Friends of AVAPL

Remembering Christine LaGana

Dr. Christine LaGana passed away on September 20, 2017. She was President of AVAPL 1994-95, the beginning of a tumultuous time for VA psychologists. Her leadership helped guide AVAPL and VA psychology through this time, eventually leading to the thriving organization and profession of today. Dr. LaGana previously announced her retirement from VA and provided the following philosophy.

I’ve returned from the End of the World and I have had an Epiphany. Christine in Antarctica
Christine in Antarctica I have returned from my Bucket List trip and have accomplished four major items on my Bucket List: Visit the Antarctic, Dance the Tango, Sing Karaoke, and Decide to Retire!
Yes! I have set foot on the Lost Continent (Antarctica), being one of less than 70,000 people in the history of the world to do so. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease for 14 years, I was able to walk/trek dangerous unpaved icy terrains for over 4.5 hours with no substantial breaks in sub-zero degree weather with 20 mile-per-hr winds. I met an Emperor Penguin, who thought I was his Empress. Whoo!!! Christine in Antarctica
Christine in Antarctica

When not on Antarctica, I took Tango lessons - also a Bucket List item - and got up the nerve to sing Karaoke! In fact, I became sort of a celebrity on the ship for my absolute "In Your Face" attitude about being an AWFUL singer. After all, they did advertise that Karaoke was great when you were good but even better when you were bad. By my third performance, they actually chanted my name when it was my turn to sing!!! Over the course of the cruise, I sang (all VERY Badly):

  •  "I will Survive"
  •  "Chapel of Love"
  •  "I will Always Love You"
  •  Memory (from “Cats”)

So. By the end of the cruise - on the cruise ship of 2500 passengers -  everyone knew my name.  They would call out “Hola, Christine!”  from across the ship and ask to have their pictures taken with the woman with the sense of style, the sense of humor, and the relentless spirit for living.  All because of my hats and my willingness to jump up and sing karaoke REALLY AWFULLY.(check me out on face book – it’s truly awful).   Several people hugged me on the last day and thanked me for being so inspirational.  Go figure!

My Epiphany was that I had become who I was meant to be.
And that’s the way I want to go out…..
I have decided to retire, effective February 28th.  I have had a phenomenal career in the VA and can’t imagine wanting more professionally.  It is time for me now to be just me.  I have a globe to travel, places to see and people to meet.

Christine in Antarctica
Christine in Antarctica And when things get tough around here in the old VA System, just remember…..a 5’4”, 63 year old woman with a 14 year history of Parkinson’s Disease, set foot on the Forgotten Continent of Antarctica, hiked for 5 hours with penguins, danced the tango, and sang Karaoke really REALLLY badly, and became the sweetheart of 2500 passengers…… may not help you get thru the day, but it should bring a smile to your face!

Carpe Diem

Remembering Dr. Jim Besyner

In Memoriam--Dr. James Besyner  Donations to the American Heart Association in memory of Dr. Besyner may be made here.

Donations to the American Red Cross may be made here.

Donations to the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) may be made

AVAPL Presidents

AVAPL Presidents Through The Years

The AVAPL Business Meeting at the APA Convention in San Diego was fortunate to have 10 previous Presidents in attendance to welcome incoming President George Shorter and newly elected President-Elect Jim Besyner. In the photo above, left to right, are Jim Besyner (President-Elect), Terry Keane (2004-2005), Ed Nightingale (1991-1992), Kathy McNamara (2005-2006), Mark Hinterthuer (2008-2009), George Shorter (President), Judy Patterson (2001-2002), June Malone (2009-2010), Bob Kerns (1992-1993), Bob Gresen (1997-1998), Rod Baker (1982-1983), and Jeff Burk (1999-2000). Click the picture to view it in a larger size.


Alexander Boeringa and Phil Laughlin

We at AVAPL have fond memories of and a special appreciation for those who helped make this organization a success. Two such individuals are Alexander Boeringa, retired Chief of Psychology Service at the Houston VAMC and former President and Secretary-Treasurer of AVAPL, and Phil Laughlin, retired Chief of Psychology Service at the Knoxville (Iowa) VAMC and also former President of AVAPL. Since his retirement, Alexander has been exploring and working in Europe, and he sends us his greetings and a few pictures. Alexander would love to receive e-mail from his friends and colleagues. You may contact him at

Left to right: Phil Laughlin, Ruth Laughlin, and Alexander Boeringa
(Above, left to right: Phil Laughlin, Ruth Laughlin, and Alexander Boeringa)
I am currently living in Europe and teaching for the University of Maryland and recently had a visit from Phil and Ruth Laughlin. We spent a wonderful two days touring the part of England near my house before they traveled on to Scotland and Ireland. We visited a grand cathedral, the ruins of a 1000 year old Priory and some typical small English villages among other places. Of course we stopped in a few Pubs along the way to soak up refreshments and local color. We want to wish a warm hello to all our friends out there, as well as to remind you that there is life after retirement, and it IS sweet!


Phil Laughlin and Alexander Boeringa (Left: Phil Laughlin and Alexander Boeringa)




(Right: Phil and Ruth Laughlin)


Phil and Ruth Laughlin