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
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
Shivani B. Vij, Occupational Therapist, OTD, OTR/L
Nominations and Awards
Shivani Vij is a distinguished occupational therapist with over a decade of experience across various settings, including schools, skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient, outpatient, and home health care. She obtained her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy in 2019 from The Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Utah. Currently serving as an occupational therapist at Valley Health Home Health in Winchester, VA, Shivani has continuously pursued opportunities to expand her knowledge and expertise in the field.
Her involvement in various scholarly activities evidences her dedication to the profession. During the peak of the pandemic in 2021, Shivani published a peer-reviewed publication that focused on evidence-based strategies for managing long-COVID symptoms, underscoring her expertise in this area. In 2022, she contributed to another peer-reviewed journal that emphasized culturally competent practices for South Asian clients, demonstrating her commitment to advancing the profession while ensuring inclusivity and diversity. Shivani's most recent publication, in 2023, focuses on occupation-based interventions in chronic dyspnea management. Her other interest areas include chronic disease management, aging in place, and community-based rehabilitation.
Shivani is also the recipient of the AOTA 2023 Choosing Wisely Championship Award. This recognition is for practitioners leading efforts for safe, effective, evidence-based care based on the Choosing Wisely recommendations. Shivani is also a peer reviewer of two leading occupational therapy journals, Occupational Therapy International and The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy. She is also an external reviewer for the Robert Bing Scholarship for the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). With her extensive experience and dedication to occupational therapy, Shivani is a valuable asset to the healthcare community.
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.
Jane’s career as a pediatric OT has spanned over 40 years and many diverse settings both in the US and the UK. She has conducted therapy with horses and dogs, in NICUs, schools, clinics, swimming pools and operating rooms. She has always sought opportunities to help parents better understand their children, especially in the presence of sensory issues affecting behavior such as picky eating or emotional regulation. Jane just opened her own practice, Common Senses LLC, in her home in Herndon where she uses her garden and her cat to help create a welcoming and unique sensory experience for her clients. She is excited for this opportunity to serve the profession and its members through VOTA, and is looking forward to growing our membership. Together we are stronger!
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 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.
Andrea is originally from Albemarle County, Virginia and currently resides in Spotsylvania, Virginia. She earned Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Business Administration and Economics from Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg) and later earned a Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She works primarily in the Spotsylvania County public school system, and also works in inpatient acute care at Encompass Health in Fredericksburg. She also has experience working in an outpatient clinic and home-based services. Andrea enjoys supporting a variety of programs, students, activities, and collaboration in any way she can and is looking forward to helping VOTA continue to grow. In her free time, she has a passion for line dancing, organizing, making her best attempts at trivia nights, game nights, riding ATVs, and also being home spending time with her family.
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 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 Watling, OTD, 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.
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 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.
Blue Ridge District Chair - position is vacant
Southeastern District Chair - position is vacant
Northern District Chair- position is vacant