Meet the Team

Our team of dedicated professionals maintain a common commitment to providing the highest level of quality care.  Our leaders and therapists represent the best, brightest, and most-talented individuals in their respective fields.

Joanne L. Ward, OTR/L

Executive Director

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since April 2014

Joanne graduated from State of New York Downstate Medical and has worked nearly 35 years in a variety of settings including JFK Medical Center, Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, and Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC. In 1989 she assumed the role of Director of Occupational Therapy, following the grand opening of Universal Institute’s first rehabilitation facility in New Jersey. She later went on to work in many other rehabilitation settings in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, before returning to UIRehab in April of 2014 when she joined our Pennsylvania facility as Executive Director. Joanne has always had a passion for assisting brain-injured individuals and remains an advocate within the brain injury community.

Fun Fact: Joanne was the Occupational Therapist that worked for NFL football player, Dennis Byrd throughout his rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Medical Center. His therapy and recovery were chronicled in the book “Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story” as well as a TV movie of the same title.

Krystal Rivera

Compliance Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2013

I am a true believer that if you set your mind to a goal and have the support behind you, that you can achieve your dreams. I have worked in several industries from Customer Service to Managing Operations to the Health Care Industry, and I have seen from my experience that a great team can establish a great community. I assist the Chief Compliance Officer and Executive Director with Compliance of our PA Programs by monitoring State and Federal Regulations as well as assist with CARF Accreditation.

Fun Fact: I love spending time with my family and my son. I enjoy going out and watching my son play football and basketball, goin on hikes in the Appalachian Mountains, and camping.

Calleen Wagner

Administrative Assistant

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2017

“Working here is like having an extra family. Everyone is always there for each other.”

Calleen has been working in the health care industry for nearly 10 years. Her steadfast commitment for providing excellent support within fast-faced environments is what has helped her to excel in her current role. At UIRehab, Calleen is responsible for many moving parts of front desk operations. In addition to various administrative functions, she is instrumental in the process and smooth coordination of client scheduling.

Staci Horvath, BS

Admission Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2016

“If you shape your life around your passions, you will become your greatest influencer. I truly enjoy coming to work each day, knowing that I have the ability to spread a little laughter and light, not only on our Clients and their families, but also on my co-workers—my friends. The smiles they give me in return are invaluable. I am grateful.”

After graduating from DeSales University with a B.S. in Marketing, Staci continued on a path that would become nearly a 20-year adventurous flight in large-scale event management and facility operations. With a heart to give and a passion to help people, she decided to pursue a career in human services in search of a role with greater sense of purpose. Having worked with individuals of all ages and backgrounds, she knew she could make a significant difference here. Staci is currently studying to obtain her CBIS certification.

Fun Fact: Staci likes to recharge her mind by tackling gardening and landscape projects—whenever, wherever, and at ALL TIMES POSSIBLE! In the winter months when she can’t get her hands in the dirt, she enjoys leather-crafting, home renovation projects, listening to her vinyl record collection, and spending time with her favorite partner-in-crime, Mowgs, and their three Butterscotch tabbies, Kitty, Tricky, and “Stevie From Topton.”

Latteshia White, BS

Care Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2016

“I truly believe that all my experiences thus far, ultimately led me to Universal Institute. I enjoy being the liaison for our clients and their families. I love that I am given the opportunity to connect with our community each and every day. It brings me great joy!

After graduating from Kutztown University with a B.S. in Psychology, Latteshia followed her passion of helping others. Continuing on this path by taking on various roles which are altruistic in nature, Latteshia worked with many different populations providing in-home services to at-risk families.

“Live the life you love. Love the life you live.” – Bob Marley

Victoria Munday, BA

Residential Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2018

After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a B.A. in Psychology, Victoria began working at a day program facility assisting individuals with mental health and traumatic brain injuries. Having worked with such a diverse group of individuals, she discovered her passion for helping people achieve their potential. After a few years, Victoria discovered Universal Institute in Livingston, NJ, and joined the team as an internal auditor. She has now been with Universal for nearly five years, her most recent promotion being in 2018 to Residential Coordinator here at the Bethlehem facility.

Fun Fact: In her free time, Victoria enjoys playing retro adventure-type video games and spending time with family and friends. Activities she finds particularly relaxing are shopping for unique sneakers and playing with her two cats. Feeling most energized by the fall months, apple picking, cool weather, and all things pumpkin spice are some of Victoria’s favorite things.

Kester Peters

Group Home Manager

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since February 2016

Marilyn Morales

Group Home Manager

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since 2011.

“If anyone asks ‘Who is the lady with the contagious smile always bringing laughter and humor to the room?’ please say ‘that’s Marilyn Morales, our Residential Manager!’”

