VA Palo Alto Health Care System
National Engineers Week
National Engineers Week is held every first week of February, near George Washington’s birthday, who was considered the nation’s first engineer. This week is celebrated by more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies, to increase awareness of the field of engineering.
VA Palo Alto Health Care System is unique to have so many aspects of engineering that keep operations flowing smoothly and make our health care system a state of the art facility.
Licensed engineer Steven Elliott earned his bachelor in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Oregon State University. After being recruited to work for the VA and working at various medical centers, he made his way to Chief of Biomedical Engineering. He spent several years in Walt Disney Imagineering and running his own company before assuming the role of the Chief of Engineering Service.
His assistant chief is Jay Kim, also a licensed engineer and graduate of UC Irvine. A Bay Area native, he made his way home to receive his masters in civil and environmental engineering. Kim was the GEMS Program Manager at VAPAHCS for three years before his current role.
Elliott and Kim manage a staff of 185 employees. You might see many of them maintaining the many buildings and clinics throughout the health care system. Some are running the large systems that are behind the scenes but vital to the facilities, such as air conditioning and heat.
The service manages the fleet of vehicles that employees use to provide care, the transportation system allowing our Veterans to reach their appointments, and many other operational efforts.
Biomedical Engineering is a section of the Engineering Service that is integral to direct patient care. Managed by biomedical engineer Morten Green, this team keeps all of the medical equipment used within many units of the facility safe and available for staff to deliver care. They are involved in policy making and management of medical technology for the health care system.
Engineering Service is constantly training to maintain the newest systems being placed by the $2 billion worth of construction portfolio at VAPAHCS. This portfolio is driven by the Office of Facility Planning and Development. Jason Nietupski is the chief over three sections of engineers, architects, and designers.
The three major sections of OFPD are run by licensed engineers: John Bassignani, Matthew Pechman and William McGurk.
John Bassignani is the Chief of Planning and Programming. His team oversees the reprogramming of old space and plans the use of new place. For future projects, they take architectural plans and bring them to life by figuring out how all of the pieces come together.
Bassignani grew up in a family of builders and started his career in a box of legos where he built his first buildings. His path led him to study architecture at CalPoly but eventually made his way to the engineering side.
“I look at it as an overall picture of problem solving,” said Bassignani, who finds working in the VA a very “unique” opportunity of being exposed to so many aspects of building that normal engineers don’t always get to see.
Matt Pechman is Chief of Project Development, where his team executes the plans for projects under $10 million, including the new Simulation Center being added to building 105 and the new research building. Pechman was initially a computer engineering major at the University of Akron when he realized it wasn’t his passion and quickly switched over to electrical engineering.
William McGurk is the chief of Major Projects, managing major construction projects of more than $10 million in value. Some of the more noticeable projects include the new Polytrauma/Blind Rehab Center expected to open this year, the Recreation Therapy Gym underway and the upcoming Parking Structure Two.
He grew up on a farm in upstate New York, working on machinery and said he just felt “oriented to mechanics and construction.” McGurk became a military engineer for the Air Force, serving 28 years in active duty and reserve status, before making his way to VAPAHCS.
These various engineers all come together every day to ensure the newest technology in facility maintenance and construction are implemented at VAPAHCS. They are vital to the growth of our health care system as the needs of Veterans can change every year from aging populations and unforeseeable conflicts.