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VA Illiana Welcomes New Leadership

Dr. Williams, Medical Center Director and Dr. Naidu, Chief of Staff
Dr. Staci Williams, Medical Center Director and Dr. Vasanthan Naidu, Chief of Staff

The VA Illiana Health Care System was established in 1898 as the Danville Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

Since then, the United States military has fought several full-scale ground wars, armed conflicts, and air campaigns as well as many peacekeeping missions around the world. Veterans from Illinois have served in all of these operations on land, on the sea, under the sea, in the air, and now as part of Space Force. Through all of the operations and changes in the nature of military operations over the last 123 years, military veterans have had a safe and reliable place to get health care in central Illinois.

Leadership changes are part of the natural development of every organization that has a history that is more than a century old. Recently, Dr. Staci Williams was named the executive director of the VA Illiana Health Care System and Dr. Vasanthan Naidu was named the chief of staff. Williams and Naidu join Mr. Zachary Sage, the associate medical center director, and Ms. Kelley Sermak, associate director of patient care and nurse executive, as the leadership team of the health care system that serves the more than 37,000 enrolled veterans who live in the service area of VA Illiana. Both Williams and Naidu assumed their roles effective on December 19, 2021.

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve the veterans of central Illinois and Indiana alongside the wonderful team of employees at VA Illiana,” said Williams.

In addition to services for veterans, VA Illiana provides services to caregivers of veterans.

Dr. Williams had been serving as the acting medical center director since August. Before coming to Illiana, she served as the associate director at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin. Before joining the VA in 2015, Williams served in a variety of pharmacy management positions for 20 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in pharmacy, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was the Wisconsin Young Pharmacist of the Year in 2002 for her contributions to professional organizations. In 2015 she received the Cardinal Health Generation RX Champions Award for her commitment to substance abuse education. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Dr. Naidu has served as the acting chief of staff at VA Illiana since June. He has more than 10 years of experience in the VA serving in primary care, emergency room, and urgent care roles. He also services as the chief of specialty services, the designated education officer, and the chief health information officer at VA Illiana. He has been involved in national VA organizational and clinical workgroups. Naidu earned his bachelor’s degree in bioengineering and his medical degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He serves as a clinical assistant professor at Carle Illinois College of Medicine. He is board certified in family medicine.

“The medical staff at VA Illiana is amazing and I am excited to be part of it. They do great things for veterans every day and I look forward to even greater things in the future,” said Naidu.

With the main campus in Danville and community-based outpatient clinics in Bloomington, Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria, and Springfield, VA Illiana is well-positioned to serve the health care needs of veterans throughout the region. In addition to the six locations, VA is a leader in telehealth services, which provides veterans with even more options for their care.

VA has been a national leader in telehealth for several years; long before the COVID-19 pandemic. That expertise has allowed us to continue to provide services to many veterans throughout the pandemic,” said Williams.

“In addition, we know that caregivers provide critical support to veterans by allowing them to stay in their homes and their communities surrounded by their loved ones. Caregivers in a home environment can enhance the health and well-being of veterans,” said Williams. “VA is there for those caregivers of veterans just as much as for the veterans themselves.”

As a part of the largest health care system in the nation, VA Illiana is able to provide health care and services to veterans and caregivers with expertise from across the system.

The care that veterans get at VA Illiana compares favorably to the health care institutions regionally. Our health care providers across our system in central Illinois are really committed to the care of our Veteran population,” said Naidu

Another strength of VA Illiana is the employee talent pool of the region. The VA Illiana Health Care System service area covers more than 30 counties in Illinois and two counties in western Indiana. The size and strength of the VA system give employees experiences and opportunities that may not exist in civilian settings. Hiring a diverse workforce is a priority for VA and VA Illiana leadership believes that it is well-positioned to do that.

With many colleges, universities, and community colleges right here in our service area, there are many, many people who graduate every year with the talents, skills, and compassion we need to serve veterans here in our communities. We want those people to think about VA as a career choice,” said Williams.

Dr. Naidu agrees.

“It is critically important that we get the very best people to care for our nation’s veterans and we know that those people are right here in our communities,” said Naidu.

As a new leadership team, Dr. Williams and Dr. Naidu have big plans for VA Illiana for 2022 and beyond.

“We look forward to the future at Illiana in developing areas of excellence as it pertains to whole health, women’s health programs, different modalities of telemedicine, delivery of high-quality specialty and surgical care services to our community-based outpatient clinics, mental health care delivery throughout are region and more.  We want veterans to come to us for care,” said Naidu.

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