Alon Y. Ben-Ari
Chief, Medical Informatics Officer, VA Northern California Healthcare System
Forging new digital pathways to care for patients is Dr. Ben-Ari's mission. As a practicing physician, he builds custom-to-fit software addressing the real-world needs of healthcare systems.
Dr. Ben-Ari leads the informatics team, overseeing enterprise software development, VISTA/CPRS, Connected Care Services, MyHealtheVet, and the Veterans Equitable Resource Allocation (VERA).
His academic research focuses on outcomes of patient care and streamlining operations with Natural Language Processing, simulation, advanced visualization, network analysis, and machine learning.
Dr. Ben-Ari completed his anesthesia residency at the Hebrew University Medical Center, regional anesthesia fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers (UPMC), and holds a Master’s in Biomedical Informatics from Stanford University.
Amjed S. Baghdadi
Associate Director, High Reliability Infrastructure
Amjed currently serves as the Associate Director, High Reliability Infrastructure on the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) High Reliability Enterprise Support (Hi-RES) team under VHA’s Office of Quality Management, where he is responsible for developing and executing enterprise implementation and resourcing strategies in support VHA’s High Reliability Organization (HRO) journey. Amjed began his VA career in 2003 at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) where he spent most of his VHA journey, including several years as Chief, Quality Management, followed by the role of Assistant Director for Operations at Austin for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS).
Lead, Immersive Technology, VHA Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning
Dr. Anne Lord Bailey is Immersive Technology Lead for VHA’s Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning. Dr. Bailey has worked with leaders in government, academia, and industry, while co-leading expansion of the VHA Extended Reality Network from five facilities to over 160, engaging more than 1,700 VA employees. Dr. Bailey was awarded 2022 G2Xchange Change Agent Award and, along with other VA Immersive teammates, 2022 Service to the Citizen Award and 2023 FORUM HealthIT Innovation Award. Dr. Bailey also gained international recognition, receiving International Virtual Reality in Healthcare Association’s Hero Award for dedication to growth of immersive technology in healthcare.
Licensed Psychologist and Author
Anthony Ferretti, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist working at the Viera VA Clinic in the Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program. He specializes in helping couples achieve emotional and physical intimacy through effective communication, conflict resolution, and trust building.
Dr. Ferretti has been interviewed by numerous media outlets for articles on relationships, narcissism, and other psychological topics. He was invited to be a guest on the Dr. Phil Show and hosted his own radio show. His relationship book, The Love Fight: How Achievers & Connectors Can Build a Marriage that Lasts highlights his unique practice and experience.
Betty E. Moseley Brown
Veterans Experience Officer
Betty Moseley Brown, Ed.D., served in the U. S. Marine Corps from 1978 until 1992, when she began a federal government career that later brought her to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 2004, she began serving as the associate director, Center for Women Veterans. She earned her doctorate from the University of Sarasota, is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute and served as the president of the Women Marines Association (2012-2018). As of May 2018, she is with the Veterans Experience Office. In 2021, she published her first book “Leadership Lessons: Personal Reflections from a Woman Marine.
International Consultant and Certified Coach
Bianca Negrón is a highly experienced personnel management specialist with over 15 years in the field and 18+ years in education. She is an international consultant and certified coach passionate about developing personal and employment brands to empower new leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs. She has gained work experience across Puerto Rico, Florida, Alaska, Virginia, and Latin America. Her purpose is to successfully guide professionals, organizations, and entrepreneurs in developing their career strategies and identifying their brands. Mrs. Negrón is also a military spouse, entrepreneur, adjunct professor at Old Dominion University, and author.
Social Work Program Manager for VHA Food Security Program
Ms. Celardo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker currently serving as the Social Work Program Manager for the VHA Food Security Program. She has 15 years of experience in the Veterans Health Administration, beginning her social work career at the Northport VA Medical Center in Northport, NY. She has clinical experience in acute medicine, dialysis, Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) and the Emergency Department and spent 8 years as a Social Work Section Chief. She earned her Master of Social Work from Fordham University and Bachelor of Arts from Fairfield University.
Deputy Director of Clinical Tech Innovation
Caitlin Rawlins has been a nurse for over ten years, with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) since 2017. In her first year of VA practice, she initiated the first positive distraction-focused virtual reality program for pain and anxiety management in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). She now aids in leading VHA Innovation as Deputy Director of Clinical Tech Innovation, co-lead of the VHA Extended Reality (XR) Network, and program manager of VA. She has helped support the expansion of XR technology use from one facility to over 160 and network engagement to more than 1,700 VA employees.
Cheryl L. Mason
Chief Catalyst, Catalyst Leadership Management
The Honorable Cheryl L. Mason served as the 4th Senate confirmed President appointed/first woman and military spouse Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals at VA. She is credited with turning the Board from a dysfunctional organization into a high functioning employee-focused organization delivering record breaking results to veterans.
