For the new director and CEO of the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, a sense of duty and service goes back generations.
William “Bill” Caron, who just finished his second week at the helm of the North Las Vegas VA facility, is an Air Force veteran who began his medical career as a physical therapist at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
His grandfather served in World War II, and his father is a Vietnam-era veteran.
“Being a veteran and coming from a family of veterans, I was always compelled to serve this great nation,” he said Friday. “Even though I spent many years in the private sector, I really felt drawn back to service.”
Caron will oversee the delivery of health care, a $540 million annual operating budget and the availability of outpatient and inpatient services for more than 140,000 veterans in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties.
Experience and leadership
“We are excited to bring Bill on board as the new Director of the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System,” John Brandecker, Veterans Integrated Service Network 21 director, said in a news release. “His sound leadership qualities and proven experience will be valuable assets for the facility, the employees and volunteers, and most importantly, for the Veterans we are honored to serve.”
Caron, who holds a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and a master’s degree in health care administration, joined the VA in 2010 as associate director of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, Michigan.
From 2014 to 2017, he served as associate director at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, which included a stint as acting director from May to December 2015. He worked alongside former director Peggy Kearns, who retired April 13 after 36 years.
In 2017, he became director of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson, Arizona.
Prior to joining the VA, Caron was a Navy hospital corpsman reservist while in college and began his medical career as a physical therapist in the private sector.
He then entered active duty with the Air Force where he served in the Biomedical Service Corps as a physical therapist at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
He also served in leadership roles during a 14-year career in the private sector where he managed multiple clinical services. He is also a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
‘Keep marching forward’
Caron said he sees the chance to come back to Southern Nevada as a way to keep expanding the North Las Vegas hospital.
“We have a unique opportunity here at VA Southern Nevada to continue to grow, just like the city is growing, in a progressive manner,” he said. “We’re in the infancy stage of growing our research program, as well as our academic collaboration.”
Caron said he’s excited to continue to participate in the growth of UNLV’s medical school. He hopes to match Tucson with a robust academic affiliation to work with medical students, residents and fellows to develop high, complex care.
“We have the potential here to become a level 1A, highest complexity facility as well because of that progressive environment,” he said. “There’s a road to go to get there, but it’s definitely within our crosshairs.”
Caron said he hopes to expand upon the foundation that Kearns set, by focusing on primary care, recruitment, staffing, mental health and specialty care. He especially is focused on staying aligned with federal initiatives that support outreach for veterans suicide.
“It takes a village. …The important component we’re finding is we need veterans to engage in the mental health services we provide,” he said. “Those that do engage are far less likely to attempt and, God forbid, complete suicide.”
Caron said he is looking forward to being involved in the Southern Nevada community, which he said is appreciative and supportive of the veteran community.
“The VA, much like your time in the military, is a family. All gave some, and some gave all,” he said. “That has helped me stay grounded and stay focused on what the goal is. Despite the bureaucratic hurdles we run into sometimes, we just have to keep marching forward.”