Leadership Team - VA Connecticut Healthcare System
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VA Connecticut Healthcare System


Leadership Team

Alfred Montoya, Jr. MHA, FACHE, VHA-CM, Director

Alfred Montoya, Jr. MHA, FACHE, VHA-CM | 203-937-3888


Alfred A. Montoya, Jr. was appointed Director of VA Connecticut Healthcare System on October 13, 2019. Mr. Montoya is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force serving for over 10 years as a Russian Cryptologic Linguist. He served as an Instructor of Technology and Military Science, providing our Air Force personnel operational training on the EC-130H Compass Call which is a system on a C-130 Hercules airframe that disrupts enemy command and control communications. He previously served as the Director for the VA Medical Center in Manchester, NH. Mr. Montoya received a master's degree in Healthcare Administration from Walden University and a bachelor's degree from Wayland Baptist University. He is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute, Leadership for a Democratic Society program, and the Leadership Veterans Affairs (LVA) program. Mr. Montoya joined the VA in 2009 and served in various leadership positions of increasing responsibility including Assistant Director, VA Connecticut HCS; Director, White River Junction VA Medical Center, and Manchester VA Medical Center. Montoya was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College.

John Callahan, Deputy Director

John Callahan | 203-937-3888

Deputy Director

John J. Callahan was appointed Associate Director in January 2012. He is a native of Rhode Island and received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Rhode Island in 1980. Mr. Callahan has over 30 years of experience with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to his appointment as Associate Director, Mr. Callahan was Chief of Health Administration Service at the VA Medical Center Philadelphia, Penn. He began his VA career as a staff pharmacist in 1980 and since that time has served in increasingly complex leadership roles including Assistant Chief of Pharmacy, Project Coordinator/Facility Planner and Executive Assistant to the director. He is a graduate of the Network Healthcare Leadership Institute (NEHCLI) and a graduate of VA’s Executive Career Field Training Program (ECF) and Healthcare Leadership Institute. He is nationally certified as a Fellow Mentor. Mr. Callahan served as Acting Associate Director at VA Medical Center Fargo, North Dakota and from May to October 2010, he served a six-month detail as acting Associate Director at VAMC Philadelphia.

Michael J. Kozal, MD, Chief of Staff

Michael J. Kozal, MD | 203-937-3825

Chief of Staff

Dr. Michael J. Kozal was appointed Chief of Staff March 29, 2020. He served as acting since Oct. 24, 2019. Throughout his career, Dr. Kozal has held a number of leadership positions in diverse environments: biotechnology start-ups, Medical Director of clinics, Medical Director of Public Health, Section Chief of Infectious Diseases at the VA, Director of the Yale HIV Clinical Trials Group, Scientific Advisor Board member, Chief of VA Connecticut Medicine Service, Vice Chair of Medicine, and Associate Dean for Veteran Affairs at Yale. In 2017, in addition to his Yale duties, he agreed to serve for two years as Director of the Medicine Service Line for the VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1) to help organize the efforts of all Medicine subspecialties (VISN 1 has more than 800 medicine specialty providers). Dr. Kozal has been on the faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine since 2000. He became an Associate Professor in 2005 and a Professor in 2010 and is currently the Associate Dean for Veteran Affairs at Yale School of Medicine. 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, VA, foundations and industry. He is considered an expert in molecular diagnostics and deep sequencing technology and received multiple patents for his work with six companies licensing his patents.

Bernadette Y. Jao, DNP, MSN, RN-BC ,  Associate Director for Nursing and Patient Care Services

Bernadette Y. Jao, DNP, MSN, RN-BC | 203-937-3888

Associate Director for Nursing and Patient Care Services

Bernadette Y. Jao, DNP, MSN, RN-BC was appointed Associate Director of Patient and Nursing Services April 26, 2020. Dr. Jao brings more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience within VA. She joined VA Connecticut from the Manchester VA Medical Center where she served as the Associate Director for Patient and Nursing Services since 2018. Prior to assuming that position, Dr. Jao served as the ADPCS at the Wilmington VAMC. She also served as the Interim ADPCS and Associate Chief Nurse for Mental Health at the Northport VAMC. Before that appointment, she served as the Associate Chief Nurse for Mental Health at the Maryland VAMC and Nurse Manager for Mental Health at the Bay Pines VAMC. She has wide-ranging backgrounds in providing leadership in Mental Health, Medical and Surgical Services, SPS and Primary Care. In 2019, she was appointed by VA Central Office as a member of an Integrated Project Team that provided national recommendations regarding lifelong health, well-being and resilience to integrate Whole Health throughout VHA. Dr. Jao is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) Leadership for a Democratic Society program. She was also the recipient of the 2019 Secretary's Award for Nursing Excellence – Nurse Executive category.

Ross Hildonen, Assistant Director

Ross Hildonen | 203-937-3888

Assistant Director

Ross A. Hildonen, MPA, FACHE was appointed Assistant Director in December 2016. He previously served as the Executive Assistant to the Director, and from December 2015 to August 2016, he served a nine-month detail as the Acting Assistant Director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Mr. Hildonen holds a master’s degree in Public Administration and bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Westfield State University. He is a graduate of the VHA Health Care Leadership Development Program (HCLDP), University of Maryland University College’s (UMUC) National Leadership Institute, VA New England Transformational Leadership Program, and the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) Program. He is a certified Federal Program/Project Manager, certified Lean/Six Sigma Green Belt, and a certified Veterans Health Administration Coach/Mentor. Mr. Hildonen is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, a Board Member of the Federal Executive Association of Connecticut and a member of the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Executives.