Our THRIVE Team
Jason P. Mihalik
PhD, CAT(C), ATC, FACSM, FNATA
Dr. Jason Mihalik is a Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. He is the Co-Director of the Matthew Gfeller Center and the Chief Executive Officer for the center's THRIVE Program. He holds adjunct appointments in the Department of Neurosurgery and Department of Allied Health Sciences. He also serves as Affiliate Faculty at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center in the TBI focus area. 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, 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. Jason also studies field management of neurotraumatic spine-related injuries.
Conflict of Interest Disclosure: Dr. Mihalik is the Chief Science Officer for Senaptec Inc., a startup company in the visual and sensory performance space.
Shawn F. Kane
MD, FAAFP, FACSM
Dr. Kane serves as the Chief Medical Officer and Primary Care physician for the THRIVE Program and continues to work and support the Matthew Gfeller Center and the Center for Study of Retired Athletes. After graduating from Gettysburg College in 1991 with a B.S. in Biology he attended the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USUHS) and graduated in 1995 with his doctorate in medicine. He completed his Family Medicine residency at Womack Army Medical Center and his Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship at USUHS/Ft Belvoir. Aside from his time in medical school and graduate medical education he served most of his career as a physician with multiple units in the US Army Special Operations Command (Airborne). In 2018, he retired from the Army and joined the faculty in the Department of Family Medicine at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Candice Goerger serves as the Associate Director of Operations for the Matthew Gfeller Center & the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. She directs all research and clinical operations and manages all personnel and financial management, strategic development and programmatic support for both Centers.
Candice completed her Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training at Temple University and her Master’s degree in Sports Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
Neka Alston serves as the Assistant Director for Clinical Programs for the Matthew Gfeller Center and the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes (CSRA) where she oversees operations for the THRIVE Program and the Brain & Body Program, respectively. A first-generation college graduate and spouse to a former NFL player, Neka earned a Master of Arts Degree in Healthcare Administration and brings over 7 years of valuable synergies in medical education, patient care, and non-profit management. Neka’s desire and motivation to support and empower the lives of others was firmly rooted during her upbringing in rural South Carolina. Her familiarity and understanding of how to effectively address the unique needs of families from disadvantaged backgrounds has positioned her to advocate for progressive action and to build collaborative partnerships that increase resilience for vulnerable populations. She is inspired by the mission of the Avalon Network and looks forward to seeing the impact the THRIVE Program has on veterans, their families, and their communities.
MBA, CCMA, CPT
Tyrell Baggett serves as the Practice Manager for the THRIVE Program at the UNC Physicians Network. Tyrell completed his undergraduate degree in Business Administration in Health Services and a Master’s in Business Administration, concentration in Healthcare Administration at Strayer University. He has previous experience in operations, clinical care, and executing patient care experience. He is inspired by the mission of the Avalon Network and is motivated to drive the THRIVE Program to the next level in strategic forecast planning and lean operational workflows to imprint health and resilience in the delivery of services for Veterans around the country and witness the impact the THRIVE Program has on Veterans, and their families, and their communities.
MSW, LCSWA, LCASA
Sarah Marshburn serves as the Social Work Practitioner for the Transforming Health and Resilience in Veterans Program (THRIVE) Program. Sarah’s previous experience includes working with Veterans with a concentration in suicide prevention. She is responsible for case management with the Veterans and following them for up to a year once they complete the program. Sarah completed her undergraduate degree in Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Master’s in social work from North Carolina State University. She is currently a provisionally licensed clinical social worker and looking forward to impacting Veterans through the THRIVE Program.
BS, Army Veteran
Marcus serves as the Clinical Navigator for the Transforming Health and Resilience in Veterans (THRIVE) Program. As the Clinical Navigator, he is responsible for providing Veterans with program information, screening Veterans for eligibility and collecting program documents.
Marcus is excited for the opportunity to continue serving our military and first responder communities. He hopes that his personal experiences as a Veteran allows him to make the necessary connections to ease whatever concerns and anxiety that our clients may have when seeking to learn more about the THRIVE Program.
