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Quality and Patient Safety (QPS)

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Leadership

Gerard R. Cox, MD, MHA

Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Quality and Patient Safety (AUSHQPS)

Dr. Gerard R. Cox serves as the Assistant Undersecretary for Health for the Quality and Patient Safety (QPS). Since joining VA in 2014, Dr. Cox served in several leadership roles including Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services, Interim Medical Inspector, and Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Integrity.

During his previous military career of more than 30 years as a U.S. Navy medical officer, he served in a series of hospital leadership roles with increasingly complex responsibilities, including service chief, service line leader, chief operating officer, and chief executive officer. He held executive positions on the staffs of the Navy Surgeon General, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Commander of U.S. Navy forces in the Middle East, and the Naval Inspector General. He also served as a White House physician for Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush.

Following his undergraduate and medical education, Dr. Cox completed a medical internship at the National Naval Medical Center and the combined residency program in emergency medicine at Georgetown University, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland. He is board-certified in emergency medicine, occupational medicine, and health care administration and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Joseph Francis, MD, MPH

Executive Director of Analytics and Performance Integration

Dr. Joseph Francis serves as the Executive Director for the Office of Analytics and Performance Integration in the Office of Quality and Patient Safety (QPS).

He began his VA career in 1991 and has served in a number of roles within VHA including Medical Director of Home-Based Primary Care in Memphis, TN and Chief Medical Officer for Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 9. From 2000 to 2004 he was Vice President for Quality and Data Management at St. Vincent's Hospital and Health System in Indianapolis.

Dr. Francis returned to VA in 2004 to direct the VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), and in 2007 was appointed Deputy Chief Research and Development Officer. Since 2009, he has led interdisciplinary teams responsible for using VA's comprehensive electronic health record to track health system performance and provide clinicians and managers with analytic and information tools that support improved patient outcomes.

Dr. Francis earned his medical degree at Washington University in St Louis and completed his residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Geriatrics at the University of Pittsburgh. There he obtained a master's in public health in Chronic Disease Epidemiology and conducted NIH-funded research on delirium in older patients.

Edward E. Yackel, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP

Acting Executive Director, National Center for Patient Safety

Dr. Yackel oversees the VHA Office of Patient Safety comprised of the National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS), Utilization Management, and Product Effectiveness. Dr. Yackel joined NCPS in December 2019 as Deputy Executive Director after retiring from an extensive military career reaching the rank of Colonel. He assumed his current duties in June 2021.

Dr. Yackel, through his education, experience, and leadership, has had a tremendous impact on patient safety. He was instrumental in leading the Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) into a quality improvement journey establishing MEDCOM as a learning organization through several changes. One of the system-wide changes included engaging multidisciplinary teams in developing solution sets to improve health care outcomes.

Dr. Yackel currently serves as a senior VA patient safety executive who provides national leadership for the formulation, establishment, operation, evaluation, and continuous improvement of effective management policies, programs, and practices for the Veterans Health Administration that maximize clinical patient safety delivered across the full continuum of care sites.

Dr. Yackel received his Doctorate in Nursing from Duke University, his Master's in Nursing from the University of Michigan, Master's in Strategic Studies from the Army War College and Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Lake Superior University.

Kristi Groves, RN, BSN, MBA-HCM, CPHQ

Executive Director of Quality Management

Kristi Groves oversees the Quality Management (QM) division which supports the ongoing assessment and improvement of healthcare outcomes and healthcare delivery processes. QM program offices help ensure we are hiring the right providers, identifying evidence-based practices, screening for deviations from standards of care, and keeping our facilities in a continuous state of readiness and compliance with industry standards. Ms. Groves also serves as co-director of the National Organization for Leadership and Analytics University (NOLA U).

Ms. Groves most recently served as Director for the Center for Improvement Coordination in QPS. She was responsible for the development, deployment, support and guidance for key initiatives and actions contributing to health care delivery systems and process improvements related to quality health care outcomes throughout the VHA. Ms. Groves has also held positions within the VHA Office of System Redesign; Office of Quality, Safety, Value-ISO Consultation Division; Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System Joint Ambulatory Care Center; and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. In addition to her 11 years served in VHA, she held both clinical and leadership roles for eight years with the Department of Defense in Europe and Asia.

Ms. Groves holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, a Master's Degree in Business Administration, Master's Certificates in Health Care Management and Project Management, has a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and is a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ). In addition to her work within the VHA, Ms. Groves also serves as a Senior Examiner on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners.