VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Lisa M. Howard | 650-493-5000
Lisa Howard was appointed to the position of Executive Director, VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), on February 7, 2021. Her duties and responsibilities include serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the HCS. She oversees one of the most complex facilities in the VA System with an annual budget in excess of $1B, and more than 7,000 employees and volunteers. VAPAHCS is part of VA Sierra Pacific Network (VISN 21), which serves Veterans in northern and central California, Nevada, Hawaii, the Philippines, and U.S. Territories in the Pacific Basin. VAPAHCS consists of three inpatient facilities located at Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, in addition to seven Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in San Jose, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, Sonora, and Fremont; as well as two residential homes for Veterans in the Compensated Work Therapy program. VAPAHCS operates approximately 800 beds, including three nursing homes and a 100-bed homeless domiciliary - all to serve more than 67,000 enrolled Veterans. VAPAHCS operates one of the largest integrated health care systems in VA in terms of specialized programs, research and graduate medical education; primarily affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine. Comprehensive health care is provided through primary, tertiary and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry, geriatrics and extended care. VAPAHCS is home to a variety of regional treatment centers, including Spinal Cord Injury, Polytrauma Rehabilitation, Blind Rehabilitation, Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program; and Men’s and Women’s Trauma Recovery Programs. VAPAHCS’ Research Program is the second largest in VHA with an annual funding of approximately $58M. National VHA Research Centers at VAPAHCS include: Cooperative Studies Program; Health Services Research and Development, Center for Innovation to Implementation, Health Economics Resource Center; Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center; Mental Illness Research Education Clinical Center; National Center for PTSD; VHA Performance Evaluation Resource Center; VHA National Center for Collaborative Health Care Innovation; Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center; VHA Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, and Office of Public Health Surveillance and Research. Ms. Howard has served Veterans for 34 years in a broad range of administrative and executive management positions at the Phoenix, New Orleans, San Diego, North Chicago, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Reno VAs, as well as the VA Sierra Pacific Network (VISN 21). She was awarded the 2020 Nevada Business Magazine Healthcare Administrator Award for northern Nevada. She has a 24-year old son, Brendan, who recently graduated from UNR. She spends her free time training for powerlifting competitions and judging meets, and she has a slight addiction to gardening and shopping for antiques. She has rescued many senior chihuahuas and parrots over the years, who assist her in her garden adventures.
Megan O’Connor | 650-493-5000
Interim Deputy Director
Megan O’Connor was appointed Interim Deputy Director at VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) on January 3, 2021. She was the Interim Associate Director from October 11, 2020 to January 2, 2021. Ms. O’Connor has served as the Director for Clinical Support under the Office of the Chief of Staff since October 2018, where she oversees the operation, coordination, and administrative management of Chief of Staff services. Under her leadership, Ms. O’Connor has supported the Group Practice Management structure, improved call wait times, and first call resolution at VAPAHCS. Previously, Ms. O’Connor served as the Assistant Chief, Ambulatory Care Service, from November 2013 – October 2018. Prior to her administrative work she provided direct patient care as a physical therapist for seven years. Ms. O’Connor obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Studies in 2001, and a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2003 from Boston University.
Daniel Kulenich | 650-493-5000 Ext. 65404
Mr. Kulenich graduated from Robert Morris University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and Logistics. He earned a Master of Science degree in Project Management from DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management. Mr. Kulenich has served as the Director for Clinical Support at VAPAHCS since 2016. More recently, Mr. Kulenich has served as the Acting Associate Director in 2017 and Deputy Director in 2020 at VAPAHCS. In addition to his wealth of experience in systems-based practice and a field base in clinical work, he is also a Veteran of the United States Army.
Michael J. Kozal, MD | 650-493-5000
Chief of Staff
Michael J. Kozal, MD, was appointed Chief of Staff at VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) on March 1, 2021. Dr. Kozal previously served as the Chief of Staff at VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACT) and Associate Dean for Veteran Affairs at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Kozal received his medical training at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and completed his Infectious Diseases fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine. Throughout his career, Dr. Kozal has held a number of leadership positions in diverse environments: biotechnology start-ups, Medical Director of Public Health, Section Chief of Infectious Diseases at VA, Director of the Yale HIV Clinical Trials Group, Scientific Advisor Board member, Chief of the Medicine Service at VACT, Medicine Service Line Director for VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1), and Vice Chair of Medicine and Associate Dean for Veterans Affairs at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Kozal has been on the faculty at Yale School of Medicine since 2000, where he became an Associate Professor in 2005 and a Professor in 2010. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Yale. Dr. Kozal has led a clinical and translational research program focusing on viral drug resistance and HIV/Hepatitis C clinical trials. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), VA, foundations and industry. He is considered an expert in molecular diagnostics and deep sequencing technology, and received multiple patents for his work that were licensed by numerous companies. He has served on VA and NIH/National Cancer Institute (NCI) review panels and he is a current member of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/NIH Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents.
