Leadership Team - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Leadership Team

Thomas J. Fitzgerald III, CHESP, Director

Thomas J. Fitzgerald III, CHESP | 650-493-5000


Thomas J, Fitzgerald III was appointed Director at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in June 2017. He previously served as Deputy Director from January 2013–June 2017. He oversees one of the most complex facilities in the VA system with an annual budget in excess of $1.1 billion, more than 7,000 staff and volunteers, 808 operating beds spread between three inpatient divisions and 7 community outpatient clinics and a myriad of special programs. He also is responsible for maintaining a cooperative and supportive relationship with affiliate Stanford University School of Medicine, numerous academic affiliations in allied health programs and other community health institutions. Mr. Fitzgerald is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran who served in the U.S Army active and reserve for 16 years as a Medical Non Commissioned Officer and served in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Mr. Fitzgerald began his VA Career in 1988 as a Nursing Assistant at the North Chicago VAMC and held the following positions at the North Chicago VAMC, Housekeeping Aid, Housekeeping Assistant General Foreman, Assistant Chief Environmental Care and Operations and Chief Environmental Care and Operations, Chief Environmental Management Service at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Assistant Director for VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Mr. Fitzgerald holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management from the American InterContinental University, he is also a graduate of the VA management development course (VAMD) in conjunction with the University of Alabama Birmingham, the Leadership VA (LVA) 2003 class and HCLI 2007 class. He is a Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional (CHESP) by the American Hospital Association affiliate, Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE). He is also a member of the American College of Health Care Executives.

Daniel Kulenich, Deputy Director

Daniel Kulenich | 650-493-5000 Ext. 65404

Deputy Director

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 Acting Deputy Director in 2018 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.

Gary E Mendez, Associate Director

Gary E Mendez | 650-493-5000

Associate Director

Gary Mendez is the Associate Director at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He was appointed to this position on October 29, 2017. As a member of the executive leadership team, Mr. Mendez participates in management discussions, decisions, and policy making for the health care system. His duties include oversight of Chaplain, Environmental Management, Nutrition & Food, Patient Advocate, Prosthetics & Sensory Aids, Safety & Emergency Management, Voluntary & Hospitality. He is the executive liaison for Information Security, Office of Information &Technology, and Veterans Canteen Service. Mr. Mendez began his Federal career as a Medical Administration Specialist at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, WI in 2004, where he was promoted to the Chief of Patient Administration Service. Mr. Mendez served as the Chief of Health Administration Service at VAPAHCS from 2008-2014. In March of 2014, he helped launch the Office of Business Analytics at VAPAHCS, where he served as the Business Analytics Manager. In May 2015, he transferred to the San Francisco VA Health Care System, where he was appointed as the Director of Business Strategy. Mr. Mendez graduated from the California State University at Northridge with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Therapy. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California. He is a graduate of the Veterans Integrated Service Network 21/22 Leadership Institute and the 2015 VHA Health Care Leadership Program. Mr. Mendez served as an Avionics Technician in the Third Marine Aircraft Wing in the United States Marine Corps from 1989-1995.

Lawrence L Leung, M.D., Chief of Staff

Lawrence L Leung, M.D. | 650-493-5000

Chief of Staff

Dr. Lawrence L. Leung is the Chief of Staff at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He was appointed to the position on May 28, 2006. Dr. Leung is responsible for a complex three-division health care system and seven community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC). In addition, he has a leadership role in promoting the ongoing collaboration in research, clinical care, and graduate medical education with the health care system's educational affiliate Stanford University School of Medicine. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Leung received his M.D. in 1975 from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his medical residency and obtained his hematology-oncology fellowship training at Cornell-New York Hospital. In 2002, he was promoted to Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and served as Chief of the Division of Hematology from 1995 until February 2004, when he assumed the position of Chief of Medical Service at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. In 2004, he was awarded the Maureen Lyles D'Ambrogio endowed professorship in the Stanford School of Medicine. In addition to being Chief of Staff, he serves as Senior Associate Dean for Veterans Affairs at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Leung's clinical interest is in bleeding and thrombotic disorders. His research focuses on blood clotting factors and their roles in thrombosis, inflammation and immunity, and the emerging field of personalized genomic medicine. Dr. Leung is a member of the Association of American Physicians, American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Society of Hematology, and the American Heart Association. He has served on study sections of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Hematology Subspecialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine. He has been recognized as one of America's Top Doctors every year since 2001, and is an Editor-in-Chief for Hematology in UpToDate.

Rina N. Shah, M.D., F.A.C.P., Deputy Chief of Staff

Rina N. Shah, M.D., F.A.C.P. | 650-493-5000

Deputy Chief of Staff

Dr. Rina Shah was appointed as Deputy Chief of Staff, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, in December 2018. 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 the 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 Professor with the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Shah played an instrumental role as Co-Director of the VA National Initiative, in which she taught principles of Patient-Aligned Care Team (PACT) and supervised six collaborative groups from Veterans Integrated Service Networks 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22. Additionally, she has been a key member of several national VA committees, including her contribution as Co-Chair for the Inter-professional Academic PACT Workgroup.

Michelle R Mountfort, Interim Associate Director for Patient Care & Nursing Services

Michelle R Mountfort | 650-493-5000

Interim Associate Director for Patient Care & Nursing Services

Michelle Mountfort is the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care and Nursing Services at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. She was appointed to the position July 2016. As a member of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System executive team, Ms. Mountfort is responsible for collaborative management discussions, decisions, and policy making for the patient care and nursing service line, as well as clinical patient care services operations and outcomes. Prior to becoming a nurse, Ms. Mountfort worked in pre-hospital emergency medicine as a paramedic. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. She attended a Paramedic-to-RN program and received her Associate Degree in Nursing from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida in 2000. She completed her Master’s in Nursing and Master’s in Business Administration/Healthcare in 2008 from the University of Phoenix. Ms. Mountfort is currently completing her Doctorate in Health Administration. Ms. Mountfort began her VA career as the Assistant Nurse Manager at the Montrose CBOC in Montrose, Colorado. She then became the Associate Chief Nurse for Ambulatory Care, then Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services at the Grand Junction Veterans Health Care System. She then served for one year as the Acting Associate Director for Patient Care Services in Grand Junction, Colorado. Ms. Mountfort is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International. She has served on various VISN and National committees and workgroups. She is a graduate of the 2010 VA (VISN 18/19) Leadership Development Institute and the 2015 Federal Executive Institute. She is a certified VA mentor and has special interest in psychological safety, resiliency, and staff empowerment.

David R Renfro, Acting Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services

David R Renfro | 650-849-1949

Acting Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services

Mr. David 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 leadership for the Critical Care (2) and Medical Surgical units (3), Emergency Room, Case Management, Nursing Supervisors Office. Project RED, Avasys implementation, Vocera, the Intermediate Care Technician (ICT) program and the newly implemented Clinical Command Center. Mr. Renfro is a U.S. Navy Veteran with a passion for improving the healthcare 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 our facility, and providing assistance with RED implementation to more than 13 VAs nationally. He is recognized as a national resource for Project RED and readmissions strategies.