ATF Medical is in growth mode! Our newest addition to the team is Abbi Akstulewicz, who has just started as our Director of Payer Partnerships. This is a new position, and she reports to Brendan Swift, working to enhance, grow and establish new relationships with our payer partners, nationally.
Abbi has a strong background in workers’ compensation care coordination, complex care and catastrophic claims management. While studying nursing, she gained hands-on experience with a local home care company where she provided care to adults with special needs and disabilities.
“I have a real passion for helping people that are struggling with paraplegia and tetraplegia,” she said.
Most recently Abbi served CorLife as Supervisor Claims Specialist, Workers’ Compensation, developing and executing strategic plans to achieve favorable carrier and patient outcomes on catastrophic claims.
She graduated from Rasmussen College in Green Bay with a degree in nursing and a goal of going into case management. In 2019, she was hired by CorLife as a Workers’ Comp Claims Specialist.
Abbi lives in Shawano, Wisconsin (about 35 miles from Green Bay) near where she was born and raised.
Her family all live nearby and she cohabits with Finn (the dog pictured with her above) and her cat Boots. She comes from an outdoorsy family and enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting. And she’s also a foodie, who likes to cook and try new food when she’s traveling.
Zorybel Bernabe is the latest member of the ATF Medical family. She recently joined as Rehab Coordinator 1, Rehab Technology
Zorybel works closely with Jaymi Saunders on ATF Medical’s mobility team to ensure workers’ comp patients receive appropriate wheelchairs and other equipment along with equipment repairs. She enjoys communicating with claims representatives of third-party administrators and carriers and is passionate about building relationships with our patients.
“I’m so glad to be in a position where I can work directly with them,” she said. “It’s so rewarding when someone regains mobility after a wheelchair repair. You know you have really helped them.”
Speaking of wheelchair repairs … she has coordinated several in her first weeks with ATF Medical. “It’s given me more knowledge of the equipment, parts, pieces, manufacturers, and product lifespan,” Zorybel said.
Having worked with Orchid Medical, an ancillary medical management company in workers’ compensation, before, during, and after its acquisition by Sedgwick, she brought a good understanding of home health care and workers’ comp to the position. Most recently, she was a Provider Relations Representative. In that role, she built and maintained relationships with healthcare providers, ensuring that they were contracted, credentialed, compliant, and that they provided cost-effective, high-quality care. Earlier she served Orchid as a Senior Complex Care Coordinator, arranging for injured workers to receive appropriate medical services and products.
She honed her care coordination skills in a previous position with Senior Helpers in Orlando, Florida. As Team Scheduler and Coordinator, Zorybel coordinated staff and worked with family members of dementia patients to meet their care needs.
Now she’s working on the solutions provider side, focused on complex rehab technology. And she likes it. “My supervisor Jaymi has given me the best tools and resources and clearly described the different type of referrals and how to do the job,” she said.
Fluent in Spanish as well as English, Zorybel grew up in Orlando, Florida where still lives. She earned her BS in Biomedical Science from Orlando’s Advent Health University.
When not working, she will continue her travels to different Florida cities to sample different types of ethnic food. Asian cuisine is her current favorite.
She has also decided that this is the year to do things that are outside her comfort zone. Any suggestions?
Please welcome Zorybel to the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re in the Orlando area, think about joining her on one of those food adventures.
ATF Medical is genuinely excited about our new occupational therapist, Melissa M. Smith, OTR/L, ECHM, CHAMP, CAPS.
Melissa has dedicated her OT career to helping injured people obtain home environments that are safe, and accessible, and facilitate mobility. We sat down with her to learn why she became an OT and what led her into an adaptive housing practice.
What can you tell us about occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy takes a unique, holistic approach to working with people. We look at the health conditions—whether they come from an injury or progressive condition—and how their conditions impact them, how it affects their daily lives–what they like to do and what they need to do to take care of themselves. Then we address the deficits they’re experiencing because of the condition. In the case of a back injury, for example, we might modify a job task, so the employee doesn’t repeatedly pick up heavy objects, teach good body mechanics, or recommend a long-handled sponge so the injured worker doesn’t have to bend over to reach their feet. We take a broad view of how the injury affects them.
