Executive Board

President:  Maria Irma Alvarado, Ph.D, OTR/L

Dr. Alvarado is a Professor, Brenau University, School of Occupational Therapy. She co-owns Essential Therapy Services, Inc. in Cumming and Lula, Georgia. Her past and present teaching experience includes: Institute on Human Development and Disability, University of Georgia, Athens Cultural Competence and is a resource on sensory integration and international study. Her research interests include the health and well-being of children and families, Latino families, childhood disability, early intervention, and sensory processing abilities in children. Her community experience is dedicated to increasing awareness of issues affecting families and their children with disability and networking between parents, professionals, and friends of children with disability. As a professional in this regard; she views her role as one who facilitates the capacity of families to nurture the abilities of their children with special needs to become participating members of society. Irma loves travel, nature, hunting and fishing, and gardening; she is also a member of the Cumming Garden Club. Dr. Alvarado has served GOTA as a research liaison; as Vice President; and on various other committees. She is also bilingual in Spanish.  


Vice President:  Barbara J. Banning, M.Ed.,  OTR/L

Barbara Banning, M.Ed, OTR/L has 20+ years of experience in Occupational Therapy working in Adult/Older Adult and Mental Health practice environments. She is the Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Augusta Technical College. Ms. Banning also is an active PRN therapist for United Rehab and Evergreen Healthcare as well as volunteering for local and national organizations. She has previously served the GOTA Board as the East Region Chairperson. She currently resides in Appling, GA.

Treasurer: Marco Rafael Barcelos Coelho, MS, OTR/L

Marco is graduate of the Brenau University School of Occupational Therapy, where he held various student leadership positions. He has been a practicing OT since 2013 and currently works at Grady Memorial Hospital as a staff therapist in neurology, ortho/trauma, burns, and outpatient services. Prior to joining Grady, Marco worked with older adults residing in assisted and independent living facilities throughout Atlanta. He is an international speaker on the topic of occupational therapy and wellness and has presented at multiple conferences throughout the United States and Mexico. In his spare time, Marco enjoys spending time with his son Nazrah, and wife Elizabeth. He is also an avid cyclist. Marco has served GOTA as the Membership Committee Chairperson and has been on the Memberclicks Transition Team.


Secretary:  Bethany Bearden, MS, OTR/L

Bethany received her Bachelors and Masters degree in Occupational Therapy at Brenau University in 2009. She began her career working as the Children's Program Coordinator at Gateway Domestic Violence Center in addition to working at an outpatient clinic. Bethany has worked with ages 0-21 in a variety of settings and with a variety of diagnoses.She has completed her certification in Sensory Integration. She is able to administer the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT). Bethany has attended courses such as the Alert Program, Astronaut Training Program, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS). Bethany has served GOTA as a member of the Legislative Committee.


Conference Chair:  Pamalyn Kearney, EdD, OTR/L, CAPS

Pamalyn received her bachelor’s (1990) as well as her Master’s degrees (1995) in OT from Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia). She earned a doctorate in Education from Widener University in 2012.  Pamalyn has worked in adult physical disabilities settings and has taught OT at several universities. Pamalyn is currently the Program Director at Augusta University.


Communications Chair & Past-President:  Mary P. Shotwell, Ph.D, OT/L, FAOTA

Mary received her BS in Occupational Therapy in 1983 from Temple University. She received her Master’s degree in Health Professions Education from Medical University of South Carolina in 1995. Mary received her doctorate in Adult Education/ Gerontology from the University of Georgia in 2003. Mary has a myriad of clinical experiences as an occupational therapist including rehabilitation, school system, private practice pediatrics and early intervention as well as mental health and community based practice. She has been a faculty member in 2 Occupational Therapy Education Programs in the Southeast and is currently on faculty at Brenau University in Gainesville, GA. Mary has an interest in aging in place and universal design from the perspective of how we design physical and cognitive environments to best facilitate functional performance and promote independence in people with and without disabilities. Mary has served GOTA in the past as the Atlanta District Chairperson, the Conference Coordinator, the treasurer and is serving as Past-President of GOTA.


