2021-2022 Board of Directors
Erin Clemens, OTR/L, BCP, CIMI currently serves as the President of the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association until her term ends in July 2022.
Erin graduated in 2001 from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC and has been practicing as a pediatric occupational therapist ever since in a variety of settings including early intervention, schools, and private practice. She lived in Japan for three years, where her cultural experiences expanded, as she worked as a therapist providing services to both American families and local Japanese families.
Erin moved to Virginia in 2010, where she opened and currently runs a small private practice in Woodbridge, VA. Erin has been actively involved in VOTA since she moved to the state, serving as the Secretary of the Northern District from 2011-2012, and then Co-Chair of the Northern District from 2013-2015. She was President-Elect from 2015-2016 and began her term as VOTA President in July 2016.
Erin was chosen for AOTA’s Leadership and Management Course in 2012 and spent four intensive days at AOTA headquarters learning effective leadership and management skills. Erin is also an adjunct professor for the OTA program at Northern Virginia Community College. She is Board Certified in Pediatrics through AOTA.
On a personal note, Erin is on the PTA at her son’s Chinese school, is actively involved in her community, and is a member of the Education Committee of the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce, Erin enjoys outdoor activities with her family involving cycling, kayaking, hiking, and running.
Erin enjoys serving the Virginia OT practitioners. She brings her knowledge of VOTA proceedings, diverse experience as a therapist, leader, and manager, as well as fresh ideas to promote VOTA further and advance the association to be in line with trends of the profession.
Savanah Howe grew up in Virginia and graduated with her master's degree from James Madison University in 2017. She currently works in acute care and inpatient psychiatry for the University of Virginia Health System. Savanah served as the vice president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association at JMU and upon graduation, received the Mary M. Evert leadership award from JMU faculty. Some of Savanah's favorite occupations include listening to audiobooks and drinking tea, especially in the company of others. Having recently been a student, Savanah is passionate about supporting students and is grateful for the opportunity to do so through raising funds for VOTA scholarships.
La'Shandra (Elle) Russell
Originally from Northern Virginia, Jeanine is a graduate of JMU’s master of occupational therapy program. During her time as an OT student, Jeanine was involved with both VOTA and AOTA, holding various positions within the student occupation therapy association at JMU. Jeanine served as the VOTA Student Liaison, communicating with Virginia OT and OTA programs regarding all things related to the association. Before pursuing a career in occupational therapy, Jeanine worked for a news and media company in Arlington, VA working directly with associations and corporations in the healthcare policy space, which ignited her passion for federal and state level healthcare policy and legislation. Jeanine is kickstarting her career in Lynchburg, VA working in outpatient hand therapy. She is excited to fulfill the role of Secretary to advocate for OT practitioners in the state of VA.
Elizabeth Richardson, OTD, OTR/L
Blue Ridge District Chair - Position is vacant
Capital District Chair
Cody LaRue- graduated from VCU MSOT program in 2012. Currently working as Senior OT and FW Coordinator at HealthSouth Petersburg and PRN at Colonial Heights Health Care Center.
Paige Johns, OTD, OTR/L
Northern District Chair
I have served with VOTA since 2011. Initially, I co-chaired w/ Melissa Leupp and Erin Clemens respectively. I am a Senior Clinical Peer Reviewer, a corporate held position at Tivity Health. I work remotely 100% from home. I have worked in this capacity for 4 years. I pioneered the OT Spirituality Listserve at Creighton University; I was awarded “Distance Student of the Year” for the 2008-2009 Academic Year at Creighton University; I published an Advisory Opinion Chapter in the 2010 Edition of the Reference Guide to the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics & Ethics Standards. I have been an occupational therapist with 27 years of clinical experience and have the following specialties: Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Women’s Health, Certified Dementia Practitioner.
Southeastern District Chair - position is vacant
Leah Sowers is a 2002 graduate of [Jefferson] College of Health Sciences’ Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program. She received her Masters of Occupational Therapy in 2016 from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in North Carolina. Leah has held various positions within the adult/geriatric rehabilitation setting including staff OTA, business manager of an inpatient therapy department, and director of outpatient therapy services where she assisted in opening the clinic. She is currently Assistant Professor in the OTA Program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences and teaches a variety of courses including Foundations of the Profession, Kinesiology Lab, Assistive Technology, Physical Dysfunction, and Medical Terminology. When not teaching, Leah also enjoys working in OT in skilled nursing and home health environments. Her personal interests include appreciating the outdoors, watercolor painting, knitting, and being among the company of friends, family, and a very spoiled cocker spaniel.