You seem to have a strong interest in construction, did you ever work in the construction field?
No! Well, I was always been interested in design and function and how it affects a person’s happiness and independence. I thought about being an interior designer, but my interest in occupational therapy was stronger. Keeping people in their home is very important to me because “home” is so much more than a house.
Where did you go to college?
My occupational therapy degree is from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. I also have a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Iowa. Later I took courses to learn more about building in construction, architecture, and interior design at Portland Community College.
Tell us about your early career.
I worked in acute care hospitals in Denver and Portland for several years. I was also a Traveling OT. Like traveling nurses, we work in one location for three months, then move to another. I worked in nine locations, including two stints in Portland. I worked in inpatient rehab, home health, and nursing facilities. I also worked two summers at a camp in Newport, Rhode Island called Shake-A-Leg. We provided occupational therapy for one group of young campers with developmental disabilities and another group of adults who have spinal cord injuries. In addition to general rehab, we adapted different sports, sailing, swimming, tennis…all kinds of sports and that was a lot of fun.
You traveled so much and saw so many cities; why did you decide to settle in Portland?
My cousin and aunt live here and when I was a Traveling OT, I lived in Portland for two, separate three-month stints and just fell in love with the city and area. There are so many cute neighborhoods, with beautiful landscaping and old homes. It’s just a lush, green and very cozy city and the people are very friendly. Plus, it’s ideally situated, just 1.5 hour’s drive to ski resorts in one direction and 1.5 hours to the ocean on the other side. It’s an unbeatable area.
How did you transition from traditional OT to being a clinical specialist on the home environment side?
I read an article in OT Practice Magazine about OTs working in home modifications and thought, “This is perfect for me!” Being a home mod OT merges my medical and interior design interests. Home Mod OTs help people who have experienced disability function better in their own space by making a personalized fit for them.
To learn more about it, I took some certification programs–ECHM, CAPS, CHAMP—and some architecture, interior design, and construction at Portland Community College. I even got my residential contractor license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. And I did a lot of independent reading.
And you started working for Kaiser Permanente Home Care Services in 2012?
Yes, I conducted evaluation and treatment sessions, and generated goals and plans of care. I got into the assessment of home environments and recommended medical equipment to promote independence and better accessibility of the home.
By then, you knew you had found your passion?
I did and I started a company, LiveAble LLC, that assessed and modified homes and recommended medical, rehab and mobility equipment. We consulted on remodeling projects to make sure the accessibility and safety goals were achieved. Our patients ranged from young children to adults who wanted to age in place, and we served quite a few injured workers. LiveAble had a contract with the State of Oregon to provide environmental modification consulting services for Department of Human Services clients, including aging adults and people with developmental disabilities.
You’ve worked with so many different types of payer groups. What do you like about workers’ compensation?
Workers’ comp is generally willing to provide people the things they need—rehab technology, remodels, medical equipment—compared to Medicare which doesn’t usually provide home modifications or complex equipment. Because my recommendations are accepted and the changes get implemented, I can see how they improve workers’ lives. I feel I can make a real difference.
I know you haven’t been here long, but what are your first impressions about ATF Medical?
I got such a warm welcome from everyone – this seems like a company that people end up staying in because the culture is welcoming warm and positive. People celebrate others’ wins. It’s very collaborative – and organized!
Is there anything you’d like to share about your personal life?
I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years and have been married for 10. We like to travel, ski, and cook together. My husband teaches technology to middle school students, and we have a dog, Harriett, who is our baby.
I love to design and decorate. My first project was designing a closet through Ikea in a 483-square-foot studio. It took a lot of thinking and planning. In a home that small the closet needs to be very functional!
But my biggest hobby is tennis and I’m on several Portland teams. I’m very competitive in sports and tennis is great exercise and a lot of fun.
Help us welcome Melissa welcome! Email her at email@example.com.
Steven Killius (left) receives his first wheelchair after incurring a spinal cord injury at work. ATF Medical’s David Bedard (right) customized the chair, which is a manual with a power assist.
Our Manager, Complex Rehab Technology, David Bedard, ATP, CHAMP gets excited when he gets to customize a workers’ comp patient’s first wheelchair. “You want the patient to have a positive experience so you need to get it as close to perfect as possible,” he said.
