Assistive Technology Biographies and Contact Information

Course Directors

Dr. Rory A. Cooper

Distinguished Professor, FISA/PVA Chair, Department of Rehabilitation and Technology, University of Pittsburgh 
Director, Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence fore Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
6425 Penn Avenue, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 822-3700 

Rory A. Cooper, PhD received the BS and MEng degrees in electrical engineering for California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He received the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in bioengineering from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989. He is FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Medicine & Rehab, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in Pittsburgh. He is also the Co-Director of the NSF Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

He is the Editor of the journal Assistive Technology and the AT Research Book Series of IOS Press. Dr. Cooper serves or has served on the editorial boards of several prominent peer-reviewed journals in the fields of rehabilitation and bioengineering. He has received multiple prestigious awards to include the Olin Teague Award, Paul Magnuson Award, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, James Peters Award, Maxwell J. Schleifer Award,DaVinci Lifetime Achievement Award, Veteran’s Leadership Program Veteran of the Year, and a member of the inaugural class of the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame. Dr. Cooper has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed journal publications. He has ten patents awarded or pending. Dr. Cooper is the author of two books: Rehabilitation Engineering Applied to Mobility and Manipulation and Wheelchair Selection and Configuration, and co-editor of An Introduction to Rehabilitation Engineering, Care of the Combat Amputee, and the Warrior Transition Leader Medical Rehabilitation Handbook. Dr. Cooper is an elected Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Dr. Cooper has been an invited lecturer at many institutions around the world, for example the National Academies of Sciences Distinctive Voices Lecture, and was awarded Honorary Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xi’an Jiatong University. He has also been elected to Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and Sigma Xi honorary societies.   

Dr. Cooper is a former President of RESNA, and a member of the RESNA/ANSI and ISO Wheelchair Standards Committees, and IEEE-EMBS Medical Device Standards Committee. In 1988, he was a bronze medalist in the Paralympic Games, Seoul, Republic of Korea. He was on the steering committee for the 1996 Paralympic Scientific Congress held in Atlanta, GA, and the Sports Scientist for the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team in Beijing, China. In 2009, Dr. Cooper was featured on a Cheerios cereal box for his many achievements. He has been a member of theU.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – Medicare Advisory Committee, Steering Committee of the Academy of PM&R on Research Capacity Building. and Chair of the National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, and National Academy of Sciences Keck Foundation Initiative on Human Health Span Steering Committee. Dr. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran with a spinal cord injury and a Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation. He currently serves as a member of the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Prosthetics & Special Disability Programs Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Defense Health Board Subcommittee on Amputation and Orthopedics, and the Board of Directors of Easter Seals. Dr. Cooper has actively collaborated with the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre on increasing access to quality services and devices for people with disabilities in India and throughout developing countries.

COL Paul F. Pasquina

Chief, Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Consultant to the Office of the Surgeon General for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence fore Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Orthopedics Department Room 2157
8901 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20889 

Colonel Paul F. Pasquina, MD is the Chief of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Director of the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research (CRSR) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and USUHS. In addition to being board certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R), he is also board certified in Electrodiagnostic Medicine and Pain Medicine. He completed a fellowship in sports medicine and remains interested in all aspects of musculoskeletal medicine, especially as it relates to individuals with disabilities. He is the specialty consultant to the Army Surgeon General for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and a Secretarial appointee on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committe for Prosthetics and Special Disabilities Programs. 

Dr. Pasquina has authored multiple book chapters, journal articles, and policy papers. He has served as the PM&R Residency Program Director and Medical Advisor to the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command for quality healthcare. He has received multiple military awardsm as well as awards for teaching and mentorship, including the U.S. Army's "A" Proficiency Designation for academin excellence, the Order of Military Medical Merit, and Honorary Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).

Dr. Michael A. Boninger

Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Associate Dean for Medical Research and Professor, School of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
6425 Penn Avenue, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 822-3700 

Michael L. Boninger, MD is professor and chair in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the Director of UPMC Rehabilitation Institute. He also serves as medical director of Human Engineering Research Laboratories and holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology and Bioengineering.  Dr. Boninger is also the director of the University of Pittsburgh Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, a National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research Center of Excellence, and Medical Director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories.

Dr. Boninger received a mechanical engineering degree and Doctorate of Medicine from the Ohio State University. Dr. Boninger has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications and numerous abstracts, proceedings, and book chapters. Dr. Boninger, who holds three patents, is on the editorial board of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Boninger has been an invited speaker on assistive technology, wheelchair biomechanics, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, and secondary prevention of disabilities around the world. In 2003, he was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), reserved for the top 2% of biomedical engineers.

