Leadership Team - South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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Leadership Team

Christopher R Sandles, Director

Christopher R Sandles | 210-617-5140

Director

Christopher R. Sandles, MBA, FACHE, was appointed Medical Center Director/CEO for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) on March 3, 2019. With an FY20 budget of $1.01 billion and 4300 employees, Mr. Sandles oversees health care services for about 100,000 unique Veterans. In FY19, STVHCS provided 1.8 million outpatient visits to area Veterans. From February 2017 to March 2019, Mr. Sandles served as Director for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, Texas. Mr. Sandles has 16 years of progressively responsible healthcare leadership roles beginning his healthcare career in 2002 at Covenant Health System in Lubbock, Texas. In 2003, he was accepted into the Government Health Administration Training Program (GHATP) and served his post graduate fellowship at VA North Texas Healthcare System in Dallas. His VA service includes positions as Associate Director at Houston VA Medical Center, Assistant Director at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Chief of Health Administration Service at VA Loma Linda Health Care System, Assistant Chief of Medical Administration at VA North Texas Health Care System, Special Assistant to the Director-VA North Texas Health Care System, and Administrative Director for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at VA North Texas Health Care System. Mr. Sandles received both his Bachelor's degree in Business and his Masters of Healthcare Administration from Texas Tech University. He holds a green belt certification in Lean Six-Sigma from Villanova University. Mr. Sandles is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve (IRR). In 2019 Mr. Sandles was selected by the Texas Hospital Association as a Healthcare Leadership Fellow. Mr. Sandles was recently selected to serve on the Texas Hospital Association’s Foundation Board of Trustees representing the needs of Texas hospitals, their employees and their communities to create and sustain a strong health care system.


Julianne Flynn, M.D., Chief of Staff

Julianne Flynn, M.D. | 210-617-5176

Chief of Staff

Dr. Julianne Flynn is the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) Chief of Staff. Dr. Flynn received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her Medical Degree from the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine in 1996. She then completed an Internal Medicine and Psychiatry residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2001. Prior to attending medical school, she designed and fabricated ceramic and thermoplastic composite parts as an Applications Engineer at the Du Pont Company in Newark, Delaware for several years. Throughout her career, Dr. Flynn has held several positions in medicine and public service. While on active duty with the Air Force, she served as Chief of Psychiatric Consultation Liaison Service, Deputy Chief, Intensive Addictions Services, and Site Associate Residency Training Director for the National Capital Consortium Psychiatry Residency. In 2003 she deployed as a Critical Care Air Transport (CCAT) physician with the 447th EMEDS, and then assumed the role of Chief of Emergency Services at 447th EMEDS, Baghdad, Iraq. Upon return from deployment, she was selected as Deputy Residency Training Director for the UTHSCSA/SAUSHEC Psychiatry Residency at Wilford Hall Medical Center. In 2007, she left active duty and joined STVHCS where she held positions as Substance Abuse Treatment Program Medical Director and Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health. In 2010, she was selected as STVHCS Chief of Staff. Dr. Flynn is board certified in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry and is an Assistant professor and Associate Dean for Veterans Affairs with University of Texas Health San Antonio (UTHSCSA). Her clinical interests are in the areas of psychosomatics, chronic pain and addiction medicine. She is also retired from the USAF reserves after 26 years of service.


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Amjed Baghdadi | 210-617-5141

Acting Associate Director

Amjed Baghdadi is currently the Acting Associate Director at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. With an FY20 budget of $1.01 billion, he is responsible for the daily operations for Medical Administration Service, Prosthetics, Logistics, Human Resources, and Fiscal. Mr. Baghdadi has diversified experience in multiple care settings including inpatient, outpatient, long term, and physician practice and is trained in quality management principles, performance improvement methodology, lean principles, and analytical scientific method. He is a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives (FACHE), a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ), and a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (CLSSBB). After completing a B.S. Degree in Biochemistry & Genetics from Texas A&M University, Mr. Baghdadi spent 5 years at the University of Georgia involved in Immunoparasitology research and serving as lead Teaching Assistant for the Human Anatomy & Physiology lab. Having completed a one year administrative residency at STVHCS, Mr. Baghdadi graduated in 2004 with a dual Master’s degree in Health & Business Administration. Aside from his driving passion to ensure that our nation's veterans get the ultimate level of quality patient care, Mr. Baghdadi enjoys studying spirituality, writing, and spending time with his wife Rubina and sons Abdullah and Abdurrahmaan.


Adam Bernal, Assistant Director for Facilities

Adam Bernal | 210-617-5140

Assistant Director for Facilities

Adam Bernal is currently the Assistant Director for Facilities at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). In this capacity, he is charged with the overall management responsibility for Engineering Service, Environmental Management Service, Police Service, Safety Service, and Office of Information & Technology. Mr. Bernal began his VA career in June 2011 in Engineering Service as the Chief, Engineer overseeing 170 employees supporting STVHCS’s facility operations in Engineering Operations and Readiness, Transportation, Biomedical Engineering, Construction and Design, Activations and Relocations, Boiler-Chiller Plant Operations, as well as grounds and landscape management. In 2008, Mr. Bernal received a Bachelor of Science, Construction Engineering, from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Bernal served in the United States Air Force as a Structural Specialist, with the 200th Red Horse, Camp Perry, Ohio. He was also attached to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division while deployed in support of Operating Enduring Freedom to Taji, Iraq. In 2012, Mr. Bernal transferred to the Texas Air National Guard serving as a civil engineer and readiness officer. He is a graduate of the Officer Training School from Air University Maxwell Air Force Base. In 2015 and 2019, Mr. Bernal received the Mission Support Group Company Grade Officer of the Year. In 2017, he received the 149th Fighter Wing Company Grade Officer of the Year. Mr. Bernal is a member of the Construction Management Associate of America and Association of Facilities Engineering.


