Program Directors

Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, serves as Co-Director for the NFL Brain and Body Program. He is the Research Director for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at UNC. In 2011 he was named one of the  MacArthur Fellows.
Michael Y. Lee, MD, MHA, serves as Co- Director for the NFL Brain and Body Program.  He is a professor and founding chair of the UNC Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Consistently elected as one of the “Best Doctors in America,” Dr. Lee is also the Medical Director of the UNC Rehabilitation Center and Occupational/Physical Therapy Department.  He is double-boarded in electrodiagnostic medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Julian Bailes, MD, serves as Medical Director for the CSRA. He is also the Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute. Dr. Bailes is a recognized leader in the field of neurosurgery and both the short and long-term impact of brain injury on cognitive function.


Medical Team

Kevin Carneiro, DO, serves as the Program’s physiatrist who provides an initial comprehensive evaluation. He is an assistant professor in the UNC Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, practicing primarily at UNC Health Care’s Spine Center. He is double boarded in physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as sports medicine. His other subspecialties include musculoskeletal rehabilitation, non-interventional and interventional spine care, arthritis and joint injections, and exercise.


James Kurz, MD, serves as the program’s primary care physician. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and is board certified in internal medicine. For the past four years he has served as the Director of the UNC Executive Health Program. He is listed in Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Physicians. He has an interest in sports medicine and has cared for several retired NFL players.

Karla Thompson, PhD, serves as the Program’s neuropsychologist and provides neuropsychological evaluations and consultations.  She is an assistant professor in the UNC Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, with a joint appointment in Psychiatry.  She is a neuropsychologist with more than 17 years of experience in evaluating and treating patients with traumatic brain injuries, strokes, anoxic brain injuries, brain tumors, dementias, and other forms of cognitive impairment.  She also works with patients with other kinds of disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries.  She is a research collaborator with the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, has served on the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of NC, and is the faculty facilitator of UNC’s Brain Injury Support Group.
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Daniel Kaufer, MD serves as the neurologist for the Program.  He is the is the division chief of Cognitive Neurology and director of the UNC Memory Disorders Program in the department of Neurology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  He completed neurology training at the University of Pittsburgh and a fellowship in Behavioral Neurology at UCLA.  Dr. Kaufer is board-certified in Neurology, a diplomat in Behavioral Neurology & Neuropsychiatry, and was formerly president of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology. He is consistently listed among America’s “Best Doctors” and combines research interests in the diagnosis and treatment of neurocognitive disorders with compassionate, cutting-edge clinical care.
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Dr. Ana Felix is a Neurologist with Board Certification in Adult Neurology as well as Vascular Neurology. She graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with MBBCh in 1989 and completed her Internship Training in Boston at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center of Boston, followed by Neurology Residency at Boston City Hospital and the Combined TUFTS Neurology Training Program. She has been at UNC since 2002. Dr. Felix has a strong interest in clinical neurology, has experience with medical student education and patient care and is joining the program for neurological assessments.

Abbie Smith-Ryan, PhD, serves the Program by providing a comprehensive nutrition and body composition consult. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, with her research specializing in exercise and nutrition interventions to improve lean body mass and reduce body fat. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified sports nutritionist.


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Dana Lebo, Ph.D., serves as a Life Skills Coach for the program. She is a Leadership Coach with Bell Leadership Institute, a recognized leader in executive education and development. Dr. Lebo earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and is a N.C.-licensed psychologist. For 20 years, she has worked with people from a wide range of organizations, including entrepreneurial startups; family businesses; global corporations; government, health care, and educational institutions; and college and professional sports teams. As a mother of four, grandmother, and competitive runner and triathlete, Dr. Lebo especially enjoys helping people enhance their performance and effectively manage the stress and complexities of busy personal and professional lives.


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Elizabeth Gulledge, PhD, is a trainer with the Bell Leadership Institute and serves the Program by providing Life Skills coaching. She completed her training at Duke University and the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom as a Fellow in Organizational Psychology.  Prior to joining Bell Leadership, Dr. Gulledge taught at the leading business schools in Europe in the areas of leadership development and organizational behavior.  She currently works with the Bell Team to help people build their personal effectiveness and lead great lives.

Program Coordinators

J.D. DeFreese, PhD, serves as the Program Coordinator and Postdoctoral Research Associate for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. J.D. completed his PhD at Purdue University in 2012. His research interests involve outcomes of athlete psychological health including burnout, well-being, and social functioning. He is responsible for assisting with various research studies as well as with day-to-day operations.



Leah Cox Thomas, MS, CRC, LRT/CTRS serves as the Assistant Program Coordinator for the BBHP and serves as a Research Associate for both the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. Both of these work in conjunction with the Matthew Gfeller Center. Leah completed her undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of North Carolina- Wilmington and her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. She is responsible for assisting with various research studies as well as with day-to-day operations.