Guest Faculty

Kendra Betz

Kendra Betz, MSPT ATP
Prosthetics Clinical Coordinator
Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service
United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Kendra Betz has worked for the VA since 1993 specializing in Spinal Cord Injury rehabilitation, assistive technology and adaptive sports. She is currently the Prosthetics Clinical Coordinator for the Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service, VA Central Office. In this role, she provides national clinical oversight for adaptive equipment and assistive technologies provided to Veterans.  Kendra holds an Adjunct Faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh, teaches regularly at national and international forums, and has contributed to several published chapters and articles about rehabilitation and technology intervention. She served as the Director of Training for a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Education Foundation grant surrounding upper limb preservation following SCI. In 2008, Kendra was inducted into the National Spinal Cord Injury Association Hall of Fame with recognition for her work with Veterans and military personnel with SCI. Recently, she was named 2009 VA Employee of the Year by the Air Force Association.

Nahom Beyene

Nahom M. Beyene, MSEng
Graduate Research Assistant; Doctoral Candidate
School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, University of Pittsburgh

Nahom M. Beyene received his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002.  He received an MS in biomechanical engineering from Stanford University in 2004.  Mr. Beyene is currently a graduate research assistant for Dr. Rory Cooper at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories.  Mr. Beyene has over five years of work experience with the NASA-Johnson Space Center in exercise hardware design and development.  In addition to providing engineering and human factors support, he led a NASA team with collaboration from academia to conduct a study of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, which simulated skeletal loading in zero gravity.  Presently, Mr. Beyene is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh researching applications of naturalistic driving data to enhance client evaluation in driver rehabilitation programs.

Rosemarie Cooper

Rosemarie Cooper, MPT ATP
Director of Clinical Services
Center for Assistive Technology
Assistant Professor
School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, University of Pittsburgh

Rosemarie Cooper received the BA degree with concentration in International Business from California State University, Sacramento in 1994. She received the MPT degree in Physical Therapy from University of Pittsburgh in 1998.  She is currently employed at the University Pittsburgh in the School for Health and Rehabilitation Science as an Instructor within the Department of Rehabilitation Science Technology. She is working as a Clinical Coordinator at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and as a Clinical Instructor/ Wheelchair Seating Clinician at the UPMC Center for Assistive Technology.  Preceding her PT studies, she has worked as a Research Associate for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, she served as an Executive Committee Member at the National Wheelchair Athletic Association (NWAA) Paralympic Training Camps held in Sacramento, CA, spring 1989-1994. Rosemarie Cooper has been an author on several articles on wheelchairs and seating. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, Business academic honor society and a member of APTA.

Brad E. Dicianno

Brad E. Dicianno, MD
Associate Medical Director
Assistant Professor
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh

Brad Dicianno is the Associate Medical Director at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in the Dept. of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. His clinical interests include the management of patients with complex disabilities such as spina bifida and provision of assistive technologies such as wheelchairs. His research interests focus on developing and studying interventions targeted to improving health and wellness in individuals with complex disabilities (wheelchairs, adaptive sports, telemedicine, virtual reality, and preventative care programs). He completed an NIH fellowship within the Rehabilitation Medicine Scientist Training Program. Brad graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine after obtaining a BS in Evolutionary Biology and a BA in the History and Philosophy of Science as an undergraduate there. He completed residency in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where he served as chief resident.

Allen N. Lewis

Allen N. Lewis, Jr., PhD
Associate Professor
School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, University of Pittsburgh

Allen N. Lewis, Jr. is an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.  Dr. Lewis has had a longstanding commitment to working in the health and disability arena for 29 years: six years as a direct service clinician; five years as a state-level program manager and administrator; seven years as a state agency and academic center research manager; and eleven years as an academic researcher, administrator and professor.  His research focuses on the influence of culture on the experience of being disabled AND evaluating the effectiveness of disability services.  Dr. Lewis has published refereed journal articles, book chapters, abstracts, proceedings, encyclopedia entries, and technical reports, as well as presented nationally and internationally.  He has been PI on several United States Department of Education grants.  He is on the editorial boards for the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation and the International Scholarly Research Network Journal, Rehabilitation.  He has also guest edited several special issues of academic journals.

