Our Team

Dr. Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Kevin M. Guskiewicz
PhD, ATC, FACSM, FNATA

Kevin Guskiewicz is a Kenan Distinguished Professor, Athletic Trainer, and the founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has served on faculty since 1995. Over the past 22 years, his clinical research program has focused on sport-related concussion and their effect on balance and neuropsychological function in high school and collegiate athletes, the biomechanics of sport concussion, and the long-term neurological effects of concussion in retired professional football players.

Kevin has published over 150 journal articles and textbook chapters on sport concussion and has helped sports medicine clinicians to improve diagnosis and management of this complex injury. More recently, his work is aimed at identifying biomarkers for determining the potential risk factors that predict symptom onset and progression of neurodegenerative disease in athletes who have played contact sports.

Kevin earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Medicine from the University of Virginia in 1995, after receiving a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology from The University of Pittsburgh in 1992 and a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from West Chester University in 1989. He has been awarded Fellowship in the American College of Sports Medicine in 2003, the National Academy of Kinesiology in 2006, and the National Athletic Trainers' Association in 2008. In 2010 he was named to the NCAA's Concussion Committee and the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee. In September 2011, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, given annually to individuals who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." Kevin resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife, Amy, and four children, Jacob, Nathan, Adam, and Tessa.

   

Dr. Jason P. Mihalik

Jason P. Mihalik
PhD, CAT(C), ATC

Jason Mihalik is an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. He is the Co-Director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, and currently serves as the Director of the EXSS Cadaver Anatomy Laboratory. Jason teaches courses in Biomechanics (EXSS 385) and Undergraduate Research Methods (EXSS 273), and Graduate Statistics and Research Methods. Jason completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science with a specialization in Athletic Therapy at Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) in 2001. He completed his graduate work in Sports Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA), earning his Master's Degree in December 2004. He was a recipient of a 5-year Royster Fellowship, allowing him to ultimately complete his doctoral work in Human Movement Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the summer of 2009.

Jason's primary research interest intersects head trauma biomechanics with clinical outcomes in civilian athletes and military warfighters. He investigates the effectiveness of innovative concussion assessment, management, and rehabilitation technologies. He is additionally interested in the interrelationships between ocular and vestibular function, as well as the utility of neuroimaging and neurophysiology, in the context of the concussion management paradigm. He has developed smartphone applications designed to assist lay rescuers in recognize concussion signs and symptoms and intervene accordingly. He is also the Chief Science Officer for Senaptec LLC, a startup company in the visual and sensory performance space. Jason also studies field management of neurotraumatic spine-related injuries.

   
Dr. Johna K. Register-Mihalik

Johna K. Register-Mihalik
PhD, LAT, ATC

Johna Register-Mihalik, PhD, LAT, ATC, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. In addition to her role as a Gfeller Center core faculty member, she serves as a Research Scientist with the Injury Prevention Research Center here at UNC-CH. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Alabama (2004, Athletic Training) and her master’s (2006, Athletic Training), doctoral (2010, Human Movement Science), and postdoctoral (2012, Neuroscience) training at UNC-Chapel Hill. Prior to joining the faculty in Exercise and Sport Science, she served as the Senior Research Associate in the Emergency Services Institute at WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, NC. Dr. Register-Mihalik's research interests include the negative consequences, prevention, education and clinical management of sport and recreational TBI. Her primary work centers on improved care, education and behavior change concerning TBI among physically active children and adolescents. In the future, she hopes to expand these injury prevention methodologies to other settings and injuries. Her work has been published in a variety of journals across the sports medicine and brain injury literature. Dr. Register-Mihalik is also an active member of many professional organizations including the National Athletic Trainers' Association, NATA, and the American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM. In addition, she currently serves on the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina's Board of Directors and USA Baseball's Medical and Safety Advisory Committee.

   

Dr. Stephen W. Marshall

Stephen W. Marshall
PhD

Stephen Marshall is Director of the Injury Prevention Research Center and Professor of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC, and is a core faculty member in the Gfeller Center. Stephen completed his undergraduate studies in Mathematics at the University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand) in 1987. In 1989, he completed a Post-Graduate Degree in Biometrics and Field Experimentation at Lincoln University (Canterbury, New Zealand). He completed his PhD at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC) in 1998. He serves as a statistical consultant to the Journal of Athletic Training, is an Assistant Editor for Injury Epidemiology, is a Research Associate at the Sport Performance Research Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, is a member of the Research Committee for Divers Alert Network in Durham NC, and serves on the Strategic Advisory Council for Injury and Violence Prevention Branch in the Division of Public Health, NC Dept of Health and Human Services.

