From intern to Medical Center Director at VA Medical Centers across the United States, Ken Mizrach served and supported our Veterans as a Federal employee for 42 years. He has since retired his Federal employee hat, joining AMSG in 2019 to support AMSG’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Government Accountability High Risk List Training Contract in helping VHA to establish training standards, and streamline processes and training systems.
If that isn’t enough, he is also an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University School of Communications. With over four decades of training and experience, he brings a breadth of wisdom, skills, and VA knowledge, further enriching AMSG and our culture. We interviewed Ken to hear about his unprecedented career, the lessons he’s learned, and what drives him to continue his work with the VA.
Read his interview below.
How long were you with the VA?
I served and supported our Veterans as an employee of the VA for 42 years. I started as a Hospital Administrative Intern while in school at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and once I graduated, I became an employee in 1973 at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. I was the Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Staff Trainee.
What are all the positions you have held with the VA?
My entrance into the VA was as the Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Staff Trainee. Once I completed my training, I was assigned as the Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Staff (AA/COS) at the Altoona VA in Pennsylvania, followed by an assignment as a Management Analyst at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC where I led VA survey teams throughout the VA system.
After three years at the DC VA Central Office, I was assigned as the AA/COS in Denver, Colorado. I was then accepted into the Associate Director Training Program and afterward, assigned to the Portland VA Medical Center-Vancouver to serve as the Associate Director Trainee. After completing my training, I was assigned Associate Director of the Castle Point VA Medical Center in Hudson Valley, New York where I stayed for about five years.
Following my role as Castle Point’s Associate Director, I accepted the assignment as Associate Director of the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center. After a few years, I accepted my first position as Medical Center Director at Maryland’s Fort Howard VA Medical Center. After several years at Fort Howard, I became the Medical Center Director for the East Orange VA Medical Center and later, both East Orange and the Lyons VA Medical Centers. I remained Director for 24 years, serving out the remainder of my 42-year career.
What’s the best thing about your job? About working at the VA and now supporting the VA as a consultant?
Having had the opportunity and privilege to serve our Veterans and use my various positions to hopefully make a positive difference for them, as well as our dedicated employees, was the most rewarding part of my job.
Additionally, having the opportunity to personally meet individuals who served our nation during both war and peacetime enriched my understanding of how and why these American Heroes make America what it is today. To continue as a consultant for the VA after retirement allows me to continue to serve both our employees and Veterans, and to hopefully contribute to providing the best care for our Veterans.
Is there a quote that motivates you?
There is a quote that always motivated me: “The price of freedom is evident by those we serve in our Medical Centers.”
How does this company differ from others you’ve worked for?
Veteran-owned and -led companies have the passion and wisdom to connect with the assigned work. AMSG has an individual, Jim O’Farrell, who is not only the President and CEO of AMSG, but more importantly a Veteran who, not only served our nation proudly, but continues today by focusing on supporting and enhancing our Veterans and the care they receive at our VA Medical Centers through the work at AMSG. AMSG’s bottom line is: “What is best for our Veterans and how can our work as consultants enhance that care?”
What skills have you found vital to your job?
It comes down to soft skills – the ability to listen, show empathy, and apply the many lessons I learned during the course of my 42-year career working in the VA to the assigned work today. Bottom line, it’s about our Veterans, and providing our dedicated, hardworking staff with the best that training has to offer.
What’s the most rewarding part of the work you are doing now to support VHA?
Being part of an exceptional AMSG team and working with the members of the VA Central Office in Washington, DC who possess the knowledge and skills to carry out their duties, but most importantly, love for the work they do on behalf of our Veterans.
What’s the most important thing you would want people to know about the work you are involved in?
There is a team of people organized and dedicated through the leadership of AMSG’s leader and Veteran, Jim O’Farrell, who want the best for those who served. There is also a dedicated group of Federal employees, many of whom are Veterans, that have the same commitment and deep understanding of the difference this work can have. They too are heroes in continuing to serve our Veterans and employees.
Did you take time off after retiring? What made you come back as a consultant?
The word “retirement” is defined in part as ” the act of retiring, withdrawing” and it is certainly not a word I connect with. After 42 years with the VA, I see my life as the beginning of a new or next chapter in life’s journey.
I said my final goodbyes and had a wonderful celebration with fellow employees and friends, and my wife and I took an incredible two-week cruise to Ireland and Scotland. The most important destination on that trip however, was a trip to Normandy, and a visit to The American Cemetery. Not only was it a visit I will never forget, but a personal salute to all those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice – I will never forget that incredible resting place for so many.
I continued to teach at Rutgers University and soon found myself being offered consulting opportunities to work with the VA on specific national initiatives. To have an opportunity to continue to work with my VA family and for our Veterans in a different capacity now, as a consultant, was and is the joy of “writing the next chapter.” Having the opportunity to use my experiences and skills learned and practiced when I was a VA employee is a way of giving back to such an incredible Health Care System.
What do you do for fun?
Having three grandchildren with a fourth on the way is what gives my wife and me the most pleasure and focus. Of course I like to play golf and we both love to travel, but family will and always is what occupies much of our “fun times.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It is a real privilege to continue serving the Veterans of our country and work with a team dedicated to the same mission.
Introduction by: Juania Owens