VOTA is Virginia's leading organization for occupational therapy practitioners and students. VOTA is committed to advocating for and further developing the profession of occupational therapy in our state.

2022-2023 Board of Directors
(Green title is linked to officers email)

Executive Officers

Savanah Howe, OTR/L, QMHP-A

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. Her areas of passion include neurorehab and mental health. She teaches adjunct for James Madison University. Savanah served as the Fundraising chair for 2 years before transitioning to president elect then president. Some of Savanah's favorite occupations include reading psychology and sociology books, hiking, and drinking tea, especially in the company of others. She is looking forward to using her position as president to connect with and elevate the voices of OT practitioners in Virginia!

La'Shandra (Elle) Russell MSOT, OTR/L, CYT, CEIM, CPES
Vice President

La’ Shandra “Elle” Holmes-Russell is owner and operator of Occupational Transitions, LLC, a mobile clinic practice that offers a monthly occupation-based psychosocial support group for mothers of color in the up to one-year postpartum period, as well as in early intervention (birth-3), lactation and breastfeeding education and care management, pregnancy and postpartum musculoskeletal rehabilitation, and Female Pelvic Floor Therapy.
Elle obtained her Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from Shenandoah University, as well as a Certificate in Early Intervention from Georgetown University in 2019. Since graduation, she has obtained certifications as an Educator of Infant Massage, Postnatal Yoga, Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, and a Herman & Wallace Level 1 Pelvic Floor Therapist. Elle has also completed the PSI 2-Day “Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care* training, and is completing her hours with plans to sit for the PSI PMH-C and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Exams in fall 2023. Elle is passionate about partnering with families in order to collaboratively, and holistically identify therapeutic interventions to support and strengthen familial bonds, and maximize childhood developmental outcomes It is Elle's held belief that “relationship is the organizing factor in which all development (physical, social, and emotional) occurs”...and that “…[society] must start thinking of maternal mental health and women’s health as an upfront investment in the well-being of the entire family…”, in order to provide timely and equitable care services to fully support the mother/birthing person’s transition into mother-or parenthood. 

Lauren Andelin, OTD, OTR/L, BCP

Lauren Andelin is an Assistant Professor and Director of Fieldwork for the Department of Occupational Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Prior to transitioning to full time academia in 2020, Lauren worked at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU where she continues to work PRN. She has specialty training in sensory integration and assistive technology and has her AOTA board certification in pediatrics. Lauren received her M.S. in OT from VCU in 2009 and her post professional OTD from VCU in 2018.  Lauren is the mother of three and enjoys spending time with her family, reading, writing, and learning.

Elizabeth Richardson, OTD, OTR/L


Erin Clemens, OTR/L
Past President

Erin Clemens, OTR/L, served as President of the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association from 2016-2022.  Erin has been actively involved in VOTA, 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 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 owns a pediatric private practice in Woodbridge, VA, and divides her time between growing the clinic, leading business mastermind and book groups, consulting, speaking, and pursuing other entrepreneurial ventures! When Erin is not working, she enjoys reading, learning Mandarin, running, and visiting National Parks to go hiking with her family!

Committee Chairs

Justin DeMarchi, OTD, OTR/L

Nominations 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 Hull, OTD, OTR/L
Continuing Education

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.

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 Carter, OTD, OTR/L, QMHP-C

    Lindsey Carter, OTD, 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 additionally just completed her PP-OTD from Quinnipiac University in 2022. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys yoga, spending time with her friends and loved ones, cuddling her dog, photography, and crafting.

    Vivian Swingle
    Bylaws, Ethics

    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.

    Fundraising- position is vacant


    Pam Stephenson- Community of Practice Liaison

    Kimberly Kearney

    OTA 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.

    Angela Geraci

    VOTA Student Liaison

    Angela Geraci is a current occupational therapy doctorate student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a 2021 graduate of the College of William and Mary where she graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and Health Sciences. At VCU, she is involved with the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity and Pi Theta Epsilon. She is excited to serve as the student liaison and work towards forming greater connections between VOTA and OT students around the state. Upon graduation, she hopes to work with adults and older adults with a specific emphasis on oncology or neurorehabilitation.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, indoor cycling, cooking, and watching Jeopardy!

    Joni WatlingOTD, OTR/L, QMHP-A

    VOTA Legislative Liaison

    Joni holds a B.S. in Business Management and Leadership Studies from Shorter University (1998), a Masters in Occupational Therapy from University of Minnesota (2013), and post professional OTD from University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (2020). She serves as co-facilitator of the Virginia Occupational Therapy Associations Mental Health Community of Practice and has served as adjunct instructor for numerous undergraduate, masters level, and doctoral OT programs since 2017.  She worked in Acute Care Behavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical Center / Fairview in an adult inpatient psychiatric setting for 5 years before relocating to Richmond, Virginia. Since 2018, she has primarily been involved in mental health advocacy, academia, and experiential education in community settings. As founder of Rooted in Function, LLC she has provided consulting services to numerous non-profit organizations in central Virginia with an emphasis on improving quality of life and occupational engagement among the adult and senior populations.  In her spare time, she enjoys water sports, tai chi, yoga, exploring Virginia, traveling throughout the US to visit friends and family, spending time with her husband and playing frisbee with her dog, Maya.  She looks forward to collaborating with others to promote improved recognition of OT in policy and practice. 

    District Chairs

    Cody LaRue
    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.

    Leah Savelyev

    Western District

    Leah Savelyev 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 Mitta
    Western District

    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.

    Blue Ridge District Chair - position is vacant

    Southeastern District Chair - position is vacant

    Northern District Chair- position is vacant

    Contact Us8100 Three Chopt Road, OMG Suite 226| Richmond | VA | 23229
    T: (804) 523-2911

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software