In his capacity as Director of the Injury Prevention Research Center, he oversees a nationally-recognized injury prevention research center that has been funded by the CDC as one of the nation's 11 centers of excellence in injury prevention research. He has expertise in injury prevention and control, epidemiological studies of sports injury, and in the statistical analysis of sports medicine data. His areas of research within sports medicine include monitoring of concussion incidence using injury surveillance systems. He is closely associated with the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention. The Datalys Center operates the NCAA's Injury Surveillance Program. He has worked with faculty and students at the Matthew Gfeller Center for over decade in a wide range of studies addressing concussion incidence, management, and prevention.

   

Dr. Kevin A. Carneiro

Kevin A. Carneiro
DO

Kevin Carneiro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the Medical Director of UNC Spine Center as well as the Brain and Body Health Program through the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. He is the physician for all patients in the Matthew Gfeller Concussion Clinic. Kevin is a native of Canada, and received an honors undergraduate degree in Human Biology from the University of Toronto. He received his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then completed residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and a fellowship in Sports and Spine Rehabilitation at Northwestern University Medical School / Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as Sports Medicine.

 

Dr. JD DeFreese

J.D. DeFreese
PhD

JD DeFreese is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He Completed his doctorate in kinesiology (with a specialization in Sport & Exercise Psychology) at Purdue University. He was most recently a postdoctoral research associate at UNC-Chapel Hill. His research examines the link of athlete psychological health, including outcomes of burnout and well-being, with athlete physical health and social functioning. He is the Programs and Service Director for UNC's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and Program Manager for the UNC Brain & Body Health Program.

   

Dr. Zachary Kerr

Zachary Y. Kerr
PhD, MPH

Zachary Kerr is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina, and serves as the Research Director for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. He received his doctorate in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina. His research focuses on the development and evaluation of injury prevention strategies in sport settings across the lifespan. Zack has collaborated with numerous injury prevention, athletic training, and sports medicine experts, resulting in the publication of over 100 research articles related to injury surveillance and traumatic sport-related injuries such as concussions and exertional heat stroke. Zack is currently funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and pilot a new intervention utilizing a Popular Opinion Leader model to prevent concussions in middle school sports; and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation (NATA REF) to evaluate current high school football preseason acclimatization guidelines.

   

Dr. Kristen Kucera

Kristen Kucera
PhD, MSPH, ATC, LAT

Kristen Kucera is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. She currently teaches the undergraduate Research Methods in Exercise and Sport Science course (EXSS 273). She joined the faculty in 2013 after serving as an assistant professor in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. Kristen received her undergraduate degree (BS, 1994) in Athletic Training at Linfield College (McMinnville, OR). She completed her master's (MSPH, 2002) and doctoral (PhD, 2006) degrees in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

An epidemiologist and certified athletic trainer, Kristen's research interests include sport and occupational injury epidemiology with an emphasis in musculoskeletal disorders, ergonomics, and return to work. Evaluation and improved surveillance for sports and work-related injuries are another area of current focus. Kristen currently has a K01 study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examining work-related exposures and injuries and illnesses among certified athletic trainers.

   

Research Fellows

Dr. Michael Cools

Michael Cools
MD

Michael is a 5th Year Neurosurgery Resident in the UNC Department of Neurosurgery. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology and Neuroscience from Duke University (2009). He completed medical school in 2013 at the University of Michigan. Michael's research focuses on implementing existing technologies into the clinical realm to follow concussion diagnosis and recovery.

Dr. Catherine B. Ford

Catherine Ford
PhD

Cassie is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. She received her PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience in 2016 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cassie’s research interests include reconciling basic experimental measures of cognition with those used in clinical prevention and treatment of traumatic brain injury. She is also interested in applying novel statistical methods and models, as well as neurophysiological and behavioral measures (such as EEG and fMRI) to better understand both concussion risk factors, and the neurocognitive consequences following injury.