Ave initially received a BS degree in OT from East Carolina University (NC) and her MS in OT from San Jose State University (CA). Her clinical experience has been in adult rehabilitation – initially working at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (Fishersville), the VA Medical Center (Salem), Carilion Clinic Roanoke Memorial Hospital, (Roanoke - PRN), The Glebe Retirement Community (Daleville - PRN), and with Medical Facilities of America (Roanoke, Salem, Vinton - PRN). After working at the VA Medical Center, she accepted a position as faculty and academic fieldwork coordinator within Virginia’s first accredited OTA Program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences. She currently serves as the OTA program director, previously taught in the BS OT program, and currently co-teaches a MSOT kinesiology course with an OT faculty member. Previously, Ave served as membership chair on the VOTA board, so she is looking forward to returning to the board in her new position - District Co-Liaison, Western District.
Scholarships and Awards
Justin earned his MHSOT from Augusta University and his post-professional OTD from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. He has previous experience in school systems, and is now working for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. In 2017, he was selected for AOTA’s Emerging Leaders Development Program where he served on the Volunteer Leadership Development Committee for one year. He has been involved in a number of community programs including adapted sports, equipment clinics, and therapy dog visits.
Heidi R Hull, OTD, MS OTR/L is originally from Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Gannon University in 2002, continued her education at VCU and received a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy and graduated in 2004. She then returned for her post-professional OTD to VCU and graduated in 2015. Heidi has spent most of her professional career working in the school systems, private and public. She currently serves as the Lead OT for Albemarle County Public Schools and has a Level 1 Certification in Handwriting Without Tears.
Heidi grew up volunteering at a summer camp for children with disabilities and helping the hippotherapy, so working with people with disabilities is in her blood.
In her spare time Heidi enjoys spending time with her children, reading, and running.
Heidi is excited to join the VOTA in the role of Continuing Education Chairperson. She loves attending and presenting at the annual conference and school symposium; she is excited to learn more about the conference process.
Lauren Carter Smith, OTR/L, CBIS
Lauren Carter Smith, OTR/L, CBIS is a float Occupational Therapist and student clinical education coordinator at Bon Secours Mercy Health in Richmond, VA. She is a 2001 graduate of James Madison University and is a certified brain injury specialist. She is a leader in fieldwork education, co-chairing the Virginia Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Council and has been a regional instructor for AOTA’s Fieldwork Educators Certificate Course since 2009. She specializes in adult physical rehabilitation with focused training in utilizing NDT and neuro technologies to enhance client outcomes. She is an advocate to adult survivors of brain injury through her work as the director of Camp Bruce McCoy through the Brain Injury Association of Virginia and volunteers her time as membership chairperson for the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association.
Lindsey Sawyer, OTR/L, QMHP-C currently works at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children after graduating from James Madison University in 2017 with her master's degree in OT. Lindsey is originally from Kentucky and lived in New Jersey for a year in high school before moving to Virginia to attend Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg), where she obtained her Bachelor's of Science in Health Promotion. She is currently pursuing her Post-Professional OTD through Quinnipiac University. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys rock climbing, spending time with her friends and loved ones, cuddling her dog, photography, and crafting.
Vivian Swingle has a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Duquesne University. She currently works as a school based OT with Fairfax County Public Schools. Prior to transitioning to the school based setting 10 years ago, Vivian managed the outpatient neurological rehabilitation program at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. She also has experience working in inpatient rehab, acute care, skilled nursing facilities, and in early intervention. In addition to her clinical practice, she has co-taught courses for the COTA program at Northern Virginia Community College and served on their Curriculum Advisory Board. She is looking forward to becoming more involved with VOTA in this new role.
In her free time she enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her family. She is the mother of 4 sons and is often volunteering with scouts, and soccer and rugby teams.
VOTA Student Liaison
Kimberly has been an OTA for over 17 years and found her calling after 2 other careers. Like so many others in our field, she has practiced in many settings-skilled nursing, memory care, home health, rehab, acute, early intervention, community health. She has worked in Indiana, Florida, Colorado, and now Virginia. Kimberly has been a member of AOTA since she was a student and a member of each state association. She has been licensed. "Our professional organizations provide so much value and that is why I also volunteer! I have served with AOTA on the Commission on Practice for 5 years. I have had many wonderful opportunities including presenting at Conference and working on the OT Practice Framework (just published on the website!)" In her position as VOTA's OTA liaison, she will bring ideas and a strong work ethic.
Dianne Simons, PhD, OTR/L
VOTA Legislative Liasion
James Madison University
NOVA Community College
NOVA Community College
South University - Richmond
VA College - Richmond
2012 - 2016 Michele Stoll
2010-2012 Amanda Leo
2006-2010 Grace Williams
2002-2006 Rebecca Argabrite Grove
2000-2002 Jan Chmela
1998-2000 Judie Smith
1996-1998 Jean Hearts
1994-1996 Chestina Brolier
1993-1994 Sharon Brandenburger
1988-1992 David Hynes
1984-1988 Fran Olsen
1983-1984 Jayne Shepherd
1982-1983 Bette Burton
1981-1982 Valerie Young
1980-1981 Ruth Meyers