Regional Chair, Atlanta:  Kate McWilliams, OTR/L

Kate is a 2014 MSOT graduate of Brenau University. Kate is currently employed at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Prior to working in Occupational Therapy she worked in the area of business and human resource management. Kate was the recipient of the GOTA Linda Stephen’s Scholarship and she was active in AOTA’s Association of Student Delegates during her time in OT school. 

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Regional Chair, East:  Laurie Cordaro, OTR/L

Laurie has been an OT in the Augusta area for 34 years since her final field at the uptown VA hospital during the summer of 1982. She and her husband Vince have raised four college graduates and several dogs. Laure has worked in acute care, geriatrics and 17 years with the Babies Can’t Wait program before accepting a position as OT director at Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home. She enjoys working with elderly ward veterans and finds her position very fulfilling as she also has opportunity to be a fieldwork educator to OT and OTA students at Augusta University and Augusta Technical College. Despite being a Florida Gator, Laurie roots for the Georgia Bulldawgs in every other football game. She also has used watercolor painting therapeutically with veterans. She emcees for the Hippotherapy Blue Ribbon Riders. Laurie is honored to have been elected and hopes to serve the East Region well.

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Regional Chair, Middle:  Betsy McDaniel, BS, COTA

Betsy is currently serving as the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator at the Middle Georgia State College OTA program in Dublin, GA. When not at work, she enjoys camping and spending time with her 3 children.  Betsy has a passion for providing continuing education workshops to practitioners in rural areas of Middle GA, so if you have an interest in discussing possibilities, don’t hesitate to contact Betsy. 


Regional Chair, South:  Tonya Michelle Curles, COTA/L, M.Ed

Tonya received her AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2005 from Darton State College. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration from Middle Georgia State College in 2014 and her Master of Education degree in Adult and Career Education from Valdosta State University in 2016. . Tonya’s clinical experience as an Occupational Therapy Assistant includes the geriatric and adult populations in nursing home and home health settings. She was recently promoted to Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Albany State University. Mrs. Curles is also an active PRN therapist and volunteers on the Board of Directors for a local organization known as the Albany Advocacy Resource Center which offers support and services to individuals with a wide range of disabilities and living needs.


Regional Chair, North:  Jennifer Allison, MS, OTR/L

Jennifer graduated from Brenau University OT in 2003 and has worked in the school system, private pediatrics, developmental disabilities, and community based mental health.  Jennifer has a passion for Mental Health, Sensory Processing, and most recently has been studying about aroma therapy.  Jennifer has served the GOTA Board on the Legislative Committee.


Newsletter Chair:  Traci Swartz, OTD

Traci received her BS in OT in 1993 from UAB and her OTD from Creighton University in 2007. Traci is currently serving as the OT Assistant Program Director at Chatahoochee Technical College in Austell, GA. Traci has worked in adult rehabilitation settings as well as conducting research at GA Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. The newsletter always need your articles and photos! 


Past GOTA Listserv:  Helene Smith-Gabai, PhD, OTR/L

Helene Smith-Gabai has over 25 years experience as an OT, primarily working in adult physical disabilities settings. Helene has an interest in discharge planning in acute care, and recently published a book with AOTA Press entitled, Occupational Therapy in Acute Care. Helene was also a member of the committee that developed AOTA’s Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation application, and is currently working at Brenau University as well as prn at Emory University Hospital.



Membership Chair & Regulatory and Reimbursement Committee: Nicole Walker,  MSOT, OTR/L, Chairperson

Committee Members:  Jennifer Allison, Bethany BeardenTri Alliance Members:  Kay Nelson and Nicole Walker

Nicole Walker is a graduate of Brenau University where she received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in occupational therapy. During her years of practice, she has worked as an occupational therapist in the school system, provided home health care for all populations and practiced in the field of upper extremity rehabilitation. For four years, she worked with Outdoor Sensory Adventures, Clay White LLC working with children with Autism and other varying diagnoses in a sensory integration based hiking program. Her intensive continuing education background includes Sensory Integration theory and practice, including studying at The Temple Grandin School in Arizona, Neuro-Developmental Treatment, Equine Assisted Therapy and oral motor/feeding and eating therapy, including the Beckman Oral Motor Protocol. Nicole enjoys spending time with her husband and four children in Gainesville, Georgia and is the owner of Walker Therapy Services, LLC. Karen Bittick-Nelson, OTR/L, Kay Nelson is owner of Therapy Works, a private clinic in Lawrenceville, Ga providing OT, PT and Speech to children birth to 21. She specializes in reimbursement and documentation, serial casting of children with spasticity and feeding infants and young children. Kay has served over 10 years as a GOTA representative to the Georgia Trialliance advocating for providers and consumers with Georgia Medicaid, the Medicaid CMO's, Babies Can't Wait and legislators. She currently represents all therapy providers in Georgia on the Provider Medicaid Redesign task force.  



