ThinkFirst Programs

Sample icon1ThinkFirst for Kids (TFFK), ThinkFirst for Youth (TFFY) and ThinkFirst for Teens (TFFT).

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Kathy O’Sullivan

Chapter Director of ThinkFirst Northern Nevada

Kathy O Sullivan - ThinkFirstKathy O’Sullivan, MS, PT, CBIS  is the Chapter Director of ThinkFirst Northern Nevada. She is a physical therapist with Rehab Without Walls, a neurorehabilitation company specializing in the treatment of brain injury. Kathy received her master’s degree at Duke University and has been practicing physical therapy, specializing in neurorehabilitation since 1988. Her experience includes inpatient, outpatient and community based rehab as well providing physical therapy for students in Washoe County School District. Brain injury prevention and treatment are Kathy’s passions, both professionally and personally. She has a son with an acquired brain injury and lives with its consequences daily. She is very excited to be working with ThinkFirst Northern Nevada and bringing increased awareness to our community.

About ThinkFirst

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million persons in the United States sustain a brain injury, and 12,000 - 20,000 sustain a spinal cord injury. In fact, injury is the leading cause of death among children and teens. The most frequent causes of these injuries are motor vehicle crashes, violence, falls, sports and recreation. The good news is that most injuries are preventable! The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation's award-winning, evidence-based programs are aimed at helping people learn to reduce their risk for injury.

ThinkFirst programs educate young people about their personal vulnerability and the importance of making safe choices. The message is: You can have a fun-filled, exciting life, without hurting yourself if you "ThinkFirst." Buckle up. Drive safe and sober. Avoid violent situations. Lower your risk to fall. Wear a helmet. Check the water before you dive. Use your mind to protect your body!

Read more: About ThinkFirst

Mission & Vision

Mission Statement

”ThinkFirst: Leading injury prevention through education, research and policy.”

Our priorities are to serve the following:

  • First: Beneficiaries: Children, teens, adults, families and communities
  • Second: Advocates: ThinkFirst Network - Chapter Directors, Schools, VIPs, Physicians and Health Care Professionals
  • Third: Sponsors: Hospitals, Medical Associations, Government Organizations, and Corporations

As Leaders of ThinkFirst our passion for injury prevention will guide our actions in the following ways. We must:

  • Provide programs that are of the highest impact and quality
  • Ensure programs are scientifically validated as effective
  • Act socially responsible
  • Lead by example in our actions
  • Value innovative and trusted leadership
  • Respect the resources provided by our sponsors
  • By using funds wisely to meet the needs of today and tomorrow
  • By being transparent in our financial reporting

ThinkFirst of Northern Nevada is a 501(c)(3) non-for profit charity. Donations are tax deductible.


Chapter Director:

Sponsoring Physician:

  • Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, FACS (sekhon(at)

Board of Directors:

  • Kevin Berge, CPA (Berge & Company)
  • Frieda Hulka, MD (Trauma surgeon with Western Surgical Group, specializing in pediatric surgery)
  • Jay Morgan, MD (Neurosurgeon with Sierra Neurosurgery Group)
  • Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, FACS (Neurosurgeon with Sierra Neurosurgery Group)
  • Sherise Smith, MS,PT,CBIS (Physical Therapist, Working with Rehab Without Walls)
  • Joseph Uccelli, MD (Trauma Surgeon with Western Surgical Group)
  • Lita McCaw, Director of Rehab at NNMC

ThinkFirst VIP Speakers:

  • Tayler Dahlberg
  • Drew Simpson
  • Blaze Brucato
  • Caitlyn Bray

VIP Speakers

Voices for Injury Prevention (VIPs) are at the heart of our ThinkFirst programs. These individuals share how a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury changed their lives in an instant. Their upbeat yet poignant presentations offer audiences the opportunity to see and hear first-hand, live accounts of the consequences of poor choices (theirs or someone else's)... like not wearing seat belts, choosing to drink and drive or playing with firearms.

Drew Simpson

Reno High School graduate Drew Simpson was the star pitcher on his college baseball team, a freshman with a bright career ahead of him. During a night of partying with his friends, Drew drank too much and fell down three stairs, sustaining a massive traumatic brain injury. That misstep would leave him in a coma for over two weeks, requiring four surgeries and nearly a year of recovery time.  Drew has chosen to take this devastating experience and share it with teenagers in hopes of stopping them from making choices that could negatively alter the rest of their lives.