Maryann McFadden

Maryann McFadden

Maryann McFadden self-published her first novel, The Richest Season, in 2006 after nearly six years of trying to get it published. Championed by independent booksellers, she soon found herself attached to a top New York literary agent who believed her novel should be published. It sold at auction to Hyperion Books (Disney) and an expanded version was released in hardcover  in 2008. It was recognized as an Indie Next Pick and Target Breakout Novel. McFadden's books have since been translated into German, Italian and Spanish. Her third novel, The Book Lover, debuted May 1, 2012, and has also been chosen as a nationwide Indie Next Pick by the American Booksellers Association.  From Publisher’s Weekly: "McFadden's newest novel is the subtly complex tale of an aspiring author, a struggling bookseller, an Iraq War veteran, and the pursuit of a dream that brings them all together...a believable story of self-discovery.”  McFadden is also a speaker and writing coach. 

Her advice to aspiring writers with a dream is "Work hard, persevere, and believe!"

Casey Nolan

Casey Nolan, MBA BSCE
Clark Realty Capital, LLC

Since starting with the Clark organization in 1997, Casey Nolan has led numerous development efforts and been involved with 6 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail projects.  As a Director, his responsibilities include leading and managing day-to-day development activities for the public private partnership of military housing at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The $700 million community project (residential/mixed-use) includes 2, 156 homes in an eight-year development period as part of a 50-year partnership with the US Army. 

Mr. Nolan is responsible for all development operations and serves as the owner's representative for the Fort Belvoir partnership with the Army. In his tenure, the project has completed all 1,886 new or renovated homes in 18 phases of development ahead of schedule and under budget.  Clark is the Owner, Developer, Builder and Asset Manager. The project has won over 35 design awards for excellence in mixed-use design, new urbanism, sustainability and historic preservation, and for the first-ever Town Center as well as first-ever LEED Platinum building on a Department of Defense installation.  Mr. Nolan and the project have been featured by Time Magazine, National Public Radio and the Washington Post for innovations in handicap accessible housing for Wounded Warriors and their families.  Mr. Nolan also manages market-rate mixed use, multifamily development for Clark as well.  He currently oversees land acquisition, entitlement and development activities for several projects in the Arlington submarket in the Washington, DC area.

Mr. Nolan received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University.  Mr. Nolan is a member of the Urban Land Institute and the Congress for the New Urbanism.  Mr. Nolan also serves on the Boards of the Clark CARES Foundation and Mt. Vernon-Lee Education Partnership (501(3)(c) non-profits).  His charitable fundraising efforts through the Clark CARES Foundation have contributed over $500,000 to the local community.

Amanda Reinsfelder

Amanda Reinsfelder, MS ATP
Assistive Technology Specialist
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Amanda Reinsfelder earned a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science and Technology from the University of Pittsburgh. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation, with a concentration in Assistive Technology, from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Ms. Amanda Reinsfelder has been an Assistive Technology Specialist for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the about two years. She works with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate tool for service members to meet specific goals, and provides training on the selected tools to increase the service member’s independence in a specific task. Prior to her employment at Walter Reed, she was an Assistive Technology Specialist for Pennsylvania’s state Assistive Technology Act Program where she educated consumers and providers about Assistive Technology. Ms. Reinsfelder is an active member of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), and has been a certified Assistive Technology Professional since 2007. She received the RESNA “Rookie Award” in 2008, served on the RESNA Meetings Committee as the Scientific Program Co-Chair 2008-2010, and the “First Timer Program” Coordinator 2008-2010. She is currently serving as a Co-Chair for RESNA’S Special Interest Group on Technology for Cognition and Sensory Loss. Ms. Reinsfelder enjoys increasing her awareness of current technology options that can be applied to the patient population she works with.

Mark Schmeler

Mark Schmeler, PhD OTR/L ATP
Assistant Professor
School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, University of Pittsburgh

Mark Schmeler is an Assistant Professor, Graduate Faculty, and Director of the Continuing Education Program in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the course director for the International Seating Symposium and directs several other continuing education venues including web-based post- `professional education and training. He also directs a national contract to develop Assistive Technology Clinics within the Veterans Administration’s four regional Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers. He has over 20 years of clinical practice experience and currently practices as an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Professional in the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Pitt    sburgh Medical Center which he helped establish and directed until 2005. His graduate teaching responsibilities are in the area of assistive technology funding & policy as well as clinical applications of wheelchair seating and mobility applying case-based and evidence based practice. His area of research is in the development and application of functional outcomes measures, product development, and telerehabilitation. He also works closely with national organizations as an advocate for appropriate coverage policies related to assistive technology. He currently serves on the RESNA Board of Directors.