BS, MSG (Ret.)
Master Sergeant (Retired) Sam Rodriguez serves as the THRIVE Program’s Veteran Outreach and Program Coordinator. He is dedicated to connecting military Veterans, first responders, and their families to the benefits of the THRIVE Program. Sam graduated from Campbell University in 2004 with a B.S. in Health Sciences and a minor in Biology, while serving on active duty in the U. S. Army for twenty-nine years, with many of those years assigned to U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Army Special Operations Units.
Early in Sam’s military enlistment (1979-1987), he was assigned to various leadership positions within the U.S. Army Cavalry and Field Artillery branches stationed in Germany, California, Hawaii, and Oklahoma. Promoted to Staff Sergeant in 1988, Sam volunteered and was selected to attend the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course at Ft. Bragg, NC. Upon graduating from the U.S. Army Special Forces Medic course in 1990 he was assigned to a Special Forces Operations Detachment-Alpha (ODA) with the U. S. Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (7th SFG(A)) at Ft. Bragg, NC. In 1995 Sam was assigned as an instructor at the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, NC, to train the next generation of Special Forces and Special Operation Medics for four of the five branches of the United States military at the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center at Ft. Bragg, NC.
In 1998, Sam returned to the 7th SFG(A) at Ft. Bragg, NC, and served several more years on an ODA before he was selected to serve in the 7th SFG(A) Headquarters Surgeon’s Office as the Senior Operations Sergeant. Sam’s final posting in the U.S. Army was to serve as a Senior Enlisted Advisor for the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Command Surgeons Office at Ft. Bragg, NC. Upon retirement from the U. S. Army after twenty- nine years of service in 2009, Sam continued to serve the military as a Lessons Learned Senior Operations Analyst for the USASOC, Headquarters at Ft. Bragg, NC.
Sam is a proud father of five adult children and many grandchildren! Three of his children have served or are currently serving in the United States military as well.
Sam is grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our military and first responder communities with the UNC THRIVE team. He is optimistic that with the help of the UNC THRIVE teams and coordination with the veteran’s health care providers we can find long-term innovative solutions to ultimately increase the quality of life for those that have given so much of themselves and their families for the security of our country.
Dr. Lindsey Byom serves as the Speech Language Pathologist for the THRIVE Program. She earned a clinical master’s degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her clinical degree, she earned a Ph.D., from UW-Madison, where she studied the cognitive and communication effects of traumatic brain injury. After graduation, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where she studied cognitive and perceptual effects of blast-related traumatic brain injury experienced by Military Service Members. She then continued her research and clinical work at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, completing the VA’s Advanced Fellowship in Women’s Health while serving Veterans with communication needs. In 2018 she joined the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Kevin A. Carneiro
Dr. Carneiro serves as the Musculoskeletal Medicine physician for the THRIVE Program. He, native of Canada, received an honors undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 1999. In 2005, he received his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Following medical school, he 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 a board-certified physiatrist in physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as sports medicine. Prior to coming to UNC, Dr. Carneiro served as a clinical instructor and chief resident at RIC. While there, he received the Meyer S. Gunther Award, which is given to the second-year resident who displays the art of listening, understanding and interacting with patients. Additionally, he won the Walter E. Heller Chief Resident Award and the Dr. Scholl’s Research Award. He has conducted research and written book chapters and journal articles on musculoskeletal, sports and occupational rehabilitation medicine, most recently on exercise for low back pain. He presents regular lecture modules in musculoskeletal, sports and spine rehabilitation, and has lectured at various meetings on subjects ranging from complementary and alternative approaches to pain management, to return-to-play guidelines for athletes. He’s looking forward to treating veterans and taking care of those that have taken care of all of us.
