graphic of a man in a wheelchair next to the PVA logo. Paralyzed Veterans of America.

2023 PVA Summit + Expo Clinical Excellence Awards

Post Date: August 16, 2023
Share This Article

2023 Clinical Excellence in Nursing

Shawn Gallups, Resident Care Coordinator of the SCI/D Long Term Care Center in Hampton, Virginia

Shawn systematically applies the nursing process to improve Programs and outcomes not only in the Hampton Long-Term Care Center, but also at the national level as well.

As Chair of the Hampton VA’s Shared Governance Nursing Council, Shawn guides and supports staff to implement numerous programs which optimize care for their residents, including starting a long-term care resident and nursing work group, and creating a transitions of care program to address gaps and deficiencies in care.

Shawn compiled comprehensive educational materials on topics like: AD; manually assisted/quad cough; bowel and bladder management; skin care and pressure injury prevention; and more. She then delivered the organized materials to staff at each inpatient unit where residents are transferred. She also created Veteran Preference Cards, which described each Veteran’s specific level of injury as well as their functional abilities, adaptive equipment needs, bowel care program needs, wound care needs, and any other unique needs or preferences they have.

Shawn also took on the existing structure of the Inter Disciplinary Team Care Plan Meeting (IDT) and elevated it to a Best-Practice level. She recognized the acting structure of the IDT lacked efficiency, and reorganized the process into a mobile IDT Care meeting format to ensure Veteran-centered care and participation of all SCI/D disciplines involved. Before she implemented the new format, only 10% of residents were involved in their own care planning, IDT participation was sporadic, and communication was incomplete. After implementation, Veteran participation increased by approximately 30%, the IDT participation is consistently 100% from all disciplines, and closed-loop communication is always present.

Shawn is currently working to develop and standardize quality measures where she led the collaborative team in the establishment of a consistent tool to report UTIs now used by all 6 VA SCI/D Long Term Care Centers. This tool enables standardized MDS documentation and comparative SAIL data outcomes to accurately compare UTI rates and services, and benchmark them with each other. This consistent method provides a platform for Centers to identify best practices, share interventions, and establish process improvements to lower rates of UTIs.

Shawn’s positive approach and sense of humor brings a smile to everyone she encounters. She is an asset to SCI/D service through her clinical knowledge and advocacy. Her dedication to serving Veterans with SCI/D truly demonstrates the exceptional values of a PVA Clinical Excellence Award Recipient.

2023 Clinical Excellence in Social Work

Allyson Vanscoy, SCI/D Coordinator for the Hines SCI/D Center near Chicago, Illinois

“I thank PVA so much for this award. I have seen their advocacy first-hand and I look forward to many more years of working together to help our nation’s Veterans.” 

Allyson came to the Hines SCI/D Center for her internship in 2007 and never left!  She is the supervisor for SCI/D Social Work, leading social workers across inpatient, rehab, Home Based Care, Homemaker/Home Health, Nursing Home, Bowel and Bladder, MS, Long Term Care, and PACT settings.

Allyson energetically and willingly uses the style of Servant Leadership for Veterans, their families, and her team with pride and is typically the initial point of contact for new referrals. As SCI/D Coordinator, she hosts monthly calls with Hines’ seven VA Spoke teams to communicate status updates on Veterans, ensuring a seamless transition for admissions and transfers.

Allyson coordinated and chaired a 2-day Midwest Regional Virtual Conference for all SCI/D Centers in VISNs 10, 12, and 23, which was attended by over 140 SCI/D professionals, had more than 20 presenters, and generated 14 CEUs across 10 disciplines during the pandemic.

Allyson is a solid advocate for the ongoing struggles surrounding bowel and bladder care and pressure ulcers.  At Hines, she developed an SCI/D B&B Templated Note, which has shown demonstrated improvement in the program.  She participated in various SCI/D National Work Groups to advance B&B care documentation within Cerner and developed the B&B Care chapter for the Office of Community Care Field Guidebook.

She serves on an Advisory Board for VA Research sponsored by PVA’s own Education Foundation Grant, is an SCI/D expert panel member in the development of the Community Acquired Pressure Ulcer checklist, the Delphi Survey, and she contributes to the Social Work piece in the same series as a Module Developer.

Allyson also started a weekly educational series for inpatients during the pandemic and extended it virtually to include and socialize with isolated long-term care residents. She also regularly presents a series on Advance Directives and Community Resources for Veterans and their families. Described by her colleagues and Veteran patients and their families as authentic, reliable, skilled, and committed, Allyson is most deserving of PVA’s recognition with this year’s award!