As a multiple suicide loss survivor, she advocates for increasing awareness around suicide awareness/prevention.
From Portsmouth, Ohio, Ms. Mason received her B.A. with Distinction in Political Science and Psychology from Ohio Northern University and her J.D. from Creighton University School of Law. She is the spouse of a USAF veteran.
Christopher Lee Rowedder
Outreach Coordinator for Whole Health
Dr. Chris Rowedder earned his doctoral degree in physical therapy from Des Moines University in 2011. He has practiced physical therapy for the last 10 years at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines, IA. He now serves as the Outreach Coordinator for Whole Health. Throughout his time serving in the VA, he has worked within the outpatient physical therapy clinic, pain specialty clinic, primary care physical therapy clinic, and Whole Health Department. In addition to his clinical work, he has served as a Subject Matter Expert for the VA Diffusion of Excellence for the Primary Care Physical Therapy National Diffusion project. Outside of the VA, Dr. Rowedder has remained an active member of the APTA including time as the Practice Chair of the APTA Federal Section Primary Care Special Interest Group.
John H. Grote Jr.
John Grote is a retired Army Colonel with 35 years of service. He served in a wide variety of assignments throughout his Military Career in both the Army National Guard and active Army including duty at the Pentagon during September of 2001 . He has served as the Chief Business Officer / HAS Chief for the last 6 years in Sheridan VA Health Care System in Wyoming. John is married to wife Dawn and has 4 children, John, Collin, Micheal, and daughter SJ. John comes from a military family with father, brother, sons, nephews & nieces all having served.
Katie M. Papke
Human Trafficking Victims Services Provider
Katie Papke is a Licensed Master Social Worker, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and a Clinically Certified Human Trafficking Victims Services Provider. She is currently on special assignment to the National Social Work Program under Care Management and Social Work. Katie is taking the lead to develop and disseminate resources to support communication about Human Trafficking. She also serves as the White Ribbon VA National Field Liaison. She is from the Homeless program at Battle Creek, Michigan VA Medical Center. Katie started her VA career in 2005 at the West Palm Beach, Florida VA Medical Center.
Kim L. Bielicki
Kim Bielicki serves as the InnoVAtion Specialist at Orlando VAHCS and detail to OHIL Immersive Technology Portfolio. She built an innovation program that empowers and invests in employees with training, tools, and resources to bring their innovative solutions to life based on empathy! She is a trusted leader of her local innovation community, iNET Community and VISN 8. She works with community healthcare innovation companies to co-design with Veterans and employees in mind. She facilitates: Human Centered Design, Building Your InnoVAtion Strategy, Pitching, Storytelling, High reliability Organization, Lean Six Sigma Belt Training & Own The Moment. She is 2022 Innovation Specialist of the year, Civil Servant of the Year & Employee of the Month.
Senior Vice President, International Services, and Service to The Armed Forces
LeAnn E. Bruce
National Program Manager - Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program
Dr. LeAnn Bruce is the National Program Manager for the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) which provides a comprehensive array of services for Veterans, their partners and VA staff who experience and/or use IPV. Prior to this, Dr. Bruce has worked across a variety of settings. Her work with returning service members inspired Dr. Bruce’s interest in the phenomenon of moral distress and moral injury resulting in her doctoral dissertation entitled, Assessing Moral Injury and Existential Well-Being in Returning Servicemembers. She received her PhD in December 2016 and is an adjunct professor at Western Kentucky University.
Lena A. Yellowtail
Certified Foot Care Specialist
Lena Yellowtail is a registered nurse of 17 years with experience in medical and surgical units, intensive care, general and vascular surgery. She began her VA career in primary care in 2014, later becoming a Certified Foot Care Specialist and PAVE Coordinator for the Sheridan VA Health Care System. She now works in Education, instructing staff on vascular impairment, causes of amputations, and early intervention for Veterans. Lena lives on the family ranch on the Crow Indian Reservation with her husband Wailes. She has four adult children, all college graduates, who serve their communities in various ways.
Melissa A. Heinlein Storti
Melissa A. Heinlein Storti, PhD, serves as a Communications Specialist for the Strategic Engagement Team, Office of Healthcare Transformation in VHA. Previously, she was Chief, Center for Development & Civic Engagement at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Melissa has been recognized nationally for excellence in healthcare volunteerism, including the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Honor Award among other prestigious awards through her career. She served and presented for local, state, and national organizations and published peer review journal articles.
Melissa loves spending time with her family and enjoys writing, photography, and the outdoors.