Rina N. Shah, M.D., F.A.C.P. | 650-493-5000
Deputy Chief of Staff
Rina N. Shah, M.D., F.A.C.P., was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Staff at VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) in December 2018. Most recently, Dr. Shah served as the Interim Chief of Staff from May 2020 - March 2021. Dr. Shah is responsible for the clinical operations of a complex three-division health care system and seven community-based outpatient clinics. As a leader in VA, she is committed to the management and optimization of clinical care delivery, education, and research. Dr. Shah received her medical degree from Seth GS Medical College & KEM Hospital in Mumbai, India. She also completed her internship and received a diploma in Medical Radiodiagnosis from KEM Hospital. Dr. Shah completed her residency in internal medicine at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, and her chief residency in internal medicine at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Riverside, California. Dr. Shah began her VA career in 1999 at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, where she held positions as staff physician and co-director of the Emergency Department. In 2003, she transferred to San Francisco VA Health Care System and has since served in various leadership roles, including Director of Medical Practice (Primary Care), Associate Chief of Staff of Ambulatory Care, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Interim Chief of Staff. Dr. Shah is currently a Clinical Professor (Affiliated) in the Clinician Educator line in the Department of Medicine and Division of Primary Care and Population Health at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Michelle R. Mountfort | 650-493-5000
Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive
Michelle R. Mountfort was appointed Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive at VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) on July 5, 2020. Ms. Mountfort joined VAPAHCS in 2016 as the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Service/Nursing Services. Ms. Mountfort has been with the VA for twelve years. Prior to joining VAPAHCS, she served as the Acting Associate Director for Patient Care Service/Nursing Services at the Grand Junction VA Health Care System, Grand Junction, Colorado. She has been involved in VHA initiatives including Transition to Practice Program Collaborative, VISN wide committees such as Systems Redesign, Quality, Safety and Value and the facility POC for the Patient Aligned Care Team roll-out. She is a graduate of both the VISN 18/19 Leadership Development Institute as well as a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute Program. Additionally, she was inducted into the Honors Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau in 2008.
David R. Renfro | 650-849-1949
Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Deputy Nurse Executive
David R. Renfro was appointed Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Deputy Nurse Executive at VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) on January 17, 2021. Mr. Renfro joined VAPAHCS in 1989, immediately following his service (1985-1989) in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, Second Class Petty Officer. Prior to joining the VA, Mr. Renfro served in the Gulf War, and after a year at VA was recalled to active duty to serve in Desert Shield/Desert Storm at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, CA; Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. Prior to joining VA, Mr. Renfro served at the Naval Hospital Balboa, Naval Hospital in Oakland, and the USS Shasta AE-33. Mr. Renfro holds a Master’s Degree in Science with a focus on Nursing Administration from San Jose State University, and is nationally certified, Nurse Executive certification, through AACN. Mr. Renfro is recognized as a servant leader who most recently has served as the Chief Nurse for Specialty and Hospital Based Services. In this role, he supervised the leadership for the Critical Care (2) and Medical Surgical units (3), Emergency Room, Case Management, Nursing Supervisors Office. Among his major initiatives he has led Project RED readmissions strategies, Avasys implementation, Vocera communication initiative, the Intermediate Care Technician (ICT) program, including the first national SkillBridge Program for active duty medics and corpsmen, and the newly implemented Clinical Command Center. Mr. Renfro has a passion for improving the health care of Veterans through the use of evidence-based practice, LEAN, and process improvement strategies. One of Mr. Renfro’s primary efforts at the VA has been the implementation of Project RE-Engineering Discharge (RED) throughout the facility, and providing assistance with RED implementation in more than 13 VAs nationally. Mr. Renfro has presented his work at national and regional forums: Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), The Society of Healthcare Professionals (AMSUS), Stanford University International MEDX Conference, World Conference - Nurse Leader First Annual Conference, National VA Quality Scholars Sessions, National Data Analytics Conference, VISN 21 Nurse Excellence and many other venues. He is recognized as a national resource for Project RED and readmissions strategies, and for the ICT program development. Mr. Renfro is a graduate of Leadership Development VISN 21/22, and graduate of Leadership VA class of 2015. Mr. Renfro is active in his community and in 2020 was elected to serve as the Vice President for Leadership VA Alumni Association, building the future of VA leaders.