Predoctoral Trainees

Nikki Barczak

Nikki Barczak
MSc

Nikki is a doctoral student in the Matthew Gfeller Center. She graduated from UNC-CH in 2015 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Anthropology. Nikki competed on the varsity swim team before medically retiring due to injury. She completed her Master of Science in the Psychology of Sport in 2016 from the University of Stirling, Scotland. Nikki is interested in concussion research from a psychophysiological perspective. Her main topics of interest include psychological resilience, cerebrovascular responses, cardiovascular efficiency, and mindfulness.

Kody Campbell

Kody Campbell
MSc

Kody is a third year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Human Movement Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, in 2012, with a Bachelor's of Science Honors Specialization in Kinesiology, and played varsity football while completing his undergraduate degree. In 2014, he received his Master of Science in Biomechanics at the University of Western Ontario. Kody's research interests include sport-related concussion, head injury biomechanics in sport, and evaluating sensor technology used to record head injury biomechanics.

Tricia Combs

Patricia Combs
MEd, ATC

Tricia is a second year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Human Movement Science. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise and Sport Science with an emphasis in Athletic Training. After graduation, she worked as a certified athletic trainer at Tuscarora High School in Frederick, MD. She completed her Master of Education in Kinesiology from the University of Virginia in 2015. She was a research coordinator in the Matthew Gfeller Center in 2016. Her research interests include pediatric concussion.

Melissa Kay

Melissa Kay
MS, LAT, ATC

Melissa is a third year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Human Movement Science. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training in 2013. In May 2015, she received her Master of Science in Athletic Training from A.T. Still University. While completing both degrees, her primary athletic training responsibilities were caring for the Football and Men’s Basketball teams. Her research interests include the perceptions and attitudes of individuals regarding concussions and behavior, the interdisciplinary clinical team, and sport safety.


Julianna Prim

Julianna Prim
MS

Julianna is a second year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Human Movement Science. She graduated summa cum laude from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2013. She received her Master of Science in Zoology with a neuroendocrine focus from North Carolina State University in 2015. Her research interests include neuroimaging, the physiology of mTBIs, and rehabilitation in both military and athletic populations. She is also completing the graduate certificate in biomedical imaging while at Chapel Hill.

Tina Vander Vegt

Christina Vander Vegt
MS, ATC

Tina is a second year doctoral student in the interdisciplinary Program of Human Movement Science. She graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training in May 2013. In August 2015, she received her Master of Science in Athletic Training from Texas State University. Upon completion of her Master's degree, she gained additional experience in a Post-Professional Residency in Athletic Training, with a specialization in Orthopedic Rehabilitation at Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. Tina’s research focuses on active treatment and rehabilitation strategies following sport-related concussion.

Research Staff

Grant Cabell

Grant Cabell
BS

Grant is a research coordinator in the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Center. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017 with Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a second major in Exercise and Sports Science. Grant is in his first year as a coordinator after previously working as an undergraduate research assistant at the Gfeller Center. His research interests include blood biomarkers and their clinical significance to the field of sport related concussion, as well as head impact biomechanics and their relation to player safety in sport.

Alaina Ehlers

Alaina Ehlers
MS, CRC

Alaina serves as the Clinical Care Coordinator for the Brain & Body Health and Milestone Wellness Assessment Programs for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes (CSRA). CSRA works in conjunction with the Matthew Gfeller Center. Alaina completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is responsible for assisting with clinical care coordination, assisting with various research studies, and day-to-day operations.

Paula Gildner

Paula Gildner
MPH

Paula currently serves as the Project Manager for the Concussion, Disclosure Behaviors, Attitudes, Norms and Knowledge in Civilian and Military Emerging Adults (BANK) and Active Rehab Studies. Both of these studies work in conjunction with the Injury Prevention Research Center. Paula completed her undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master’s in Public Health, Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Paula is responsible for the implementation of these studies and the overall day to day operations.

Erin Grand

Erin Grand
MSc

Erin is a research coordinator in the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. She graduated from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, in 2011 with a Bachelor's of Arts Honors Specialization in Kinesiology, and played varsity soccer while completing her undergraduate degree. She completed her Master of Science in Kinesiology from Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, in 2013. Erin currently works with the UNC women's soccer team in match analytics and coaches youth soccer teams in the triangle area. Her research interests include sport-related concussion and how they may be applied to coaching best-practices and athlete safety.


Aliza Nedimyer

Aliza Nedimyer
MA, LAT, ATC

Aliza is a Project Coordinator working with both the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Center and the Injury Prevention and Research Center on the NCAA-DoD CARE and Active Rehab studies. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training. In May of 2017 she received her Master of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science with a concentration in Athletic Training from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include education, rehabilitation, and prevention of sport related concussion as well as foot and ankle injuries.

