA). He completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He has recently published neuropsychology research the areas of: PTSD, HIV/AIDS, Brain Reserve Theory, personality theory, and toxic exposure. He has also worked as a clinical psychologist in the PTSD treatment program at the Washington DC VAMC. His current area of research interest is in the neuropsychology of PTSD. He has an academic appointment at the Assistant Professor rank from Georgetown University Medical School Department of Psychiatry.

Contact Dr. Reinhard at: 202-745-8249.

< back to top

Nate Allen, BS
  • Position: Research Assistant

Nate Allen, BS, is a Research Assistant at DC WRIISC and a 2010 graduate of Trinity College, CT. He is currently active in many WRIISC studies that are examining social cognition, inhibitory reflex control, and integrative therapy approaches such as iRest Yoga Nidra and their effect on PTSD and TBI in Veterans. Mr. Allen hopes to broaden his knowledge in the field of psychology while helping the WRIISC team meet their goals in research and excellent patient care.

Contact Mr. Allan at: 202-745-8249.

< back to top

Michelle E. Costanzo, PhD
  • Position: Research Neuroscientist

Michelle E. Costanzo, PhD, is a Research Neuroscientist with the DC WRIISC and a Research Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). She has a BS in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior from the University of California, Davis and a PhD in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, with a focus on stress resilience and human performance from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). She was trained in the acquisition and analysis of electroencephalography at the UMD as well as in functional Magnetic Research Imaging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Georgetown University Medical Center. She has published several articles utilizing psychophysiology and neuroimaging to examine cognitive and emotive processes in military service members, elite athletes and physicians. In addition to her scientific training, her administrative work at the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and responsibilities as a study manager for NIH, USUHS, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center clinical trials, has afforded her considerable experience with Federal government program management, regulatory compliance and science policy. Her current research focus is on PTSD and mTBI uilizing fear conditioning, combat-related virtual reality, affective stroop, and telemedicine to reveal insight into the etiology of persistent symptoms in order to inform the next generation of rehabilitation and treatment for Veterans.

< back to top

Sharon DeMocker, MD
  • Position: Medical Director

Sharon DeMocker, MD is the WRIISC-DC Medical Director. Dr. DeMocker previously headed an Integrative Medical clinic near Asheville, NC for over a decade, which she founded following her training with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, the first postdoctoral Integrative Medicine training center in the country. She completed her residency in Family Medicine through UVA in Lynchburg, with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices to prevent disease, which included her first clinical training with Dr. Weil. During medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina, she was involved in research on the physical and psychological aftermath of trauma. Dr. DeMocker has a strong interest in optimizing health through diet and lifestyle changes, as well as evidence-based, non-pharmaceutical treatments for treating chronic conditions, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation and bodywork, including physical therapy, myofascial release and Therapeutic Touch. Dr. DeMocker is leading the WRIISC clinical team in expanding access to post-deployment health evaluation services for Veterans with deployment-related health and exposure concerns, and developing and expanding resources to assist VA providers in bringing the highest quality care to our nation’s Veterans.

Contact Dr. DeMocker at: 202-745-8000 ext. 56234.

< back to top

Alaine Duncan, MAc
  • Position: Acupuncturist

Ms. Duncan has over twenty years of experience using acupuncture in the treatment of traumatic stress. She has been with the DC WRIISC since 2007. Ms. Duncan’s clinical interest is in the broad spectrum of post-deployment traumatic stress responses, e.g., chronic musculoskeletal pain, traumatic brain injury, insomnia, phantom limb pain, mood and adjustment disorders. Ms. Duncan's research background includes serving as Assessing Acupuncturist in an Acupuncture and PTSD Study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), consulting on the clinical design for a VA Merit Grant exploring the effect of acupuncture for combat veterans with PTSD-related sleep difficulties, and serving as a Research and Clinical Consultant to the Samueli Institute on a study evaluating the use of acupuncture for the treatment of chronic headaches in Veterans with mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries. Ms. Duncan also designed and served as Clinical Director for a Restore & Renew Wellness Clinic® at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a stress reduction clinic for hospital staff using acupuncture and therapeutic bodywork. Ms. Duncan received her Acupuncture Master's Degree from TAI Sophia Institute in 1990, and completed Somatic Experiencing training in 2007.

Contact Ms. Duncan at: 202-745-8249.

