Hand Therapist Specialists

What is a Certified Hand Therapist?

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is an occupational/physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of hands.

They must have a minimum of 5 years postgraduate experience with at least 4,000 hours in hand therapy and have successfully challenged the Hand Therapy Certification Commission exam in order to obtain these credentials. CHT’s are dedicated professionals who have a commitment to meet the highest standards of their profession. The hand and arm have an extremely intricate anatomy and complexity. Rehabilitation of the hand and arm requires in-depth knowledge and up-to-date techniques. Certified Hand Therapists have the highest level of competence in the rehabilitation of upper extremity injuries.

Certified Hand Therapists are able to initiate treatment immediately following surgery often while stitches are still in place. Early referral to a hand therapist is effective in preventing further surgeries and obtaining an optimal outcome.

Hand Therapist Specialists

  • Claude Bernard, OTR/L

    Claude Bernard graduated from Howard University with a Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy in 2013. Prior to earning his masters, he received an Athletic Training degree at Methodist University in 2011. He has gained valuable clinical experience in a variety of settings which include inpatient rehab, acute care, SNIF, mental health hospital, and sports injuries. Upon completion of OT school, he worked alongside his mentor/doctor’s hand therapy clinic where he developed skills in hand therapy, lymphedema therapy, and pediatric therapy. Working at the hand therapy clinic he has developed the skill to combine comprehensive knowledge of the structure of the upper limb with function and activity using specialized skills in assessment, planning and treatment. His passion has always been with the intricate knowledge and specialization of hand therapy. In his free time, Claude enjoys playing basketball, fitness, traveling, and spending time with family.


  • Thomas Cox, OT

    Tom Cox graduated with a Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy from Spalding University in 2015. Prior to earning his masters, Tom received a B.S. in Kinesiology from Liberty University. Before beginning his career as an Occupational Therapist Tom worked from the Warrior Transition BN at Fort Knox, Ky; where he developed/ran the adaptive sports program for wounded warriors. Tom has completed multiple residencies in hand therapy clinics with some of the top therapist in the nation. Tom's passion has always been evaluating, treating, and assisting patients in restoring function for a wide range of hand injuries.


  • Diedre Falls, OTR/L

    A graduate of Thomas Jefferson Medical College in 1987, Diedre went on to receiving her Hand Therapy Certification (CHT) in 1991. Her vast experience has been in both the inpatient and out patient settings throughout the Northern Virginia area. Her most recent experience includes working directly with 2 local Hand surgeons. Her passion lies in patient care. Diedre enjoys treating all upper extremity conditions as well as post operative cases. She has managed many complex hand injuries. Diedre’s is also a yoga instructor, which allows her to create the ideal rehabilitative environment. She is currently treating patients in our Fairfax Office.


  • Dakota Ferrell, OT

    Dakota Ferrell received her Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Howard University in Washington, DC. She was born and raised in the Northern Virginia area. Her clinical experiences include skilled nursing, mental health, and pediatric occupational therapy services. She joined Alliance in 2016 and is excited to expand her experience to include outpatient services as well. In her free time, she enjoys to cook, spend time with family and friends, and read.


  • Kimberly Hartman, OTR/L, CHT
    Certified Hand Therapist

    Director, Hand Therapy Program at Alliance Rehab. Kim has over 15 years of experience as a licensed Occupational Therapist (OT) with a specialty in Hand Therapy. She graduated from Towson State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and later went on to attend one of the premiere schools in the nation for Hand Therapy, Drexel University, where she received a post-graduate level certificate in Hand and Upper Quarter Rehabilitation. She combined her academic achievements with over 4000 hours of hand experience to earn her certification in Hand Therapy, after she passed the National Board examination in 2005. She brings advanced skills in the rehabilitation of hand injuries and will be offering a complete spectrum of rehabilitative services.



  • Taylor Riviere, DPT, OTR/L

    Dr. Riviere received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at The University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences in 2015, and is Direct Access Certified. She also received her Masters in Occupational Therapy from The University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences in 2013. She received her B.A. degree in Exercise Science at the University of Saint Augustine in 2011. Following graduation from The University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences, Dr. Riviere moved to Virginia to pursue her dream of working as a therapist and discover life outside of Florida. In her free time she enjoys playing flag football, working out, staying active, and reading.


  • Erin M. Vanko, OTR/L

    Erin Vanko, graduated from the Sage Colleges in Troy NY with a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy in 2015. Erin’s clinical experiences include: outpatient pediatrics and two clinical rotations working alongside certified hand therapist’s developing comprehensive knowledge and skills of the upper extremity. When not treating in the clinic, Erin enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, travelling, and relaxing with a good book.


  • Najwa Wallschlaeger, OTR/L, CHT
     Certified Hand Therapist

    Najwa is a certified hand therapist and a licensed and registered occupational therapist at Alliance Physical Therapy's Manassas location. Najwa completed her undergraduate studies at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa in 1994. She went on to receive her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy in 1996 from the University of Indianapolis in Indiana. She began her career in Lynchburg, VA working in inpatient acute hospital and rehabilitation settings. During that time she discovered her passion for hand therapy and transitioned into an outpatient practice. Najwa pursued her interest in hand specialty through a mentorship at the Indiana Hand Center and in 2002 established a hand clinic in Lynchburg. Najwa earned her Certification in Hand Therapy in 2006. She brings 20 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist and is a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists. She is current with hand therapy practice trends and has become known for quality care and professionalism. Najwa lives in our area with her husband and two children, and enjoys hiking, running, cooking and piano.



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