Solving Problems. Changing Lives.

Solving Problems. Changing Lives.


Bethesda Technologist, Barb Silver-Thorn, has dedicated her career to solving problems and, as a result, positively affecting peoples’ lives.

Bethesda Technologist, Barb Silver-Thorn, has dedicated her career to solving problems and, as a result, positively affecting peoples’ lives. Barb recently earned the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), but to fully understand the breadth and depth of Barb’s commitment to the people supported by Bethesda, we need to take a step back.

Barb grew up in Milwaukee. Her grandfather was a dentist and her father was a bacteriologist. Medicine and the sciences were simply a part of her life.

So, it was not surprising that after high school Barb studied math and then eventually turned her focus to chemical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering – blending her interests in chemistry, biology and math.

Following her undergraduate studies, Barb pursued advanced degrees where she had the opportunity to explore orthopedics followed by doctoral studies that involved external prostheses or artificial limbs.

“I initially envisioned medical device research, but then became interested in academia and the opportunity to both conduct research and teach,” said Silver-Thorn.

And teach she did. For more than 25 years Barb was an associate professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee where she taught biomedical engineering and held several other positions that allowed her to really listen to students, helping them determine their true interests and discern their career options.

“During my tenure at Marquette, I’m most proud of my impact on both undergraduate and graduate students – helping them to become independent problem solvers,” said Silver-Thorn. “I enjoyed my research and the direct involvement with individuals who would benefit from our designs and technology; these engagements were very rewarding.”

In 2018, Barb left Marquette to join Bethesda to support assistive technology integration throughout the organization. Her work includes the assessment of people we support to determine how and what technology can further enhance independence and inclusion – ultimately changing the way care, support and services are delivered.

True to form, Barb dove into her new position with both feet by earning the ATP certification through RESNA. The certification recognizes demonstrated competence in analyzing the needs of consumers with disabilities, assisting in the selection of appropriate assistive technology for the consumers’ needs, and providing training in the use of the selected devices.

To become certified, Barb had to first establish eligibility with a degree in Rehab Science, which she previously accomplished through her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies in biomedical engineering and prosthetics. Her research and teaching activities were then reviewed to confirm that she satisfied the 3,000 hours of direct consumer-related services in assistive technology work experience. The final step was to successfully pass a rigorous four-hour exam that tested her competency in the field of assistive technology, including main principles of psychology and sociology, human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics, among other industry criteria.

This is an outstanding accomplishment,” said Mike Klimkosky, chief information officer for Bethesda. “Personally, Barb should be very proud of the fact her entire career has shaped this achievement. And, professionally, this achievement not only reaffirms her commitment to technology but provides the people supported by Bethesda with an industry expert. With ATP credentials, the door is now wide open to Medicaid waiver and/or insurance funding opportunities from some states that otherwise wouldn’t consider us due to specific provider qualification requirements,” added Klimkosky.

“With so many different types of assistive technology now available, I’m thrilled that Bethesda has a trained professional with the knowledge to take a holistic approach to every situation to then determine what equipment will enable the people supported by Bethesda to optimize their life at home, school, work and in the community,” said Susan Kaufman, vice president of operations for Bethesda. “Not to mention Barb is so wonderful to work with. She has such a natural ability to relate to all people and is perfectly suited for her role at Bethesda.”

Congratulations, Barb! Bethesda is extremely fortunate to have you on the team helping the people we support live their best life possible.