Valerie Rodriguez-Yu, Associate Director for Patient Care Services (Nurse Executive)

Valerie Rodriguez-Yu | 210-617-5300

Associate Director for Patient Care Services (Nurse Executive)

Valerie Rodriguez-Yu is the Associate Director for Patient Care Services and Nurse Executive (ADPCS/NE) of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). She began her VA career in 2003 as a Registered Nurse at the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego, California. In 2010, she was selected as the Associate Chief Nurse for Polytrauma/Spinal Cord at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System where she was responsible for nursing services within the Polytrauma System of Care and Spinal Cord Injury Center. In 2015, Ms. Rodriguez-Yu was appointed to the executive management team at STVHCS as the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services and Deputy Nurse Executive. She functioned as the Chief for Nursing Services with over 1,300 full-time bargaining unit employees, guiding the overall management of the profession and practice of nursing within STVHCS. In her role as Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, Ms. Rodriguez-Yu is a key member of the executive leadership team of the organization. She serves as the senior nurse advisor and a consultant, responsible for Nursing, Social Work, and Sterile Processing Services. In March 2019, Ms. Rodriguez-Yu led efforts that resulted in the facility designation as a Pathway to Excellence® organization by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital (ALMMVH) is the first VA medical center in Texas to be designated as a Pathway to Excellence® organization and the fifth VA in the nation. Ms. Rodriguez-Yu earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix. As part of her professional progression, Ms. Rodriguez-Yu gained certification as Nurse Executive-Advanced. Enrolled at Baylor University, Ms. Rodriguez-Yu is pursuing a degree in Doctor of Nursing Practice – Executive Nurse Leadership. She is also a 2016 graduate of VHAs Health Care Leadership Development Program. Ms. Rodriguez-Yu is a member of the American Organization of Nurse Leaders, American Nurses Association, and Texas Nurses Association.


Calvin T Leuschen, M.D., Deputy Chief of Staff

Calvin T Leuschen, M.D. | 210-617-5177

Deputy Chief of Staff

Dr. Cal Leuschen received his Medical Degree from the University of Nebraska in 1993. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry. He served in the U.S. Navy until 1999. He completed a residency in Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) in 2003. He worked as an Assistant Professor of Radiology at UTHSCSA from 2003-2008, specializing in Thoracic Imaging. In 2008 he accepted the position of Chief of Imaging Service for South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). In 2012 he was selected as the Deputy Chief of Staff for STVHCS.


Yolanda Ruiz-Isales, Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services

Yolanda Ruiz-Isales | 210-617-5300 Ext. 14841

Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services

Ms. Ruiz-Isales is the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services and Deputy Nurse Executive (DADPCS/DNE) of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). She served in the United States Army Nurse Corps for 27 years and is a retired Colonel. She began her VA career in 2012 as a Nurse Manager in the Surgical and Specialty Clinics providing support in the following specialties: General Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Urology, Vascular, Cardiothoracic, Neurosurgery, Gynecology, Gastroenterology (Endoscopy/Recovery), Pain Clinic, Bariatric, Dental/Oromaxillofacial Surgery, Orthopedics, Otolaryngology, Podiatry and Would Ostomy. Prior to becoming the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services, she served as Chief Nurse for Primary Care and Specialty Care Clinics from 2016 to 2018 providing managerial oversight for six outpatient clinics and seven community based outpatient clinics. In 2017, she served as the Acting Chief Nurse for Community Living Center at the Kerrville Campus. In this capacity, she provided managerial oversight to the inpatient units, long term, dementia, short term, skilled nursing, and rehabilitative care. In 2018, Ms. Ruiz-Isales was selected as Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Deputy Nurse Executive. In this capacity, she serves as the Chief of Nursing Services with over 1,300 full-time employees on two geographically separate campuses. Ms. Ruiz-Isales earned her BSN from the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She furthered her education by earning her MSN from Louisiana State University in New Orleans and Master of Science, National Resource Strategy at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C. She is a certified lean six sigma black belt.


Trisha M. Lodde, Chief Experience Officer

Trisha M. Lodde | 210-617-5140

Chief Experience Officer

Trisha Lodde was appointed the Assistant Director / Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) in May 2019. In this capacity, she is responsible for the patient and employee experience at STVHCS as well as oversight of Voluntary Service, Chaplain Service, Nutrition and Food Service, Recreation Therapy Service and the new Organizational Experience Service. Ms. Lodde began her VA career in September 1996 at STVHCS in Surgical Service as a Health Technician in the Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic. She held several positions in Medical Administration Service prior to joining the Office of the Director as a Patient Advocate in 2007. Ms. Lodde progressively served in numerous roles in the Director’s Office prior to becoming the Executive Assistant to the Director. In 2014, Ms. Lodde was selected for the role of Assistant Director for Operations overseeing Engineering Service, Environmental Management Service, Police Service, Planning Performance and Development Service, Safety Service, and Voluntary Service prior to becoming the Chief Experience Officer. Ms. Lodde is a member of the national advisory board for the Health Care Leadership Development Program and serves as an executive sponsor for candidates of the program. She was recently named to the American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Advisory Council as well. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Ms. Lodde holds a Bachelor of Science of Biology from University of Texas at San Antonio and Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science at Houston.