< back to top

Kayleigh Hale, PsyD
  • Position: Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Kayleigh Hale is a postdoctoral fellow in clinical and research neuropsychology at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC. She received a BS in human development and aging from the University of Southern California (USC), and MA and PsyD in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University (APA). Dr. Hale completed a predoctoral internship at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, CA (APA), in addition to traineeships in neuropsychology at the University of California Los Angeles’s Medical Psychology Assessment Center (UCLA/MPAC) and Los Angeles County/USC’s Department of Neurology (LAC+USC). Dr. Hale’s research activity and interests include pre-surgical evaluation of patients presenting with epilepsy and brain tumor, in addition to the effects of war-related illness/injuries on cognitive performance and clinical outcomes.

Contact Dr. Hale at: 202-745-8000 ext. 55644.

< back to top

Chris Hansen, PhD
  • Positions:
    • Neuropsychologist
    • WRIISC Fellowship Director

Before coming to DC WRIISC in 2013, Dr. Hansen completed his undergraduate education at the University of North Dakota, and his MA and PhD through the University of South Dakota. Following completion of his academic work, Dr. Hansen was commissioned as an Army officer through the Army Medical Service Corps, and completed an internship through the Tripler Army Medical Center. Following completion of training, Dr. Hansen was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia serving as the mental health advisor for 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, and in 2005 deployed to Iraq in this capacity. Dr. Hansen attended a fellowship in neuropsychology through Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2009-2011. Upon completion of this training, he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas in a clinic assessing and treating service members with a history of traumatic brain injury. While stationed at Fort Hood, Dr. Hansen twice deployed to Afghanistan to work in the level III Concussion Specialty Care Clinic in Bagram.

Contact Dr. Hansen at: 202-745-8000 ext. 56793.

< back to top

Mian Li, MD, PhD
  • Position: Neurologist

Dr. Li is a DC WRIISC neurologist who provides clinical care to Veterans seen at the DC WRIISC. His duties include evaluating Veterans with post-deployment health concerns and providing education on war-related illnesses to medical students, residents, and clinical fellows who rotate through the WRIISC. He has been a senior staff fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and has experience in evaluating diseases caused by environmental neuro-toxins. He is currently a clinical Associate Professor of Neurology at the George Washington University. Dr. Li completed his neurology residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His research interests include autonomic disorders, brain injuries, and neuro-toxic disorders. Dr. Li is currently the Principal Investigator for two VA Merit studies looking at the autonomic and motor neuron functions of Veterans.

Contact Dr. Li at: 202-745-8249.

< back to top

Nicholas Lezama, MD, MPH
  • Position: Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Clinical Reviewer

Dr. Nicholas Lezama serves as a Camp Lejeune Family Member Program clinical reviewer and WRIISC staff physician. He has a broad background in emergency, aerospace, and preventive medicine. Dr. Lezama is a retired Air Force flight surgeon with 27 years of military service, and he deployed three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has served in clinical, command, administrative, and academic positions in the DoD and VA. His expertise and areas of interest include military health, environmental exposures, disaster medicine, aerospace medicine, and aeromedical evacuation. Dr. Lezama received his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine and a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.

< back to top

Antoinette Lomax
  • Position: WRIISC Administrative Officer

Ms. Lomax has been the DC WRIISC Administrative Officer since 2001. She is a longstanding employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs and has considerable experience in organizing clinical programs, overseeing administrative staff and personnel issues, troubleshooting day to day operational issues, and ensuring that budgets and fiscal programs are conducted in accordance with VA regulations. Ms. Lomax also has worked extensively with Veterans to ensure that Veteran feedback is incorporated into strengthening the DC WRIISC program.

Contact Ms. Lomax at: 202-745-8000 ext. 56533.

< back to top

S. Elizabeth Melnikoff, LICSW, MSW, M.Ed.
  • Position: Social Worker

Ms. Elizabeth Melnikoff, LICSW, MSW, M.Ed. is a research social worker at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC). She has been affiliated with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC since 2009. Ms. Melnikoff received a B.S. in Child Development and a M.Ed. in Pediatric Healthcare from Vanderbilt University, and a MSW from Boston College. Ms. Melnikoff completed a clinical fellowship at MIT in the Mental Health & Counseling Service. She then worked at two Harvard Medical affiliates: Shriners Burn Hospital and Joslin Diabetes Center. As a native Washingtonian, it was only fitting for her to find her place back in the DC area, where she has worked at Georgetown University and Hospital in psychiatric research and infectious disease. Her research with Georgetown brought about her initial partnership with the VA and eventual move to being a full time employee at the VA. Ms. Melnikoff has a number of publications in areas such as: barriers to mental care, community mental health, PTSD, and modalities for treatment of mental illness. Ms. Melnikoff is currently heading up the Gulf War Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Sleep, Health Functioning, and Quality of Life in Veterans with Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses study and is honored to serve and work with Veterans every day.

