Hannu Laukkanen, OD MEd FAAO FCOVD-A, President
Hannu Laukkanen is Professor Emeritus of Optometry who currently teaches graduate courses in Pacific University’s Vision Science, Education, and International programs. As a charter member of Pacific’s internationally recognized Vision Performance Institute, his past research has resulted in dozens of published articles in scientific journals as well as book chapters. He has presented hundreds of scientific lectures and courses to health professionals from many different disciplines at conferences and medical facilities internationally.
In the U.S. Dr. Laukkanen recently developed and validated a survey that is now used worldwide for assessment of vision problems after brain injury. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Northwest Congress of Optometry, and President of Brain-Injury Connections-Northwest (support organization for brain injury). He has earned Academic Fellowship with College of Optometrists in Vision Development and Fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry, in addition to multiple national awards for his service.
Personal: Dr. Laukkanen was born in Astoria to Finnish parents and raised on a small dairy farm on the northern most soggy tip of Oregon. Before his career in academe, he was a farmworker, logger, sawmill worker, and commercial SCUBA diver to support his education. Along the way he has sustained at least half a dozen life-altering concussions from a variety of causes. One of his ongoing goals is to inspire other brain-injury survivors that there are many possibilities for further rehabilitative success!
Fern Wilgus, Vice President
Fern grew up in Portland and enjoyed all kinds of activities, especially sports and working with tools. After college, she joined the United States Army Special Services “to see the world.” I first “saw” Korea up North and just a wee bit shy of the DMZ and then off to Vietnam for two consecutive tours. Being stationed in Asia allowed Fern to see and get to know some absolutely beautiful countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Bali and Australia and the people who live there.
After Fern retired, she learned to cook, took up riding motorcycles again, and began building my retirement life. In 2007 and 2009 that all changed when she had two strokes. After extensive rehabilitation and good care, both physically and spiritually, she has been able to regain quite a bit of my former self. What Fern misses most is working with her tools and machines, being able to do simple math and not being able to talk or think as quickly.
Fern feels that even though recovering from a brain injury is challenging, frustrating, and fearful, that her opened new doors for her. She became active in the brain injury community through working with non-profit organizations in the Portland metro area, including BIC-NW. She volunteers a huge amount of time to the brain injury community to ensure no other survivors and families fall through the cracks of healthcare, and to work towards eradicating the silent epidemic of brain injury.
Dana Penilton RN, BSN, CCM, CLCP, Secretary
Ms. Penilton is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon Health and Sciences University. She has a clinical background in critical care, while holding certifications in life care planning and case management.
For the past 28 years, Ms. Penilton has been active in rehabilitation specializing in catastrophic case management and life care planning. In the last 20 years Ms. Penilton has been owner and president of an independent nurse consulting firm. Her work has focused on providing catastrophic case management and provision of life care plans for survivors with diagnoses that include: spinal cord injury, brain injury, burn injury, amputation, and multiple traumas.
Ms. Penilton has served in multiple leadership positions. In the past, Ms. Penilton served on the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon Board of Directors (previously Brain Injury Association of Oregon) as Vice President, conference planner and advisory board member as well as the Oregon Medical Case Management Group Board (Case Management Society of America, local chapter) President, Immediate Past President, Vice President and Secretary.
Ms. Penilton currently serves on Executive Board of Brain Injury Connections-Northwest (BIC-NW) as Secretary, International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals, International Association of Life Care Planning Section (IARP-IALCP Section) member-at-large; IARP-IALCP conference planning committee and IARP-IALCP legislative affairs committee.
Susan S. Coombes, Treasurer
Throughout her career in the Oregon healthcare delivery system, first as a Master’s prepared Speech-Language Pathologist, and subsequently within both the Quality Improvement and Regulatory Accreditation and Compliance fields of the healthcare industry, her primary focus and passion has been to improve the safe, high quality delivery of care to patients.
Susan has held a number of leadership positions within three healthcare systems in Oregon, Legacy Health System, Oregon Health and Science University and Vibra Specialty Hospital, and has had the opportunity to learn from and work with State and National leaders in the development and enforcement of regulations and to be involved in National projects designed to improve the performance of the healthcare system.
In addition to 15 years of experience working with brain injured adults and children as a clinician, in acute care and rehabilitation settings, Susan also serves as guardian and conservator for her brother, Brian, who experienced a critical traumatic brain injury 31 years ago. This experience has contributed to Susan’s interest and involvement in the brain injured community and commitment to improve the services available to the survivors of brain injury.