Continuing Education Approval Chairperson: Tamara Mills, PhD, OTR/L, ATP

Tamara earned her BS in OT from Florida A & M in 1999.  She attained her Master’s in OT (2001) and her Doctorate in Rehab Science from University of Pittsburgh in 2004. Tamara holds a graduate certificate and a credential in Assistive Technology. She has practiced with adults and children, with a particular emphasis in seating and wheelchair skills. Tamara has worked in acute care, long-term care, home health, as well as working in the Georgia Cyber Academy.

Assisting on this committee are: Helene Smith-Gabai and Jason Hughes

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 Ethics Chairperson:  Sarah Shirley, OTD, OTR/L

 Sarah received her BS in Family and Child Development from Oklahoma State in 1994 and her BS in OT from Louisiana State University in 1996. She holds a Master of Divinity from Emory University and a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Temple University in 2010.  Sarah has practiced in school system and pediatric settings throughout her career.  She also has a passion for continuing education and provides workshops on professional reasoning. 
Please send your confidential concerns regarding ethics to Sarah: sshirley1@brenau.edu


AOTA RA Rep (Non-Voting Advisor to the Board): Audrey Peifer Gargiullo, MS, OTR/L

Audrey is a graduate of Brenau University Occupational Therapy Program. She has been active in GOTA since 2010 where she previously held the position of Co-Chair GOTA Annual Conference 2010 and 2011 and Education Liaison 2011 until 2013.  Currently, she is a non-voting advisor to GOTA Board as the Georgia Representative Assembly member since Fall 2013. Audrey is an experienced Pediatric Occupational Therapist who is currently employed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).   Her OT areas of interest include Aquatic Therapy, Assistive Technology, Sensory Processing, Feeding, Therapeutic Listening, and the Astronaut Program.


GA Licensure Board Liaison: Paulette Bell, MA, OTR/L

Paulette Bell MA, OTR graduated with a BS in OT from State University of New York (SUNY-Downstate) and a Master of Arts in OT from New York University. Paulette has practiced as an OT for more than 30 years with primary focus in adult physical disabilities. She is NDT Certified and enjoys working with patients with a variety of neurological diagnoses. Prior to her recent retirement, Paulette was working in Acute Care at DeKalb Medical, in Decatur. Before relocating to the Atlanta area more than 9 years ago, Paulette was very active in the New York State OT Association (NYSOTA), serving on its board for more than 12 years. She held office also as the president of the Metropolitan New York City District of NYSOTA. Paulette is proud of her continuous membership in AOTA from her student days; and has had the distinct honor of representing New York State in the AOTA Representative Assembly. Paulette first served on the Georgia OT Board as Treasurer; and most recently as GOTA Newsletter editor. Next big challenge: learning to play the guitar.


Nominations & Recognitions Chair:  Suzanne Masino, MOT

Masino formed the recruiting and consulting firm Staffing Innovations, Inc. in 2009. Staffing Innovations, Inc. is a professional recruiting and consulting firm specializing in the healthcare recruitment industry. Masino graduated from The Ohio State University as an Occupational Therapist in 1994. Her extensive background as an Occupational Therapist provided the insights and understanding of the healthcare industry and its recruiting and retention challenges.


OT Political Action Group, Chair:  (seeking volunteers)


OTA Liaison:  LaDonna Yvonne Nash , COTA/L

LaDonna graduated with an OTA degree from Middle Georgia College and she currently works for RehabCare.  LaDonna lives in Allenhurst, GA.

Please send your confidential concerns regarding OTA issues to: nashot06@yahoo.com


Research: Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L


Education Liaison: Vacant