Recently he customized a manual chair for Steven Killius, an injured worker who suffered a spinal cord injury during a motor vehicle accident. ATF Medical received the referral while Steven was treating at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Florida. David met with Steven and collaborated with his physical therapist, Erica Walling, to create this mobility solution.
“Brooks has a great neurological program. The physicians are very good about prescribing assistive technology, and the clinic has a wide variety of chairs for the patients to try out,” David said.
Steven, who is in his mid-40s, is a paraplegic with good upper extremity function and his team decided on a Permobil TiLite with its SmartDrive Power Assist that extends the length of a push. The user can push once and the chair continues to glide, sometimes twice as far.
“The amount of power you give it determines how far it will roll or how quickly it can climb a hill,” David explained. “Power assists reduce the number of pushes, preventing wear and tear on shoulders, wrists, and elbows.” With them, users can more easily traverse a large area, such as a warehouse the size of a football field.
This model features a wearable, a watch that can control the chair. The injured worker can hang their wrists on the side of the chair instead of pushing the on and off switch.
Another customization is the Invacare Matrx positioning back. Its carbon fiber shell is lightweight and durable. Because this injured worker has good torso control, the chair has a low back to allow him to reach behind himself to grab a water bottle or phone.
Steven was grateful for the power assist and wearable. “This technology will make a big difference for me when I’m using the chair to navigate day-to-day routines,” he said. “And it will help save my shoulders.”
Because he will probably spend 10-15 hours a day in the chair, selecting the right cushion was vital. The team chose a hybrid combination of air cells and high-density, positioning foam made by Roho. The air cells in the rear allow users to immerse themselves in the material, which disperses pressure over the greatest possible area. This helps with pressure release so patients can maintain skin health and avoid pressure injuries. The front of the cushion, composed of a higher density memory foam, carves out a place to cradle his legs to maintain natural, neutral sitting positions and sitting balance.
Its rigid, titanium frame is durable and energy efficient. Carbon fiber Spinergy wheels cut the chair’s weight. “Removing as much metal as possible keeps the chair as light as possible, making transfers easier,” David added.
David and the Brooks’ team took care to think through the patient’s needs and customize a manual chair to help him keep exercising as much as he can. Since he was very active before the injury, he will likely want to test his physical limits in the chair.
David demonstrated the chair’s features when he went to Brooks to deliver and fit the chair.
“But I encouraged him to use it as is, first, then add the power assist features gradually,” he said. “Patients already receive so many instructions when they go home from rehab, we don’t want to overwhelm with the tech.”
Complex rehab technology (CRT) can make someone’s life better if the configuration is right – at least as close to perfect the first time. ATF Medical’s specialists pay attention to the details to set patients up for success. Next time you have a claim requiring CRT, mobility products, or home modifications, email us at referrals@ATFMedical.com. We’re dedicated to helping injured workers regain their independence, mobility, and functionality.
We are absolutely delighted to welcome Brendan Swift into the ATF Medical family. With more than 22 years’ experience in workers’ compensation, mobility and accessibility services along with payer and provider operations, he’ll be hitting the ground running starting February 13th. Many of you already know him and can reconnect with him at the Property & Casualty Complex Claims & Litigation Forum later this month in Las Vegas (Feb. 27-March 1). He and our Executive Director of Business Development, Rick Wyche, will be there so visit our Booth #303 and find out how we can help you and your injured workers. Meanwhile, here is an introduction to Brendan and some of his ideas on our industry and company.
What drew you into the workers’ comp industry, and then eventually into rehab technology?
I started my career in group health operations, working for Oxford Health Plans and then UnitedHealthcare after the acquisition. After that, I went to work for Coventry and became interested in the workers’ comp side of the business. In 2011, I moved over to Coventry DMEplus, leading their national provider relations team. Later, I served as National Vice President of Payer Relations and Strategic/Key Account Management for a national complex rehab technology (CRT) company and led the implementation of its national workers’ compensation service program.
What do you enjoy about the workers’ compensation industry?
I’m consistently amazed by the passion and heart that the entire workers’ compensation community has for the injured workers they serve – especially those with complex injuries. It’s a very special space. It’s meaningful and people feel fulfilled when they help a seriously injured worker regain their independence.
