Retired Army Col. John Collins new director of VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System



Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Retired Army Col. John P. Collins, former chief of military health care in Europe, is the new director of the VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Collins’ appointment this week. He will begin his new position at the medical center in Leeds on Monday. His salary was not available Wednesday.

“I’m excited about this new opportunity,” Collins said Wednesday. “Of course, being in the military I consider this a continuum of what I’ve done in the past — serving veterans and their family members.”

Collins, 54, of Shrewsbury, retired from the military this summer after 30 years in the Army Medical Department. He is replacing current VA director Roger Johnson, who retires Oct. 3.

The VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System consists of the medical center in Leeds as well as five outpatient clinics in Fitchburg, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs website. The system serves a veteran population of more than 120,000 men and women, and provides primary, specialty, and mental health care, according to the website.

Collins was responsible for the health care of 80,000 patients across Europe in his most recent position at the Europe Regional Medical Command in Sembach, Germany. These included veterans, retirees, and their families. He oversaw a staff of 6,700 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and 16 clinics in Germany, Italy and Belgium.

Before that, Collins was chief operating officer at Landstuhl, a large American military hospital that also includes several primary-care clinics in Germany, Italy and Belgium and averages more than 30,000 outpatient visits per month, according to the official website of the U.S. Army in Europe.

He has also served as Commander at Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Stewart, Georgia, and the Brigade Commander of the 62nd Medical Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Collins, who grew up in Holliston, said he became drawn to serving in the military through health care as a student at Providence College in Rhode Island. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health care administration in 1982. From there, he went to Northeastern University in Boston, where he earned a master’s in business administration, and entered the Army in 1984.

Since then, he has earned three more degrees through the military — a master of health care administration from Baylor University, a master of education from the University of Oklahoma, and a master of science in national resource management from the National Defense University.

He is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of its Regents Advisory Council.

“I just feel blessed because I was able to serve my nation — number one — for 30 years, and do it in the Army Medical Department, which gave it even more meaning,” Collins said.

He lives with his wife, Army Col. Nancy Hughes, who retired with him at a joint retirement ceremony at Landstuhl in May. She also has 30 years experience, having worked as a nurse corps officer and a midwife.

Johnson, 62, of Leeds, was director for 4½ years. He has worked for the VA for a total of 38 years, including director for the Connecticut VA Health Care System and associate director at the Bronx VA medical center. He has also been associate director of the VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System.

He praised Collins’ experience. “Here’s somebody who is a military veteran himself ... He’s caring for his fellow brothers and sisters as he has done for 30 years, and I think it gives him a level of commitment that’s just outstanding,” Johnson said Wednesday.

He lives with his wife, Nancy Johnson. They have two grown sons who are military veterans. Johnson said that in his retirement he plans to volunteer in the community.

“I love the mission that we have,” Johnson added. “I can’t think of a better mission in the world than taking care of our nation’s veterans.”

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.


 


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