New VA Medical Center director faces geographical challenges
Terry Atienza is prepared for the unique challenge that comes with serving the military veteran population in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming.
Atienza, 46, is the new director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction. The hospital services the largest geographic region in which Atienza has ever worked.
With such a large area, particularly a large rural area, Atienza is committed to the hospital reaching as many veterans as possible, he said.
Atienza, who has worked in the Veterans Affairs system since graduating from Christian Brothers University in Memphis more than 20 years ago, wants to expand health care opportunities to veterans through smaller, community-based clinics and Telehealth services.
Currently, the local hospital has one community-based outpatient clinic in Montrose and a Telehealth clinic in Craig.
Telehealth services allow specialists locally to view real-time medical information and interact with patients who live outside of Grand Junction.
“This is the largest in geographic area, so it’s not cost-effective to build clinics,” Atienza said .
Atienza comes from an engineering background, so he appreciates technology and its enhancement of health care.
Atienza is mindful of the fact that veterans, as a whole, take ownership of their health care history, but he envisions using the Internet to the Veterans Affairs’ system’s benefit in the months and years ahead as a quick and secure way to transfer information, he said.
Atienza replaces Dr. Michael Murphy, who retired from the medical center.
Atienza never served in the military, but is the son of a veteran. He is married and has two dogs. He intends to enjoy the outdoors more now that he lives in Grand Junction, he said.