What appeals to you about the accessibility/mobility aspects?
I truly love the superior levels of collaboration across all partners to ultimately get injured workers what they need for the highest levels of independence possible. Payers, clinicians, technicians, manufacturers, ancillary providers, contractors–all these special people–wrap themselves around the injured worker to do the right thing. I have a deep passion for partnering to ensure that our injured workers receive the most clinically appropriate mobility devices, accessibility technologies, and home modifications–all these critical and required services.
What attracted you to ATF Medical?
The company is laser-focused on workers’ compensation and on delivering a high-quality clinical solution to injured workers and partners. I’ve always heard how great ATF Medical is, about the level of dedication and heart its people bring to injured workers and their caretakers. In addition, ATF Medical promotes a people-first culture, which is directly in line with my leadership style. Our people and our injured workers should always come first. Excited to get started working with and for a true people-focused organization.
Why is having a close focus on workers’ comp so important?
Most rehab technology providers don’t focus solely on work comp; they’re used to the group health and the CMS space. Our injured workers and our work comp payer partners require a more detailed level of proactive service. There’s also more need for speed and continual, clear communication among numerous stakeholders. ATF Medical built its service model around injured workers and the work comp payer requirements and has honed this concept over 20+ years. Our team of clinical specialists and dedicated care coordinators understand the communication standards along with the wide variety and ever-growing market of mobility and accessibility products and services. We know how all the pieces work together so our recommendations are clinically sound and cost effective. ATF Medical gives partners the ability to work with a single-source provider that helps manage an integrated approach to mobility and accessibility. The company works hard to remove the fragmentation and eliminate re-work.
What do you feel are the main challenges when it comes to mobility and accessibility in workers’ comp?
Cost, quality, communication, and unnecessary delays on these very complex cases. For the most part, as I mentioned, the CRT and accessibility industry is fragmented. For example, on a large file, one company generally handles the mobility, another may handle other rehab technologies, another may handle the home mod/construction or ramping, and possibly another provider is brought in for DME or vehicle needs. Throughout the life of the file, these vendors don’t necessarily know each other, they don’t communicate with each other, and do not have channels set up for collaboration. As a result, many times the equipment doesn’t fit or work right for the injured worker, the powerchairs are too heavy for the lift, etc. This causes re-work and quality issues which ultimately delay the injured worker’s discharge and the number one goal of getting them home and on quick path to independence. Now, there’s expensive re-work and the injured worker may have to spend extra days in a hospital or post-acute care center because the home isn’t ready. The family and injured workers are frustrated and unnecessary costs are added to the claim. The best way to control costs is doing things right the first time and doing them quickly. You need an integrated, clinically driven approach where everyone is collaborating on an integrated solution that will help the injured worker recover and achieve as much independence as possible.
What are your goals as you begin your new position?
My first priority will be to increase the awareness of ATF Medical as a one-stop-shop, single-source partner for all things mobility and accessibility and articulate the deep value and partnership that we can bring to our payer partners, nationally. That is, providing fully integrated, cost-effective mobility and accessibility solutions. Our clinical specialists collaborate, and we communicate file updates proactively and consistently with the goal of delivering rehab equipment and home mods with appropriate speed allowing our injured workers to get home without delays. From there, it’s about securing long-lasting trusted relationships with our payer partners, nationally.
Tell us a little about your personal life.
Well, I’ve been married for 22 years to Katie, my high school sweetheart. And this was the smartest decision I have ever made in my life. Katie and I were both born and raised on Long Island, NY and recently moved to Tampa, FL from Franklin, TN. We have three amazing kids, two girls who are 21 and 16, and an 11-year-old boy. We’re very involved in our son’s travel soccer team and our middle daughter’s competitive cheer. Our oldest daughter is very focused on finishing up her Physician’s Assistant degree and graduating this May up in New York. My kids inspire me and motivate me daily. As a family, we love anything outdoorsy, especially hiking, spending time at the beach and traveling.
What’s your favorite TV series and what is the last one you binged?