Teresa is a mother to four children and, prior to her accident in 2015, she worked as an event fundraiser. She was born and raised in Portland, moved away for a year for her husband’s medical fellowship, but quickly returned home.
Teresa earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Oregon State University and knew she wanted to be an event fundraiser while receiving her education at OSU. She has worked for multiple non-profit organizations, helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for those in need. She loves fundraising and hopes to be able to return to it in some capacity in the future.
In her free time Teresa enjoys spending time outside, Jazzercising (yes, it’s still around), crafting, completing various hands-on projects, and spending time with her husband and children.
Teresa was introduced to the world of brain injury after she was in an automobile accident in June of 2015. There is a military term for the moments before a bomb explodes, “left of boom,” and another for after, “right of boom.” These are based on a left to right timeline. Teresa can often be heard referring to things as “left of boom” (before accident) and “right of boom” (after accident.) She is on the continuous road of recovery and is very grateful for the gains made and support of her amazing family. BIC-NW’s mission is now, and forever, near and dear to her heart.
Kate Robinson, MA, LPC, CADC1
Kate Robinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor with a Private Practice in Portland. She has worked as a mental health therapist for the past 13 years and her focus is on helping individuals with Acquired Brain Injury. Over the years, she has worked with individuals with TBI, concussions, stroke, Aneurysm, brain tumor and encephalitis. She especially enjoys helping clients learn how to adapt to changes post-injury and regain confidence in themselves.
Kate got her BA in French Studies from Lewis and Clark College then decided to get her Masters in Counseling (from PSU) because of her life-changing experience of having a severe TBI at the age of 16 from a private plane accident of which she was the sole survivor. Kate has retrograde amnesia so she does not remember the varsity soccer games she played or the track meets she was in pre-injury nor does she remember other significant events like her first prom. Despite no memories of her life before her accident, she is happy and fulfilled with the only life she has ever known post injury.
Kate is from Portland, OR and is very close to her many family members who live in town. She has been married for 11 years and is a proud mother of a 7-year-old girl who isn’t afraid to ask mommy about her injury and who knows more than most about how to protect your brain!
Karl “Kajomo” Moritz, Adjunct
Karl is a Product Technical Designer and has worked on teams at Icebreaker Merino, Nike, Eddie Bauer & Victor Costa Couture. He is originally from Richmond, Va. where he received a BFA in design from V.C.U. His career has taken him from N.Y.C. to Dallas Tx., Seattle Wa., and he has been in the great green PDX for the last 18 years. Karl is divorced and spends time with his three boys (ages 11, 13 & 15) riding bikes, gaming with them and living & learning with them.
Karl works part time now because he has a disability (severe TBI, Diffuse Axonal Injury). His injury happened while riding his bike home from a job he had been doing for the previous eight years. He decided to take a component of his life change, so he now rides a Track ‘Fixed Gear’ bike and races that bike at Alpenrose Velodrome Track and has competed in group race events. He calls this “Spinning for Neurogenesis”.
Karl has taken it upon himself to let other Brain Injury survivors to know that there is more than just the standard health care scope to brain injury. He has scheduled doctor speakers to speak about Healthy Nervous System and the brain connection, Acupuncture and the nervous system, Neurofeedback, Speech Pathology & Vision Therapy. He brought the LoveYourBrain team to a peer group meeting in 2016 to learn about Yoga and Meditation.
Chris has been involved in various educational roles throughout her career—middle school and high school teacher, state department of education supervisor, and university professor (University of Montana, Oregon State University).
After 25 years as a faculty member at Oregon State University, she retired in 2011. Although she enjoyed teaching hundreds of classes during her career, she especially enjoyed working one-on-one in an advising role with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students. Whether it was helping students map out a 4-year degree plan or advising graduate students in completing their degree plans and graduate projects or dissertations, the time spent in those roles was what she looked forward to every day.
Three honors that were especially meaningful were:
- Securing a Faculty Development Grant to work in Senator Mark O. Hatfield’s office one summer in order to help her in teaching Public Policy and the Family class.
- Receiving a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach for one semester at the Liepaja Pedagogical Academy in Latvia. She credits immersing herself in another culture as her greatest learning opportunity.
- Receiving the College of Education’s (OSU) Faculty Caring Award.
Chris became an advocate for brain injury survivors and their families after her daughter, Laura, sustained a TBI from a car accident in 2002. After a 4-month coma, Laura needed to re-learn basic activities—swallowing, talking, walking, etc. Laura now lives independently, works part-time, and enjoys activities provided by Brain Injury Connections NW.