Marilyn’s journey with Universal began in 2011 as a CNA. Her natural ability for being an empathic conversationalist has aided her in fostering collaborative relationships with our Clients. Marilyn’s passion for bringing healing to people who have been through traumatic experiences has motivated her to seek growth within our company and she continues to manifest light in the lives of all those she comes in contact with. “It all begins with a SMILE.”

Beverly Walcott

Group Home Manager

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since 2004

“I genuinely love what I do. Working at Universal Institute has been such a rewarding a fulfilling experience for me. I’m honored to be part of this company.”

Beverly has had the pleasure of working in the health care field for nearly 20 years. Her passion for helping and caring for others has gained her the current position as a Residential Manager for Universal Institute. She has also received the opportunity to work at both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania locations for the company.

Fun fact: As a single parent, one of my greatest accomplishments in life is my daughter. I have instilled her with great values and ensured that she understood the importance of being educated.

Direct Care Professionals

UIRehab is proud to celebrate the incredible people who make up our Direct Care Team. Our residential and day program support staff demonstrate an attitude of excellence, teamwork, and commitment. Their tireless dedication and strong sense of purpose is what makes our Clients happy—the most treasured feeling in the world.

John Handley

Maintenance

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since June 2015

Pam Defensor, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since June 2015

Pamela Graduated with a B.S. in Physical Therapy from De La Salle Health Sciences University in the Philippines. She moved into the United States in 2008 and become licensed in Physical Therapy in the U.S. in 2009. Pamela went on to continue her education by completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Dominican College, New York in 2011. Pamela has over 12 years of experience in the field of Physical Therapy including outpatient skilled nursing, ALF, home health, and neurologic injuries and disorders. Pamela focuses on providing exceptional care through current evidence based practice with care and compassion for her clients.

Fun Fact: Pamela is vegan enjoys Zumba and staying physically fit. She loves volunteering at a local daycare for under-served children providing them healthy snacks. On the weekends she serves food at local soup kitchen and then participates in barefoot trail running.

Kim Kishel, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since April 2016

Kimberly graduated with a DPT from Misericordia University where she also receive a B.S. in Health Care Management.  After becoming a licensed Physical Therapist in early 2016, Kimberly began working at UIRebab.  Her passion is working with individuals to improve their mobility and quality of life through care, compassion, and Client-centered goals.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Kimberly enjoys spending time with her husband, their mini-rex bunny Casey, family, and friends.  She and her husband also enjoy traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Kellie Lupacckino, MOT, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2018

After graduating from Temple University in 2005, Kellie moved to fabulous Las Vegas, NV to begin her life in the professional world as an elementary school teacher. After living in Vegas for four years, Kellie and her husband moved back to Pennsylvania where Kellie continued her teaching career and eventually moved into the realm of providing in-home educational and social services to families with young children. After working alongside many occupational therapists and taking several years to explore the profession, Kellie decided to return to Temple University to pursue her Masters in Occupational Therapy. Since graduating Kellie has worked in a variety of settings including pediatrics, in-patient rehab, corrections, and long-term care. Kellie loves working with Clients to develop interventions that are Client-centered and work towards achieving each individuals’ goals.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Kellie loves spending time outdoors. Kellie and her husband dream of visiting all of the US National Parks and take any opportunity to visit the beautiful southwest United States. When she’s not at work or outside, she can be found lounging around with her Beagle mix, Logan, cheering on the Phillies and Eagles.

Rachel Loar, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September of 2019

Rachel is an occupational therapy graduate from Alvernia University where she supplemented her academic studies with track and cross country, as well as volunteering with the Reading Youth Initiative for intercity children. She has always found an interest in the brain, including traumatic brain injuries as well as chronic neurological conditions. She has an interest in adaptive equipment and technology as a means of advancing the client’s quality of life and level of independence. Rachel enjoys working at UIRehab because of the great potential to build relationships with the clients and celebrate their advancements.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Fun Fact: Rachel enjoys photography, especially sunsets and far away landscapes. She loves traveling with friends, going on hikes, and practically LIVES at the dog park when not at work.

Megan Gittings,OTR/L

Pre-vocational Specialist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since February of 2020

“I am genuinely passionate about working with people. My personal motto is simple: ‘Never touch anyone or anything with half your heart.’ At the end of the day, I firmly believe that if our spirit, heart, and mind are all working in tandem, then we can gently shape the world around us. THAT’S what it’s all about!”

Megan earned a B.S. in Healthcare Science from Alvernia University and continued on to pursue a Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Temple University. She had an opportunity to work with clients across a broad spectrum from children to adults in an acute care setting. When Megan read the mission statement of Universal, the idea of fostering an environment of hope and determination really resonated with her. After meeting our clients and staff, she knew Universal was he place for her!

“Don’t aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.” – Denzel Washington

Fun Fact: Megan is Reiki certified. She is also a movie enthusiast and loves a good story well told. For everyone still waiting on their Hogwarts letter or those who feel the power of The Force, Megan is always open for conversation.

