Maria Kajankova, PhD
Dr. Kajankova is an Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine’s Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance and is an attending rehabilitation neuropsychologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. She is also the clinical training director of the postdoctoral fellowship program in clinical neuropsychology and rehabilitation research. She received her PhD in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University in New York, NY. She then completed a two-year National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)-funded Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training fellowship focusing on rehabilitation psychology, neuropsychology, and rehabilitation research at the Brain Injury Research Center of Mount Sinai Hospital. To further enhance her clinical practice, Dr. Kajankova is currently pursuing board certification in rehabilitation psychology and was awarded the American Board of Professional Psychology Foundation scholarship for training directors. As an emerging leader at Mount Sinai, Dr. Kajankova was recently accepted into the Leadership Emerging in Academic Departments Program through the Mount Sinai Office of Academic Enrichment.
Influenced by her clinical work with patients and their families with TBI, Dr. Kajankova’s research focuses on developing, validating, and implementing neurobehavioral interventions for TBI-related deficits. She was involved in the development and evaluation of an intervention for post-TBI emotional dysregulation (EmReg), and became PI of the NIDILRR-funded efficacy study in 2016 after joining the faculty at Mount Sinai. She is currently the PI of a TBI Model System core research project: A Randomized Controlled trial of the EmReg intervention. She played a leadership role in a CDC-funded implementation science project designed to translate a comprehensive program for post-TBI executive dysfunction to various clinical rehabilitation settings in the United States. Dr. Kajankova is also interested in injury prevention, particularly prevention of brain injury and its secondary consequences across the lifespan. She completed a project evaluating the implementation of the New York State Concussion Awareness and Management Act by school districts. The study highlighted critical gaps in implementation and the importance of adequate implementation of the Act, as it serves an important role in the prevention and adequate management of youth concussions.
Dr. Kajankova has been involved with the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) since 2012, attending meetings and is actively involved in Pediatric Adolescent Task Force and the Mild TBI Task Force. As part of the task forces, she has collaborated on publications focusing on improving care for children diagnosed with TBI by bridging the gap between the medical and educational settings and collaborated on an expert panel survey that will inform an updated definition of mild TBI for ACRM. She was awarded the Early Career Poster Award at the ACRM 2012 Annual Meeting and the BI-ISIG Early Career Travel Scholarship in 2015 and 2016.
In March 2020, Mount Sinai Hospital became an epicenter of the COVID-19 global pandemic, significantly impacting clinical and research operations. Their rehabilitation neuropsychology clinic quickly transitioned to telehealth and began providing services to employees of Mount Sinai at the frontlines and individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. Many of their research studies had to be put on hold, however, the randomized controlled trail of an online emotion regulation intervention post-TBI (which Dr. Kajankova is PI of) was already fully remote (conducted via phone and videoconferencing), allowing them to continue recruiting, enrolling and providing treatment to participants during a very challenging time. Dr. Kajankova shared with us, “Personally, I have remained in NYC during the pandemic, and I am fortunate that my family and loved ones remain safe and healthy.”
Zaccheus J. Ahonle, PhD, CRC
Dr. Ahonle recently became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, & Foundations at Mississippi State University. He is a certified rehabilitation counselor. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State of Nigeria. He then obtained his Master of Information Science from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria. After moving to Texas, Dr. Ahonle went on to obtain his Master of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling and PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. During his graduate training, he received several awards such as the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Scholarship from the US Department of Education and the M.B. Moran Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Education from the University of Texas at Austin. While studying, he served as a vocational rehabilitation intern for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services (now known as the Texas Workforce Commission), as well as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Consultant for the Capital City Rehabilitation Group of Austin, Texas. In addition, he has served as both a project manager and Disability Studies Graduate Portfolio Coordinator for the Texas Center for Disability Studies. As a Lecturer for the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at UT Austin, he taught courses on the social context of disability, making systems work for people with disabilities, developmental disabilities and self-advocacy, and aging and disability. In 2018, he received the Faculty Recognition Award from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT Austin for positively contributing to the academic endeavors of students with disabilities and for creating an inclusive environment for all students.
