7 Questions to Syracuse VA’s New Director

Judy Hayman is first the woman to lead one of Upstate New York’s largest VA centers with more than 1,700 employees

By Payne Horning

Dr. Judy HaymanJudy Hayman, associate director at the Syracuse VA Medical Center, is assuming the top leadership post at the facility — the first woman to hold the position. She succeeds James Cody, who ran the facility for 17 years.

With more than 1,700 employees who serve 52,000 veterans, the Syracuse VA center is one of the largest of its kind in upstate. We asked Hayman seven questions about her new role.

1 Identify the main challenges the Syracuse VA Medical Center face and what you plan to do to tackle those?

A. We are very proud that the Syracuse VA remains among the highest-performing and most patient-centric VA’s in the country. I strongly believe that organizations should continuously assess and improve their systems, and we are making every effort to do just that.

One of our challenges is identifying and enrolling eligible veterans in VA healthcare. While not all veterans need or are eligible for VA healthcare, we know that we are not reaching some who we could help. We have dedicated resources to various outreach efforts that will enable us to locate those veterans and provide services to them.

Another challenge we face has to do with facility space. Because of where we are located, we have exhausted all expansion opportunities within our main medical center footprint. As a result, finding space for some of our new programs and services can be difficult. We work hard at making the best use of our space and, where possible, have located services in the community through the use of leased space. We have seven community-based outpatient clinics located from Massena to Binghamton and three Vet Centers. Here in Syracuse, we have behavioral health and dental services at satellite locations within the city.

2 What kind of problems do VA facilities in general face?

A. VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin and his staff are working very hard make the changes necessary to ensure that all veterans are treated with compassion and dignity — and receive exceptional care at the right time in the right location. To that end, Dr. Shulkin has established five key priorities going forward: providing greater choice for veterans; modernizing our systems; focusing our resources more efficiently; improving timeliness of services and suicide prevention. Every day, we strive to operationalize these priorities at the Syracuse VA.

3 VAs have come under an increasing amount of scrutiny in recent years. Do you believe there is an accountability issue and if so, how will you address it at your facility?

A. The VA has made significant progress in serving veterans and their families, and increased accountability is a major reason for this progress. Dr. Shulkin has increased transparency by posting national wait times for appointments, veterans’ satisfaction with VA care and services, facility quality scores and accountability actions. At the Syracuse VA, we are fully engaged in all these initiatives. We have a dedicated and engaged workforce. Approximately 30 percent of our employees are veterans and many of those individuals choose to receive their care from our facility. We take great pride in the professional, caring manner with which we treat our veterans every day. Feedback from patient surveys and comments from veterans and their family members consistently reinforce the excellent, compassionate and timely care that is provided by our talented staff.

4 Tell us about your background. What has prepared you for this job?

A. I have been in the health care field for almost 20 years, working in a variety of settings to include inpatient and outpatient care. I have also worked in private practice in addition to my VA experiences. I have a background in business and retail management and the combination of my clinical and administrative experiences have prepared me well for my current role. I started my employment at the Syracuse VA as a provider and have held positions of increased responsibility over the past 10 years.

5 You’re the first female director of Syracuse’s VA. What do you think that will add to your administration?

A. I am honored to have been given this remarkable responsibility and remain fully committed to continuing the Syracuse VA’s long tradition of providing excellent healthcare services.

I work with many talented males and females who, regardless of gender, share the noblest of goals, which is to serve the men and women who defended our country’s freedom.

6 What do you hope to accomplish, specifically, in your tenure as director and do you plan to stay as long or longer, than your predecessor, who ran the facility for 17 years?

A. I hope to build upon my predecessor’s legacy of maintaining our focus on the needs of our veteran patients by ensuring the delivery of safe, high quality care; providing resources and removing barriers so staff are able to perform at the highest level possible; engaging staff to identify continuous improvement opportunities; and striving to remain the health care provider of choice in our catchment area. My predecessor served as the medical center director for approximately 17 years. I too plan on remaining in my current role for the long term.

7 Tell us about yourself: family, interests, and interesting tidbits. What do you enjoying doing in your spare time?

A. I am originally from the West Coast and the majority of my family remains there. My husband and I have lived in Syracuse for 15 years and spend time outdoors whenever possible. We love to travel and enjoy the beauty of Central New York, particularly the Thousand Islands and Finger Lakes. We like to hike and spend time with our family and friends.

Note: Hayman holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in clinical psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, N.J. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a graduate of the Health Care Leadership Development Program.