Contact Ms. Melnikoff at: 202-745-8000 ext. 55769.

< back to top

Michelle Kennedy Prisco, MSN, ANP-C
  • Position: Environmental Exposure Specialist

Ms. Prisco is an adult nurse practitioner who serves as the environmental exposure specialist DC WRIISC. She obtained her BBA from the University of Notre Dame and her MSN from Yale University. She has worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs since 1994 and was an Army Nurse Corps Officer in the United States Army Reserve. She has published several articles in the areas of infectious disease and post-deployment health. Ms. Prisco is the Principal Investigator for a VA Merit Grant that will explore how complementary and alternative medicine may help combat Veterans with PTSD-related sleep difficulties. She also is a co-investigator for a VA funded study that developed an Environmental Exposure Assessment Tool for combat Veterans returning from Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Ms. Prisco’s research interests include public policy issues, environmental exposure concerns, web-based educational programming, and complementary and alternative medicine. She also is the DC WRIISC webmaster.

Contact Ms. Prisco at: 202-745-8000 ext. 56235.

< back to top

Carleen Schwimmer, PsyD
  • Position: Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Carleen Schwimmer is currently completing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in clinical and research neuropsychology at the War Related Illness and Injury Study center (WRIISC) at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in international relations and earned her MA in political science from Emory University. Dr. Schwimmer received her MA in clinical psychology from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University in Atlanta, GA and her PsyD from the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University in Washington, DC (APA-accredited). Dr. Schwimmer completed clinical training experiences in psychology and neuropsychology at Emory University Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Johns Hopkins University Division of Medical Psychology in addition to an APA-accredited predoctoral internship in psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bay Pines, FL. Her clinical interests include working with Veterans with complex medical and psychological conditions and geriatric neuropsychology. Her research interests and activities include head injury, depression, PTSD, neuropsychological performance, and neuroimaging.

Contact Dr. Schwimmer at: 202-745-8000 ext. 56257.

< back to top

Lauren Skalina, PhD
  • Position: Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Lauren Skalina is currently completing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in clinical and research neuropsychology at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in psychology and French, earned her MA and PhD in clinical psychology at American University, and completed her pre-doctoral internship in the VA neuropsychology track of the VA Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland-Baltimore Psychology Internship Consortium. Dr. Skalina has extensive clinical experience providing neuropsychological evaluations, individual and group psychotherapy, and cognitive rehabilitation for Veterans. Her research interests include daily emotional experience, health-related behaviors (e.g., sleep), and neuropsychological functioning.

Contact Dr. Skalina at: 202-745-8000 ext. 57241.

< back to top

Rachel Stewart, PhD, LICSW
  • Positions:
    • Social Worker
    • Statistical Support

Dr. Rachel Stewart is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in the District of Columbia. After receiving her BA degree from the University of Notre Dame, Rachel went on to receive her MSW and PhD from the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University. Rachel worked for many years in the private sector specializing in serious mental illness in the hospital, residential, and outpatient settings. Since coming to the VA, Rachel has served primarily in the Emergency Department where she was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Fast Track program. Rachel is honored to continue learning from her colleagues and the Veteran community at the Washington, DC WRIISC.

Contact Dr. Stewart at 202-745-8249.

< back to top

Alex Zajdel, BA
  • Position: Research Assistant

Alex Zajdel, BA, is a Research Assistant at the DC WRIISC. He graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He is a research assistant for the GW-CAM study that is exploring the effects of iRest Yoga Nidra and Auricular Acupuncture in Veterans experiencing fatigue, pain, and cognitive issues. Mr. Zajdel is excited to work with Veterans as he expands his understanding and experience in the field of research and integrated health and wellness, while supporting WRIISC to meet their goals of providing excellent patient care.

Contact Mr. Zajdel at: 202-745-8000, ext. 55768.

< back to top