Dr. Ahonle later became a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville. Concurrently, he was a Research Assistant under the direction of Dr. Sergio Romero, who is the Co-Director of Veterans Rural Health Resource Center of the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida. The NIDILRR-funded Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training (ARRT) Fellowship supported his post-doctoral fellowship. During the fellowship, his research focused on understanding the factors associated with successful state-federal vocational rehabilitation employment outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI). He collaborated with two Veteran Affairs (VA) Medical Center physicians and health services researchers, to examine multiyear (2012-2016) data from two VA databases to compare drug and opioid overdose, and suicide rates among VA facilities on a local, regional and national level. Dr. Ahonle also collaborated with others to explore qualitatively the facilitators and barriers to implementing telerehabilitation for rural veterans. He also contributed to a book chapter on improving health through a home modification service for veterans. Since joining MSU, his research is focused on return to productivity (i.e. employment, return to school) and improving access and utilization to vocational support services/interventions among Veterans and individuals with disabilities, including those with co-occurring Opioid Use Disorder.
Dr. Ahonle has already served as a co-investigator on three VA grants. Over the past eight years, he has served as an active member or board member to a number of organizations, such as the National Rehabilitation Association, National Council on Rehabilitation Education, Grant Professionals Association, and the National Postdoctoral Association. He is a past board member of the Florida Rehabilitation Association, and became an active member of ACRM in 2019. When asked about how COVID-19 has made an impact in his life, Dr. Ahonle shared, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the field of academic activity in that, most or all of the didactic classes are conducted remotely via e-learning. In terms of research, as part of interdisciplinary research topic, I hope to conduct research on the impact of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic on the delivery of vocational rehabilitation services and outcomes of adults with disabilities.”
Andrew Nabasny, MS
Mr. Nabasny, MS is a doctoral student in the Applied Clinical Program at the University of Texas Southwestern (UT Southwestern) Medical Center. He received a Bachelor of Science in Health and Exercise Science from the University of Oklahoma in 2014, a Master of Science in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience of the University of Texas at Dallas in 2017, and a Master of Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling from UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2019. Currently, he works as a doctoral research assistant in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
In 2018, Mr. Nabasny began working as a student research assistant under the supervision Dr. Shannon Juengst where his research focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and long-term outcomes post-injury. During his time with Dr. Juengst’s lab, he served as a study interventionist, assisted in grant writing, developed mobile health applications for multiple studies, and contributed as an author to several papers and other projects. His dissertation project will examine the association between childhood trauma, heart rate variability, and persistent neurobehavioral symptoms among adults with chronic TBI.
Mr. Nabasny has co-authored 7 peer-reviewed articles (1 as the first author) and 5 published abstracts (3 as the first author). He has given presentations at several national conferences, receiving the Deborah Lee Price Girls and Women with ABI Task Force Poster Award at the 2018 ACRM Annual Conference, and the Foundation for Rehabilitation Psychology Student Poster Award at the 2020 Rehabilitation Psychology (Division 22) Annual Conference. He has been a member of ACRM, the Brain Injury International Special Interest Group (BI-ISIG), and the Military/Veterans Affairs Networking Group since 2018.
Over the past several months, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted portions of Mr. Nabasny’s research, particularly those in which inpatient interaction is necessary. Aside from this, his other research projects, publications, and courses have continued relatively normally, albeit with much more interaction over Zoom.
Moving forward, Mr. Nabasny plans to investigate the impact of trauma (specifically, early-life trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder) on long-term behavioral, emotional, and physiological symptoms post-TBI. By being able to better delineate distinct symptom profiles that emerge following TBI, trauma, or both, he hopes to provide a better understanding of these complex disorders that will inform the use of more personalized interventions, based on individual response to injury, within clinical practice.