Wesley R. Cole
Wesley “Wes” Cole is a Research Associate Professor with the Matthew Gfeller Center in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also serves as a neuropsychologist for the Transforming Health and Resilience In Veterans (THRIVE) Program. Wes completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology from James Madison University in 2000. He obtained his masters (2003) and doctoral (2006) degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Carolina. As part of his graduate training, he completed a pre- and postdoctoral training at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
In 2009, Wes joined the traumatic brain injury services at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg. In this role he was a neuropsychologist, research lead, and chief of behavioral health services for the Intrepid Spirit Center, a multidisciplinary TBI treatment facility for military Service members. Wes joined UNC and the THRIVE Program in 2022. He has been the Principal Investigator for multiple TBI-related studies and has authored or co-authored numerous peer reviewed publications. He frequently presents at conferences and professional meetings on various topics related to brain injury. His primary research interests are with cognitive assessment and outcomes following concussion, return to duty assessment for military warfighters, and innovative treatments for postconcussive symptoms.
Heidi Greata serves as the vestibular physical therapist for the THRIVE Program. A native of Saratoga Springs, New York, she graduated from Nazareth College of Rochester in 2008 with a B.S. in Health and Human Services and minors in Psychology and Gerontology. She then continued on for her doctorate in physical therapy at Nazareth College; graduating in 2010. She has served in a variety of clinical settings in Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida focusing on acute and subacute neurological impairments, and is primarily passionate about vestibular rehabilitation and craniofacial pain. At St. Mary’s Medical Center, she was an influential clinician in educating residents at the acute level on differentially diagnosing and treating benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and became certified in Vestibular Rehabilitation Theory, Evidence and Practical Application. During her time at Northwest Florida ENT, she was the lead therapist in the balance center and furthered her studies and treatment of craniofacial pain. In 2021 she joined therapy services at UNC’s Center for Rehabilitation Care in Chapel Hill. She is eager to support Veterans in their recovery.
Robert J. Kanser
Dr. Kanser serves as the neuropsychologist for the THRIVE Program. He received his B.S. in Biopsychology from the University of Michigan where he gained his earliest experiences working with veterans with history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the Ann Arbor VA. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Neuropsychology from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). He completed his 1-year residency and 2-year postdoctoral fellowship in Neuropsychology at the James A. Haley VA (Tampa, FL). In 2021, he joined the clinical faculty of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Working with civilians, veterans, and active-duty service members with histories of TBI has been a primary clinical/research interest throughout his career.
Dr. Dana Lebo serves as the Clinical/Counseling Psychologist for the THRIVE Program. Born on a naval base to a naval lieutenant and mother of a lieutenant in the army, the military has played an ongoing role in Dr. Lebo’s life. Last year, she volunteered at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for Operation Allies Welcome (OAS) to provide behavioral health services to Afghan refugees. For 25 years, Dr. Lebo has applied her extensive background in psychologies of performance, health, leadership, sports, mind-body and whole brain integration to help hundreds of individuals, retired professional athletes, teams, couples, and families achieve their personal and professional goals. Dr. Lebo devotes her career to helping people build the skill sets of managing the stress, conflict, complexities and opportunities of busy home and work lives. Over the years, she has also specialized in areas of trauma, substance abuse and pain management.
Dr. Lebo earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and Master’s degrees from Columbia’s Teachers College and Georgetown University’s School of Graduate Studies. She completed her psychology internship at Manhattan Psychiatric Center and supported residents dealing with substance abuse and trauma. She began her career in the field of international development with fellowships to study anthropology and Arabic in the Middle East, manage projects at a global relief agency in Cairo, and teach English and resettlement skills to refugees at the American Cultural Center in Alexandria, Egypt.
MAT, ATC, LAT
Elizabeth “Liz” Lewis is an Athletic Trainer serving as THRIVE’s Medical Therapeutic Specialist. She will be working closely with our Physiatrist and Physical Therapist to provide rehab exercises where appropriate and follow-up with veterans on those exercises and certain referrals among other tasks. She graduated from Liberty University in 2008 with a B.S. in Athletic training then attended Columbus State University in Georgia and graduated in 2011 with a Master’s in Health and Physical Education. Liz's prior experience includes working at Ft. Jackson in a basic training battalion helping to evaluate and rehab injured trainees so that they could remain in training and on track to graduate. Her Grandfather and Father retired from the US Navy, her husband served in the US Army, and two of her brothers still serve, one in the US Navy and one in the US Air Force. Having grown up in a military family, she is excited to help support Veterans, their families, and those who have given so much for our country.
