Meet the Team

Sakina Valika, P.T., D.P.T.


Director of Clinical Education and Research & Physical Therapist

Sakina graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy in 1999. Following graduation, she worked at Advocate Christ Hospital Medical Center as a practicing clinical physical therapist. The majority of her practice at that time centered on individuals with a variety of neurological conditions. She worked in both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. In 2001, she joined the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis and began a sub specialization in treating individuals with traumatic spinal cord injuries.

Her postgraduate training includes a clinical doctorate in physical therapy with a focus on neuro-rehabilitation obtained in 2007 from Rosalind Franklin University and several intermediate and advanced courses in locomotor training, FES cycling, whole body vibration and aquatic rehabilitation. She is certified in gait training individuals with quadriplegia and paraplegia with the ReWalk exoskeleton. Sakina is also a Certified Clinical Instructor Affiliate (CCCE/CI) through the American Physical Therapy Association. She is an educator for the Wayne State University Physical Therapy doctoral program in Detroit, Michigan, as well as other universities and colleges that have Physical Therapy Assistant programs in Illinois. Sakina’s clinical expertise lies in Advanced Locomotor Training for individuals with spinal cord injuries and in using a concomitant of novel approaches to maximize neuromuscular recovery in individuals suffering from paralysis. She has presented seminars in Activity Based Rehabilitation because of her unique expertise in this area.

Cory Silver, P.T., D.P.T.


Clinic Director & Physical Therapist

Cory graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2016 as well as a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology in 2013. While working on his degrees Cory developed an exercise and nutrition program in a Chicago public school that is still in place today, established a regular international service trip for DPT students at UIC, and was a research assistant in the Integrative Physiology Lab at UIC where he assisted with a randomized controlled trial which studied the effects of various modes of exercise on cardiovascular function in participants with Multiple Sclerosis. Since graduating Cory has developed expertise treating a full spectrum of neurologic and orthopedic conditions.

Cory holds two certifications in vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and a certification from the American Spinal Injury Association on the International Standards. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and their Neurologic and Orthopedic Sections.

Cory is an avid runner, rock climber, and hiker. He hopes to someday visit all the National Parks in the United States; currently he has been to 9 out of 59. He loves to know the items on his patients’ bucket list so that he can help their dreams become reality.

 

Tomas Dockus, M.S., CIFT, CSCS, NASM, ISSA


Senior Neuro Exercise Specialist

Tomas graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education with a Master’s degree in Physical Education and Exercise in 1999. While working on his Master’s, Tomas worked at World Class Fitness in Kaunas, Lithuania as a personal trainer. It was at this facility that he gained experience designing exercise programs for both the general population and professional athletes. After Tomas and his family moved to the United States in 2002, he worked as a personal trainer for the Orland Park Life Time Fitness center. In June of 2004, he joined the NextSteps team and under the tutelage of Jon O’Connor, helped create and implement an aggressive locomotor training program for people living with paralysis.

Ken Panfil


Neuro Exercise Specialist

Ken is a former veteran of the U.S Army, serving a total of six years after graduating high school in 2011. He went to basic training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma then too San Antonio, Texas for his job training as a combat medic. Ken started as an aide towards the end of 2015 and worked his way up to an exercise specialist in 2017 through the experience and knowledge he has gained from current and former co-workers. He is still currently going through on-going training and tests with Tomas Dockus, while also still attending class at College of DuPage.

Ken was first introduced to traumatic brain injuries in 2000 when he met his step sister Alyssa, who was also a former patient of NextSteps. After helping his parents and seeing what lengths they had gone through to help take care of her he wanted to be able to reach out and help others like her. After being introduced to NextSteps through his family, he decided he wanted to apply here and learn from the patient and co-workers. Ken doesn't want to just stop his training as an exercise specialist, he plans on going to PTA school and then eventually become a PT. Ken is a very motivated individual and is a team player. While at work or in his free time, he is always helping his co-workers or anyone else in need.

 

Creighton Goss, CIFT


Internship Coordinator & Neuro Exercise Specialist

Creighton graduated from Benedictine University in 2014 with a Bachelors degree in Exercise and Sports Studies. Creighton is certified through ACSM as a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer. He started as an aide in 2015 and quickly moved up to becoming an exercise therapist.

Creighton comes from a very unique background as he has been around spinal cord injuries since 2010. Creighton's dad has been his inspiration to become a trainer and help others who have neurological disabilities as his dad is a paraplegic. Creighton is always passionate about providing the best care to his abilities and interacting with everyone who has questions about neurological disabilities.

 

Macayla Lenzi, P.T.A.


Physical Therapist Assistant & Internal Marketing Coordinator

Macayla graduated from North Central College (NCC) in Naperville in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a double minor in Spanish and Wellness. After going on a medical missions trip to Honduras in 2012 as an interpreter and an advocate for healthy living, she experienced therapy in a whole new way and started her journey towards a new career path. While finishing college, Macayla became a rehab aide for Easter Seals of DuPage & Fox Valley Region working with children with neurological pathologies and disorders in individual and group based settings in the clinic and in aquatics. Macayla returned to school to become a Physical Therapist Assistant at Fox College, where she graduated in 2016. After completing her degree and two clinical internships dealing with neurological patients’ she formed a growing desire to help this patient population.

Macayla joined the Next Steps team in May 2017 to follow her passion for helping people with spinal cord and other neurological injuries and pathologies reach their highest level of independence, achieve their goals, live out their dreams, and improve their overall quality of life. Being a former gymnast and pole vaulter, Macayla really enjoys working with former athletes and is a big advocate of becoming involved in adaptive sports!

She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and is certified in LSVT BIG; a specific treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

In her free time, Macayla enjoys kayaking, reading, playing piano and singing, volunteering at her church and in the community, and spending time with her husband, Michael.

 

Josh Belske


Aide

Josh has been an aide at Next Steps Chicago since July of 2012. Over the past five years he has really enjoyed working here. He enjoys working with both physical therapy and adaptive fitness and wellness patients; getting to know them personally and helping out whenever he is available. He has taken over the role of teaching the new aides all there is to know about the facility and how big of an asset their job really is.

Josh got involved at Next Steps after his father started as a patient here in March of 2011 after being involved in a diving accident. Josh is great at connecting with each patient and can relate to them on a personal level.

 

Claire Sullivan


Aide

Claire graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 with a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology. During her undergraduate studies, she worked in the Neurocognitive Research Lab as a research assistant in the FitKids intervention program and was involved in an Irish dancing club. After her involvement in research and shadowing different health related careers, she became interested in physical therapy and now plans to apply to Physical Therapy school.

Claire joined the NextSteps team in July of 2017 as an aide and has really enjoyed being able to work in such a unique clinic. She is thankful to be able to learn from great therapists and trainers to help her in her future career.

 

Teri Zuhn


Front Desk Coordinator

Teri is the Front Office Coordinator and Next Steps. She attended college in Iowa. While having some nursing and massage therapy in her background, she also has Healthcare Administration experience. She enjoys spending time with her family and two dogs, Zeuss and Doxie. She also enjoys swimming, biking, and reading. During the summer she and her family enjoy going to the beaches in Michigan and visiting the vineyards. The main reason for choosing Next Steps Chicago to work is the amazing strides taken to help improve the lives of SCI patients.

 

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    Willow Springs, IL 60480
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Reeve Foundation

  • NextSteps Chicago is a member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Neuro Recovery Network.

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