Tayler Dahlberg

Tayler Dahlberg was 23 years old and was well on his way to accomplishing his dream of becoming a professional dirt bike racer, when tragedy struck.  In the middle of a desert race, Ricky Dahlberg came across his older brother lying unconscious, face down in the dirt 30 feet away from his bike. The unwitnessed crash would leave Tayler with a severe traumatic brain injury, in a coma and on life support for 25 days.  After more than a year of therapy, Tayler now shares his experiences with local students to educate them on the severity of traumatic brain injuries and how wearing protective gear saved his life.

Blaze Brucato

Spanish Springs High School graduate Blaze Brucato had his future clearly mapped out.  He was serving in the Air National Guard while attending college at UNR with the goal of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a pilot.  While running errands one December day, the car he was in was struck by a drunk driver. The result was a severe traumatic brain injury that would leave him hospitalized for nearly a year.  While rehab therapy is still an ongoing reality, Blaze has joined up with ThinkFirst to educate teenagers about how the consequences of their decisions/actions could not only affect themselves, but also devastate the life of another.

Caitlyn Bray

The Bray family was heading home from an out-of-state visit with relatives when the unthinkable happened.  In an effort to avoid hitting a deer that ran out in the deserted stretch of highway, Caitlyn’s dad overcorrected the steering wheel and sent their truck rolling multiple times in to a ditch.  While Caitlyn’s mom and brother were uninjured and her dad sustained multiple orthopedic injuries, 14 year old Caitlyn suffered the brunt of the accident and sustained a traumatic brain injury.  She was airlifted to Redding, CA where she would remain in a coma for 5 days. She missed the majority of her freshman year of high school due to the severe pain and memory loss that resulted from her TBI.  After hearing a ThinkFirst presentation at her school during her sophomore year, she approached the speakers and asked of she could share her story with fellow students. She is looking forward to starting college and having a little more time to spend with ThinkFirst.


ThinkFirst of Northern Nevada was established in 2011.

The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, formerly known as the National Head and Spinal Cord Injury Prevention Program, was first implemented nationally in 1986. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) directed two neurosurgeons, E. Fletcher Eyster, MD, of Pensacola, Florida and Clark Watts, MD, of Columbia, Missouri to develop a national injury prevention program based on their previous prevention efforts in their respective communities.

The AANS and CNS initiated the development of the national program due to their concern for their patients with brain and spinal cord injuries. These groups share the belief that prevention is the only cure, and that neurosurgeons have a duty to try to prevent these traumatic injuries. Eyster and Watts saw the assignment from the two largest professional neurosurgical organizations as an opportunity to recruit other health professional to undertake public education prevention efforts, as well as to address public policy issues related to injury prevention.

Each locally established chapter was sponsored by a neurosurgeon committed to public education and injury prevention. The replicable program materials consisted of a teen-oriented program, reinforcement materials, and a program to influence public attitudes and legislative policy. ThinkFirst's initial program, ThinkFirst For Teens, was offered to middle and high school audiences to teach young people about personal vulnerability, the consequences of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, and easy methods for preventing injuries.

The tremendous response to the program throughout the country led to its institutionalization by the AANS and CNS. Their continued support is a statement of the national neurosurgical community's ongoing commitment to public health and injury prevention.

The efficacy of the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation has been demonstrated through its increasing acceptance by school educators, student evaluations, letters from parents and public officials, adoption by professional organizations, the measurement of attitude changes toward injury by students, and the increased usage of safety belts and other safety behaviors in targeted age groups.

National and international recognition

The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation has been recognized in many ways over the years for outstanding injury prevention programs. Early on, ThinkFirst was awarded the 1988 Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives and the 1989 Award for Excellence in Prevention Education from the American Medical Association. In 2000, Life Space Adaptation Projects of the University of Toronto identified ThinkFirst as an example of "Best Practice" in the category of Comprehensive Community-Based Prevention Strategies. Two years later, the California Department of Education recognized ThinkFirst For Kids as a research-validated program and accepted it into its California Healthy Kids Resource Center, making the curriculum and its supplementary materials available for loan throughout the California educational system.

Most recently, ThinkFirst was very honored to be presented with the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons at their annual meeting in New Orleans- a meeting of over 3,000 neurosurgeons!

A new era

Today, the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation offers research-validated multi-level educational programs that have reached millions of young people nationally and internationally, has had major influences on public policy initiatives, and continues to expand to reach those most vulnerable to traumatic injuries. By virtue of their work in treating patients who have sustained traumatic injuries, physicians and allied health professional are natural spokespersons for prevention. Recently, ThinkFirst has expanded its efforts to encourage all health professionals to get involved. ThinkFirst provides health professionals with the training, tools, and support to assist chapters in spreading the prevention message in their communities, in turn, lowering the incidence, cost and devastation of traumatic injury.

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