Leadership Consultant + Educator
Dr. Nadia Giannopoulos is the Executive Director of MPC, a program servicing children and young adults with special needs. Her passion lies in advocating for policy reforms and their impact on student-approved services. Under her leadership, the program has expanded enrollment, servicing upwards of 400 students in all 5-boroughs and throughout Long Island.
Nadia majored in Communication Science and Disorders; she has an M.Ed. in Childhood Education/Special Education, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Nadia completed a 21-credit program in Applied Behavior Analysis and Organizational Behavior Management. She received her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Learning from Vanderbilt University.
She consults nonprofits, schools, and businesses on creating innovative infrastructures and ecosystems to facilitate organizational development, with an emphasis on enhancing Leadership practices. She serves as a trustee in her District’s Board of Education.
Natalie N. Peterson
National Program Coordinator - VA's Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program
Dr. Natalie Peterson is a National Program Coordinator with the VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program. As a National Program Coordinator, Dr. Peterson is the VACO Liaison for nine VISNs. She also supports the Megabus Pilot Program as a Project Lead to the Mental Illness Research and Education Clinical Center team. Dr. Peterson earned a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Southern California and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of South Carolina. She is a licensed clinical social worker. She believes knowledge is power and therefore works diligently to increase her knowledge, sharing with others.
After twenty-six years of service in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Robin Johnson discovered her new mission was to heal people with laughter. She created HEAL*ARIOUS, a non-profit offering programming that focuses on incorporating humor to improve psychological performance. She works in collaboration with clinicians to develop customized programming for veterans, first responders, athletes, and corporate executives. She is a Level III Certified Humor Professional through the Association for the Applied & Therapeutic Use of Humor, a thought leader on infusing humor into mental health and leadership, and a nationally touring comedian that speaks to audiences across the world about the power of humor.
Lecturer, Cornell University and CEO of Write. Now.
Dr. Sarah Jefferis is a poet, editor, and speaker. Through her consultant business, Write. Now., Sarah serves as an intuitive writing coach; she designs yoga/poetry writing workshops, and speaks about DEI and Belonging, Writing as Medicine, and surviving sexual assault. Sarah holds an MFA in Poetry from Cornell, and a PhD in Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton. She has over 20 years of experience teaching writing in Higher Education.
Her second poetry collection, What Enters the Mouth, was published in February 2016 by Standing Stone Books. It was praised by Ansel Elkins who wrote “these are fearless poems—a reckoning of the violence of girlhood rendered with grit and clarity.” Her poems have appeared in The North American Review, Rhino, The Mississippi Review, The American Literary Review, The Hollins Critic, The Healing Muse, and other journals. She has held residencies at the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in New York, Colgate, and at The Studios at Mass MOCA.
Saraswathy S. Battar
Physician and Concept Developer
Dr. Battar is the concept developer and physician champion for the nationally and internationally acclaimed and award-winning medication deprescribing project V-I-O-N-E.
Project VIONE won the Austco Excellence Gold award in Quality and Patient Safety at the 45 the World Hospital Congress, organized by the International Hospital Federation.
She was inducted into the Palliative Care Hall of fame in 2005. Currently, she works as a geriatrician at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, Professor of Geriatrics at Florida Atlantic University, Florida.
Dr. Battar has been a physician leader at Department of Veterans Affairs for 29 years.
Sonya A. Ebhotemen
Lead Peer Specialist - Hines VA Medical Center
2022 VHA National Peer Specialist of the Year, Sonya Ebhotemen is a Marine Corps Veteran and Lead Peer Specialist at Hines VA Medical Center working in Patient Experience. She has certifications for several mental health evidence-based practices (EBPs). Coupled with her own lived experience in mental health recovery and the skills obtained from her certifications and work experience, Sonya has been instrumental in advocating, planning, and implementing more services for Veteran in VA with a concentration in women Veteran issues. Sonya developed “Confident and Courageous” a peer led women’s empowerment group soon to be piloted nationally throughout VA.
Press Secretary - Department of Veterans Affairs
President Joseph R. Biden appointed Terrence Hayes as press secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs January 20, 2021. Terrence is responsible for addressing all national media inquiries and external messaging on behalf of VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
Terrence, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, served in the U.S. Army from 1996 to 2016. During his military service, he earned numerous decorations, most notably the Defense Meritorious Service and Bronze Star Medals.
Terrence earned his bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Maryland Global College and his master’s degree in both strategic communication and management from Troy University.
William L. (Billy) Truesdell III
Peer Support Specialist - VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
William (Billy) L. Truesdell III is a peer support specialist at VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System helping veterans currently in the criminal justice system. His experience includes time as a Navy Veteran, a former police officer, and graduate of the Veterans Treatment Program. Truesdell’s goal is to highlight how the Veteran Justice Program can help other veterans achieve peace in their life through spiritual and mental healing and demonstrate that recovery is possible.