Roberta Kasmiroski, MS, CCC/SLP

Speech Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since August 2018

Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Bobbi graduated from Seton Hill College in 1977 with a degree in Music Education. She continued music training at the University of Texas in Austin earning a Master’s in Applied Music and Voice Performance. She met her husband while in Texas and in addition to raising two little girls, Bobbi returned to school to pursue a Master of Science in Communication Disorders at Texas Woman’s University where she graduated with a 4.0. “I enjoyed tutoring the undergraduates; they liked my house and the food. It proves you are never too old to learn new things!

After a year of providing speech therapy in the public schools, Bobbi decided to pursue a career working with adults. She has spent the majority of her career in long-term care, working both as a therapist and as well a rehab manager. Bobbi is still active in her love for music. She is a soprano and sings with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. She is also a church musician with the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.

Fun Fact: Bobbi sang the national anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates in July of 1976. She met Willy Stargell (left field) and Danny Murtaugh (manager) and they presented her with a baseball.

Brandon Loch, CTRS, CBIS

Recreational Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since December 2016

“I love my job and take great pride in being a part of our Clients’ rehabilitation process. Universal has become a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Brandon graduated with a B.S. in Recreation Management and then received his Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Certification shortly thereafter. He began working with Universal Institute as a Recreational Therapist and moved forward to obtain his CBIS certification a year later.

“Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Too Much Of Today.” – Will Rogers

Fun Fact: Brandon loves to be outside and pursue leisure interests such as hiking, golf, and fishing.

Amie Federico, MA, ATR-BC, CBIS, LPC

Cognitive Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since December 2014

After graduating from Marywood University with a M.A. in Art Therapy, Amie began working with residents in an Alzheimer’s neighborhood where she planned and led various therapeutic group and individualized activities. Two years later she transitioned to Universal Institute as a Cognitive Rehabilitative Therapist. During her time as a cognitive rehabilitative therapist, Amie worked towards getting her Art Therapy Board Certification and License as a Professional Counselor. Amie loves to see our Clients find new avenues for expression through various art materials.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Amie loves trying new craft projects or recipes for baking. She especially enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Michael Rock, BS, CBIS

Cognitive Therapist

With UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2015

Michael has worked in human services since 1985, mostly in mental health, and has served in various clinical and leadership roles throughout the years. As a Cognitive Therapist, Mike enjoys facilitating large and small cognitive themed groups. He uses humor in his work and feels successful if he provokes a smile in each person he encounters every day. “A noble man gifted in the ways of The Force,” Mike’s ability to intuitively navigate his job, has earned him the nickname Obi-Wan Kenobi. He can always be counted on for his insightful advice and astounding ability of bringing calm and order to any situation. Simply stated, Mike ROCKs! Mike has a B.S. in Psychology and is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist.

Fun Fact: In his free time, Mike enjoys working with his hands. He owns three properties in Jim Thorpe, including a popular guest house which he operates with his wife.

Krista Hahn, M.A.

Cognitive Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2019

Krista previously interned at Universal Institute while working towards her M.A. in Art Therapy from Marywood University. After graduating she found her way back to UIRehab and became part of the team as a Cognitive Rehabilitative Therapist. Krista loves seeing how motivated the clients are to express themselves through their artwork and how open they are to experimenting with new art materials.

Fun Fact: Krista is a huge dog lover and has a brother and sister pair of rescue pups at home who she loves to take on outdoor adventures.”

Matthew Kleist, RN

Medical Department

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since May 2016

Matthew is a graduate of Northampton Community College. He has spent the majority of his 20+ year career working with patients receiving rehabilitation services in an in-patient setting. He joined the Team at Universal Institute in 2016.

Nicole Tembo, BS

Medical Care Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since Summer 2017

“The best part of my job is that I get to meet new people and learn new things.”

After graduating from Temple University with a B.S. in Marketing, Nicole knew she wanted to work with people. She applied at UIRehab in the summer of 2017 as a Rehabilitation Aide and after a few short months she decided she would be most helpful in the medical office. She soon landed the Medical Care Coordinator position and has been assisting Clients by determining their needs and referring them to the appropriate providers. 
 
“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley

Fun Fact: Nicole spends most of her free time reading, meditating, and designing garments. Her goal is to one day have her own fashion brand.

Eddie Rodriguez

Medical Driver

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since January 2018

YOU

Awesome Team Member

If you have a passion for learning new things, sharing your knowledge with others, and recognize that a positive attitude is what matters most, UIRehab may be the right place for you! When you join UIRehab you will become part of a vibrant culture that thrives on making a meaningful impact not only on the Clients we serve, but also on one another. We are currently hiring for positions in our Bethlehem, PA location. Visit the careers page of our site to learn more.