Evan M. Vitiello
Dr. Evan Vitiello serves as the Psychiatrist for the THRIVE Program. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology, he attended the University of Virginia School of Medicine and graduated in 2016 with his doctorate in medicine. He completed his Psychiatry residency at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in 2020 and then went on to complete a Forensic Psychiatry fellowship at Yale Division of Law and Psychiatry in 2021. While there, he provided psychiatric services to veterans at the West Haven VA, as well as conducted evaluations for the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic. After completing his fellowship, he joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Francis M. Beaudette
LTG (Ret.) Francis Beaudette retired in July 2021 as a United States Army Lieutenant General who last served as Commanding General of the United States Army Special Operations Command headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was commissioned in 1989 as an Armor Officer through the ROTC program at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.
His General Officer assignments include Deputy Commanding General (1st Armored Division; Fort Bliss, Texas), Deputy Commanding General for Support (Joint Special Operations Command; Fort Bragg, NC), and United States Central Command (Forward; in Jordan). Prior to serving as Commanding General for USASOC, LTG (Ret.) Beaudette served as Commanding General for 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne).
General Beaudette is also a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College and the United States Army War College.
Stephen M. DeLellis
MPAS-C, LTC (Ret.)
LTC (Ret.) Stephen DeLellis is a Physician Assistant with more than 36 years of experience in Army Special Operations and more than 16 combat deployments in six conflicts including Operation Just Cause (Panama), Operation Gothic Serpent (Mogadishu, Somalia), Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti), Operation Deliberate Force (The Balkans), US Embassy Duty (Manila, Philippines), and has participated in eleven rotations in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Steve previously served as the Deputy Surgeon for the XVIII Airborne Corps, Chief of Medical Training for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), with oversight of the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center (JSOMTC), and as the Deputy Command Surgeon for the United States Army Special Operations Command.
His interests include Traumatic Brain Injury Research, including management and guidance of the longest continually running TBI surveillance project in the Special Operations community. He has co-authored more than a dozen articles on mild traumatic brain injury in Special Operations Forces and is a collaborator on numerous DOD projects within USASOC.
Steve is an Army Medical Department Iron Major, a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit and the 2019 United States Army recipient of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation Hero of Military Medicine award. Steve is the principal advisor and founder at Defense Medical Strategies and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Fort Bragg Research Institute.
Lewis C. Merletti
Director of Secret Service (Ret.)
Director Merletti was the 19th Director of the United States Secret Service. A 25-year Veteran of the United States Secret Service, Director Merletti has also served as Assistant Director in the Office of Training, and as the Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protection Division.
In his preceding military career, Director Merletti completed Basic, Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), Jump School, and Special Forces Training Phases I and II of US Special Forces Tactics
and Techniques Training. He completed 42 weeks of intense Special Forces MOS Medic training. He attended and graduated from the Special Forces Vietnamese language training course with limited fluency skills. He served for three years, including a tour of duty as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He earned numerous military honors including the Bronze Star, Certificate of Achievement of Meritorious Performance, Combat Medical Badge, Good Conduct Medal, and Parachute Wings.
Pete Naschak retired from the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams after a 21-year career where he held various operational and leadership positions and participated in military contingency operations throughout the world. His final tour was with SEAL Team FIVE as their Command Master Chief. Throughout his career, Pete has had direct experience and involvement with wounded warriors and the families under his care and is dedicated to continuing that support in the future. After retirement, Pete finished a Master of Science degree in Global Leadership, a qualification as a Project Management Professional (PMP), and a certificate in Global Business Management and Strategy.
Pete served as the President of the Board of Directors for the Lone Survivor Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports injured military personnel and their families suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, TBI, and serious combat injury. Pete is a Co-Founder for Senaptec and currently runs his own business focusing on specialized consulting efforts for companies such as Nike, Inc. and Red Bull North America.