I am a huge Sopranos fan. In my opinion, it really was the dramatic series that helped pave the way for such an enormous takeover of powerful new series and shows coming out over the last 25 years. How did that first air 25 years ago?! I also have to mention Breaking Bad, as it was an incredibly well-done show. Also love good documentaries … recently watched a few on climbing, Free Solo and The Dawn Wall. If you want to sit on the edge of your seat, give those a watch. I had to pause them and walk out of the room several times.
What was the most influential business book you’ve read?
I love a meaningful leadership book. One I always recommend and have read probably 20x over is titled “The Feiner Points of Leadership” by Michael Feiner. I have had the privilege of working with Mike one on one as an executive coach and have applied real-life situations I have gone through to the laws he writes about in his book. One of my favorites is THE LAW OF THE ONION. High performance leaders look beneath the surface and never assume anything. Peel back the layers … GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE AND GET INTO THE DETAILS. It’s been very rewarding putting these laws into practice over the years. They have become “core principles” for me to apply every single day.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve been very lucky to have a few, two specifically in the workers’ comp space. They all exposed me to the meaning of true leadership and to leading with purpose. Leading with your heart and caring about the people you serve is what counts. As a leader, I’m here to serve them by putting their needs first. This also rings true in building relationships internally and externally with our partners.
If you’d like to connect (or reconnect) with Brendan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karissa Peffer, our Supervisor of Adaptive Housing Solutions, just received her CAPS certification! CAPS stands for Certified-Aging-in-Place Specialist and is for professionals in the adaptive housing field.
Karissa works closely with contractors, complex rehab specialists, and occupational therapists to make sure that ATF Medical’s home modifications are appropriate for the conditions and lifestyles of our workers’ compensation patients.
In 2020, she earned the Certified Environmental Access Consultant (C.E.A.C.) certification. Both programs deal with the legal, ethical, and safety issues as well as the construction aspects of home modifications.
Karissa uses this knowledge to see that workers’ compensation patients can function safely in their homes while maximizing their mobility and accessibility. Our goal is to equip injured workers to experience as much independence as possible, enjoy their lives, and return to work when possible.
“We’re exceptionally proud of Karissa who has strengthened her expertise by earning two certifications since joining ATF Medical in 2019,” said Erin Zablocki, CDME, Master C.E.A.C., ECHM. “We salute – and support – our associates’ efforts to pursue continuing education and certifications in their chosen field.
Welcome David Bedard, our new Manager of Complex Rehab
David Bedard discovered his passion for medical equipment when he was a 17-year-old high school intern at Lowell Medical Instrument Company. This was in Lowell, Massachusetts, just north of Boston.
The company asked him to work for them after graduation, and he ended up staying 8 years. David did everything from posting payments to customer service to evaluating patients and helping them obtain equipment.
“The owner was my first mentor,” David said. “The store also carried medical instruments and I got great exposure to the rehab world there.”
After moving to Florida, David continued in the field for over 30 years. He has worked in just about every aspect of rehab technology, home modifications, and assistive technologies in retail and home health settings.
Before coming to ATF Medical as Manager of Complex Rehab, he was with Orchid Medical, an ancillary provider specializing in workers’ compensation. He was a catastrophic care team leader for several years and later served as vice president of operations and vice president of quality assurance.
Now he oversees day-to-day operations and quality assurance for a team of ATF Medical’s ATPs and other professionals.
“We manage a claim from referral to finish, working through contractual agreements, evaluating patients, coordinating with the adaptive housing professionals, and ordering, delivering and fitting patients with equipment – everything,” David said. “And we communicate with claims representatives every step of the way.”
In addition, David coordinates ongoing training for our staff on products and services.
“ATF Medical has a real family atmosphere,” David said. “The culture is second to none – everyone welcomed me and made me feel like I’d been here for 20 years since day 1.”
He also appreciates company’s personal touch. “Unfortunately, this is a rare commodity these days,” David noted. “It’s refreshing to experience it as an employee and to be able to offer it to our clients and their injured employees.”
If you or someone you know is interested in joining the ATF Medical family, email Erin Zablocki at email@example.com.
ATF Medical welcomes Don Herbert as Senior Rehab Tech-Remote Monitoring Specialist. Don brings considerable mobility product knowledge and years of experience selling and repairing medical equipment to his new position at ATF Medical.