Maryalice Nocera

Maryalice Nocera
RN, MSN

Maryalice serves as the Senior Project Manager for the BeMod study. Maryalice is a registered nurse with over thirty-five years’ experience, including child psychiatry, general pediatrics, and pediatric critical care. She completed her undergraduate degree in Nursing from Duquesne University and received her Pediatric Nurse Practitioner certification and Master’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Michigan. She has been directly involved in injury prevention research for 16 years. She is responsible for the day to day operation of the study including recruitment of schools, management of data collection and oversight of intervention fidelity.

Ayana King

Kristen Oakes

Kristen Oakes is a native of Henderson, NC. She is a first-year Exercise and Sport Science major, and plans to apply to the Athletic Training track. Kristen plans to eventually get her Master's degree in Athletic Training, and hopes to work as an athletic trainer in a professional sports setting. She looks forward to gaining more knowledge of sports-related TBI as well as experience in the research setting at Gfeller.

Courtney Perkins

Courtney Perkins

Courtney Perkins is a native of Marion, SC. She is currently a junior Exercise and Sport Science major with a Specialization in Athletic Training. Courtney has worked with UNC varsity sports teams including football and softball, as well as some local high schools. She aspires to someday work within the National Football League as an athletic trainer. Courtney looks forward to obtaining more knowledge and experience from this position.


Lisa Marie Rosario

Lisa Marie Rosario

Lisa Marie Rosario is a native of Tampa Bay, FL, and is an incoming first-year student. She is declaring Exercise and Sport Science as her major with a specialization in Athletic Training. Lisa will pursue her passion for Sports Medicine here at the University of North Carolina and will apply to the Athletic Training program next Fall. She is pursuing a higher education after many years of professional experience and comes from a military background where she supported her husband’s military career. Lisa is eager to learn and gain experience within this field.

Leah Cox Thomas

Leah (Cox) Thomas
MS, CRC, LRT/CTRS

Leah serves as the Assistant Program Coordinator for the BBHP and serves as a Research Associate for both the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. Both of these work in conjunction with the Matthew Gfeller Center. Leah completed her undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of North Carolina- Wilmington and her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is responsible for assisting with various research studies as well as with day-to-day operations.

Gfeller Center Trainee Alumni

Dr. Michael Clark

Michael D. Clark (2017)
PhD

Michael Clark completed his doctoral studies (advisor: K. Guskiewicz) in 2017. Michael has returned to the UNC School of Medicine to complete his medical training en route to completing his MD/PhD program.

Melissa A. Fraser

Melissa A. Fraser (2016)
PhD, ATC

Missy Fraser completed her doctoral studies (advisor: K. Guskiewicz) in 2016. and is scheduled to defend her dissertation in September 2016. Missy is now an Assistant Professor of Athletic Training in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Texas State University.

Dr. Robert C. Lynall

Robert C. Lynall (2016)
PhD, ATC

Rob Lynall completed his doctoral studies (advisor: J. Mihalik) in 2016. Rob is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

Johna Register-Mihalik

Johna K. Register-Mihalik (2010)
PhD, ATC

Johna Register-Mihalik completed her doctoral studies (advisor: K. Guskiewicz) in 2010 and postdoctoral research fellowship in 2011. Johna is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and core faculty member of the Matthew Gfeller Center.


Ashley C. (Littleton) Santo

Ashley C. Santo (2015)
PhD, ATC

Ashley (Littleton) Santo completed her doctoral studies (advisor: K. Guskiewicz) in 2015. Ashley is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Towson University.

Julianne D. Schmidt

Julianne D. Schmidt (2013)
PhD, ATC

Julianne (Toler) Schmidt completed her doctoral studies (advisor: K. Guskiewicz) in 2013. Julianne is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

Dr. Elizabeth F. Teel

Elizabeth F. Teel (2017)
PhD

Liz Teel completed her doctoral studies (advisor: J. Mihalik) in 2017. Liz is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Research Institute at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, Quebec (Canada).

Dr. Erin B. Wasserman

Erin B. Wasserman (2016)
PhD

Erin Wasserman completed a 1-year postdoctoral research fellowship (advisor: J. Mihalik) in 2016. Erin is now the Director of the NCAA Injury Prevention Program at the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention.