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Familiar face named as interim VA director

Dr. M. Keith Piatt

Dr. M. Keith Piatt

PRESCOTT - The Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System had an executive leadership change on Tuesday, Dec. 1, but at least for the time being it will be with a familiar face.

As of Tuesday, Dec. 1, Dr. M. Keith Piatt, the VA's chief of staff, will be serving as the interim medical director with the promotion of Director Donna Jacobs to the VA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Jacobs concluded her five-year tenure in Prescott on Monday, Nov. 30

Piatt, a 1985 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, who was selected five times as one of the "Top Doctors in Phoenix" by Phoenix Magazine, came to NAVACHS in March 2014. Before his appointment, he was on the staff at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, where he served his medical internship, residency and chief residency.

Piatt was responsible for the establishment of the VA's first multidisciplinary HIV clinic in 1990 and was awarded the VA Secretary's "Hands and Heart" honor in 1992.

In 2006, Piatt completed a master's degree in health care administration from Seton Hall University.

In his work in Phoenix, Piatt oversaw the opening of seven community-based outpatient clinics, four in the metro Phoenix area as well as rural clinics in Payson, Glove and Show Low.

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs decision related to a permanent replacement for Jacobs, and whether that will be an internal or external candidate, has yet to be determined.

Jacobs' tenure coincided with the national public outcry related to the proper delivery of medical care to veterans across the country, with a particular spotlight shined on delays that proved fatal to patients at the Phoenix VA facility. Jacobs was congratulated by civic and veteran leaders for maintaining a high standard of care in this region. She oversaw the opening of outpatient and tele-health clinics in rural northern Arizona, as well as focused on the expansion of mental health treatment to veterans. She was a prime mover in the opening of the new mental health clinic on the main campus in Prescott.

NAVACHS covers the quad-city region as well as communities that extend from Anthem to Flagstaff and Lake Havasau City to Holbrook.

The main campus offers acute care, skilled nursing care, a short-term substance abuse treatment facility, a mental health outpatient clinic, a hospice and a variety of other medical services. The system also has five outpatient clinics, four primary care telepath outpatient clinics, two outreach clinics and a mobile clinic to service Navajo and Hopi veterans.

The Prescott-based VA health system has a budget of over $180 million with 1,100 employees and more than 500 volunteers.

On Monday, Piatt said he is "happy and proud to continue the fine work of (Jacobs)" and while there remain challenges as the agency moves forward, the path to finding solutions has been made easier by Jacobs' leadership. Piatt said he remains confident that the current leadership team and VA employees will "continue the excellent services our veteran patients need and deserve."

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809.

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