For nearly 15 years, he was a service manager for Sage Mobility & Sage Medical Supply in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. He previously held a similar position with another DME supplier in the state. In addition to overseeing daily operations for these companies, he built, installed and serviced equipment in people’s homes and vehicles and trained others to do the same. He started his career in the U.S. Army.
Now as our Senior Rehab Tech – Remote Monitoring Specialist, Don is building out and managing our teleservices model for evaluating equipment repairs.
“Video conferencing is a God send for this,” he said. Without a tele-evaluation for equipment repairs, injured workers can wait weeks just to have someone come to the house and determine what’s wrong and what it will take to fix it. That’s even before the parts can be ordered.
“We expedite parts orders and service repairs with these teleservice evals,” Don explained.
This is not just a matter of convenience, especially for patients with spinal cord injuries or other serious conditions. Without an operational powerchair, a workers’ comp patient may be stuck in bed, unable to get to doctors’ appointments, and limited in their ability to engage in many activities of daily living as our Executive Director of Sales, Market & Business Development Rick Wyche described in his WorkCompWire article.
In addition to his teleservice role, Don works with claims managers and clinicians to ensure that injured workers receive the rehab equipment, assistive technologies and adaptive housing solutions needed to foster independence and mobility and help them live fulfilling lives.
When asked about the difference between being on the DME supply side and working for ATF Medical, Don said, “Now, I get to work with so many more people and more directly with the people who use the products.”
When working on the DME supply side, Don fulfilled orders for equipment that someone else recommended. Now, he calls on his vast knowledge of manufacturers, products and features to help select the best combination of equipment, features, and adaptive housing solutions to meet an individual’s distinct needs.
And this is gratifying. “When we install a stair glide and making it possible for someone to go upstairs for the first time in years, it’s an amazing experience. You can see their lives change,” he said.
“I always wanted to help people and ATF Medical allows me to accomplish this on a grander scale than I ever imagined possible.”
Don gladly gave up a 75-mile round trip commute to work from home with ATF Medical, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet, please shoot him an email.
From left: ATF Medical’s Rick Wyche, Erin Zablocki & Curt Moreen
Come by Booth 13 and say hello if you’re at The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Annual Educational Conference (Aug 29-31). We’d love to meet you…or see you again.
ATF Medical is sponsoring the conference’s Kid’s Chance Masquerade Extravaganza. Please join us in supporting this life-changing charity. There will be music, dancing, casino tables, and a silent auction and the fun starts at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
ATF Medical proudly announces that Rachel Amentt has received the CEAC certification. CEAC stands for Certified Environmental Access Consultant.
Rachel coordinates adaptive housing solutions for injured employees. Maybe you’ve talked to her — she works with representatives at insurance carriers and third-party administrators to coordinate home modifications.
Depending on the patient’s condition, these range from ramps and grab bars to stair lifts to complete kitchen remodels. Rachel expedites the home assessments so hospitalized patients can return home and be able to move around as quickly, safely and independently as possible.
“We do a lot of hands-on assessments to make sure a contractor’s scope and quote are appropriate,” Rachel said. She said that the CEAC courses emphasized the importance of what ATF Medical does.
“Our recommendations affect people’s lives,” she said. “We want to make sure they’re right for the patient while also doing what’s right for the payer.”
Rachel gives occupational therapists video tours of the home to make sure suggested changes are clinically sound. “Sometimes medical equipment can replace part of the remodeling and give the injured person more flexibility,” she said. “I have my eyes on the construction side and the OTs watch the medical.”
A few years ago, Rachel worked for a workers’ compensation ancillary provider that used ATF Medical’s services. Like so many at ATF Medical, she loves helping people, especially during traumatic times in their lives.
Please join us in congratulating Rachel on earning the CEAC certification by emailing her at email@example.com.
Contact us today!
Our expert staff is ready to oversee the selection, fit, client education and user satisfaction. We take the long view - responding to inquiries promptly and staying in touch, one-on-one - for the duration of the injured workers’ recovery.
4046 Sharpsburg McCollum Rd. Ste. 208B Newnan, GA 30265
Hours 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST • Tel 877-880-4283 • Fax 703-497-0377