2023 Clinical Excellence in Therapy

Cheryl Colantonio, Certified Occupation Therapy Assistant at James Haley VA SCI/D unit in Tampa, Florida

“Oh wow… thank you PVA and thank you to all my fellow clinicians that had so many nice things to say about me. I am here for our Veterans (with SCI/D, MS, and ALS). When I see a need, I try to fix it for them. You know, I just love working with them – they are all so great.”

Cheryl has worked for over 20 years at the James Haley VA SCI/D unit, and is dedicated to Veterans with SCI, ALS, and MS.  Most of the Veterans with SCI/D are on a first-name basis with Cheryl, and her colleagues know that she is fully committed to creating innovative and custom adaptive device solutions to meet the needs of all Veterans.

Cheryl’s tenacity and superior problem-solving abilities have made a life-changing difference in many Veterans’ lives. She recognized that independent hydration in some Veterans with SCI/D was a significant and challenging problem due to water pitchers and cups often being out of reach, so she created a self-righting hydration cup holder for hospital beds, which keeps the water pitchers safe and in reach for patients with upper extremity paralysis or weakness. She even collaborated with the Richmond VA rehabilitative engineers to have her device 3D printed, received a grant, and has won several showcases for her self-righting hydration cup holder. Because of her innovation, most patients can adequately hydrate without asking for assistance, increasing their independence. Cheryl is currently working with engineers to have her device mass-produced and delivered to other VA Medical Centers for use.

Cheryl has created other pieces of adaptive equipment designed from everyday items found in the Clinic, including cell phone holders, made from lanyards and splinting materials, that prevent phones from falling; customized Shoe Donners; C-Pap compatible Head pointers; skin protection devices, like ear pillows, customized leg lifters, and foam neck support collars; tracheostomy-compatible water shields, and more.Her devotion to Veterans with SCI/D has made her a true pioneer in the ever-advancing world of adaptive equipment. Veterans and families that are fortunate enough to encounter Cheryl benefit from the life-changing equipment she creates with her own hands.


Clinical Excellence Award for Medicine

Dr. Carol Gibson-Gill, VA New Jersey Health System –

Chief of Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Service,

Director of the VHA MS Center of Excellence New Jersey Regional Hub, Director of the ALS Program,

Director of the SCI/D, MS and ALS Clinical Research Program, Chair of the Medical Records Committee

Faculty member in the PM&R Department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

“The best advice I have ever gotten was to go work for the VA… I have spent my entire medical career caring for our Veterans with SCI/D, MS and ALS, and I am so proud to be a part of the VA family… I appreciate PVA for this award and their accountability. They continue to hold me and all my fellow clinicians accountable for what the VA says we should do and to exceed what is expected of us. It keeps us all sharp and it keeps us going.”  

In the numerous nominations we received for Dr. Gibson-Gill, several words were echoed countless times: Compassionate. Generous. Innovative. Trustworthy. Empowering. Warm. Steadfastly dedicated.

In her decades of practice devoted to advancing the care of Veterans with SCI, MS, and ALS, Dr. Gibson-Gill has provided direct care to Veterans and their caregivers, caring for them across the continuum – including in-person visits in their homes. Her model of care, which she named the “Triangle of Healthy Caregiving,” includes evidence-based, seamless interdisciplinary comprehensive care, education for Veterans and their Caregivers, and improved access to care in order to promote the highest quality of life possible.

Dr. Gibson-Gill has demonstrated the complete embodiment of what it means to be a Whole Health Leader in integrative medicine. She is always promoting wellness and creating a supportive environment. Her model of care has led to consistently great outcomes and satisfaction from Veterans, their families, caregivers and staff, and she regularly checks in with Veterans and caregivers to ensure she is meeting them where they are on their health care journey.

Dr. Gibson-Gill’s pioneering leadership made East Orange one of the first SCI/D Centers to fully engage Veterans with MS and ALS. The East Orange SCI/D Center’s Whole Health focus is deemed as model of Best Practice. It includes a robust Caregiver Support Program, virtual care program, and numerous wellness activities, from Wheelchair Yoga and Horticultural Therapy to cooking classes, and more.

Dr. Gibson-Gill is the acupuncture provider and Whole Health trainer at the Center, which increases her access to care for patients who often suffer from neuropathic pain.

Dr. Gibson-Gill also put together an interdisciplinary team to focus on monitoring at-risk Veterans with uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes.  They developed a system to track, monitor, and send reminders to the IDT. The system also collects bloodwork, analyzes data, and tracks trends. This program has led to measurable, sustained improvement in outcomes, which is reflected in improved lab results and the overall health of enrolled Veterans.

She is also a valued member of the American Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, the Infectious Diseases Society of New Jersey, the North Jersey Medical Society, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, Go Red for Women.