Mark A. Sullivan

Mark A. Sullivan, AIA LEED AP BD+C
Senior Associate
Michael Graves & Associates

Mark A. Sullivan is a Senior Associate and Project Manager at Michael Graves & Associates. With more than 15 years of architectural experience, Sullivan has a strong background in the design and management of educational and cultural projects. He has specialized experience in historic presentation and the design of additions to historic buildings, including obtaining approvals. He also has substantial experience with sustainable design and LEED.

Since joining MGA in 2003, he has been the Project Manager for many of the firm’s key projects, including the Wounded Warrior Housing Project, which are accessible homes that provide for the needs of a varied group of soldiers who have been injured and/or adversely affected by their military service.  He was Project Manager for two of the firm’s LEED-Silver projects: the Mitchell Physics Buildings at Texas A&M University, as well as the Columbia School of Nursing. His experience also includes the 117,000-square-foot expansion of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, comprised of an education center, print and photography conservation and study rooms, classrooms and galleries, along with renovations in the existing historic building designed by McKim Mead & White; and a related project on the same campus for the Children’s Theatre Company, which was a 45,000-square-foot expansion and extensive renovation project, providing a new 300-seat theater, rehearsal rooms, classrooms and workshops, and extensive renovations in the historic building. 

Sullivan managed the Conceptual Design phase of the Newark Museum’s 100th Anniversary Signature Project, a 150,000-square-foot expansion that includes various historic structures, and participated in the construction documents phase of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.   

Hongwu Wang

Hongwu Wang, PhD
Research Scientist
Human Engineering Research Laboratories, University of Pittsburgh

Hongwu Wang received his PhD in Rehabilitation Science and Technology from University of Pittsburgh, in 2012, and his bachelor's and master's degree in Biomedical Engineering from Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China, in 2003 and 2005. Dr. Wang defended his dissertation on “Development and Evaluation of an Advanced Real-Time Electrical Powered Wheelchair Controller” in December 2011, and started his post-doc at Human Engineering Research Laboratories, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Wang has developed a series of advanced control algorithms such as anti-rollover control and traction control for electric-powered wheelchairs during his PhD pursuit. He has also published several papers in prestigious journals and conferences for his doctoral work and has won the best student paper awards in both 2008 and 2009 Annual Conference of Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. Dr. Wang is currently working on a robotic wheelchair with reconfigurable drive wheels and caster wheels that enable the wheelchair to automatically adapt to different terrains and driving conditions for both indoor and outdoor driving. His research interests are rehabilitation robotics design and development, outcome measurement tools development, and assistive technology and service clinical evaluation.

Faculty Disclosure

Faculty for this activity have been required to disclose all relationships with any proprietary entity producing health care goods or services, with the exemption of non-profit or government organizations and non-health care related companies.

No significant financial relationships with commercial entities were disclosed by:
Nahom Beyene, Musing, Guest Faculty
Shelly R. Brown, MEd, Course Coordinator
Rosemarie Cooper, MPT ATP, Guest Faculty
Brad E. Dicianno, MD, Guest Faculty
Allen N. Lewis, Jr., PhD, Guest Faculty
Maryann McFadden, Guest Speaker
Casey Nolan, MBA BSCE
COL Paul F. Pasquina, MD, Course Director
Amanda Reinsfelder, MS ATP, Guest Faculty
Mark A. Sullivan, AIA LEED AP BD+C, Guest Faculty
Hongwu Wang, PhD, Guest Faculty

The following information was disclosed:
Michael L. Boninger, MD, Course Director. Patent: Held by the University of Pittsburgh; Board member: Data safety monitoring board of stem cell study.
Rory Cooper, PhD, Course Director. Patent Agreements: AT Sciences; Three Rivers Holdings

Disclaimer Statement

The information presented at this CME program represents the views and opinions of the individual presenters, and does not constitute the opinion or endorsement of, or promotion by, the UPMC Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences, UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center or Affiliates and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Reasonable efforts have been taken intending for educational subject matter to be presented in a balanced, unbiased fashion and in compliance with regulatory requirements. However, each program attendee must always use his/her own personal and professional judgment when considering further application of this information, particularly as it may relate to patient diagnostic or treatment decisions including, without limitation, FDA-approved uses and any off-label uses.

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We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Paralyzed Veterans of America for this symposium.