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2013 Under Secretary for Health’s Excellence Awards announced

By Gerald Sonnenberg
EES Marketing and Communication

Washington, D.C. – The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) recently announced the recipients of the VA Under Secretary for Health’s Awards for Excellence in Clinical Simulation Training, Education and Research. The awards recognize clinical leaders supporting and advancing VHA’s strategic plan for clinical simulation.

The recipient of the Excellence in Clinical Simulation Training, Education and Research Practice Award is Richard Fidler, Ph.D (c), MBA, MSN, CRNA, ACNP. Jonathan Gardner, MPA, FACHE, is the recipient of the Clinical Simulation Training, Education and Research Executive Leadership Award.

Fidler is the director, Healthcare Simulation Program, at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) within the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 21. He is also a Ph.D candidate in the top nursing program at the University of California, San Francisco. .

Relying on limited funding, his efforts are the primary force behind the establishment of the SFVAMC simulation center over the last five years. Fidler led the creation of a cadre of simulation specialists from multiple disciplines to conduct the training of other clinicians. This training resulted in nearly 3,000 participants over the last year training in a variety of skills, from critical care and perioperative simulations, to disaster planning and evacuation scenarios.

In addition to his expertise with simulation, Fidler’s role is in anesthesia clinical practice in the operating room, recovery room and the intensive care units.

According to Dr. Art Wallace, chief of anesthesiology service at the SFVAMC, “The contributions Mr. Fidler makes, both clinically and through simulation, are tangible at the SFVAMC, VISN 21 and VHA levels.”

Gardner is the director of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, AZ. As director, his duties include the overall organization and operation of a highly-affiliated, 283-bed, tertiary-care teaching medical center, as well as multiple community-based clinics throughout southern Arizona.

Gardner is considered a champion of simulation, as well as someone who values the outcomes that result from the training that occurs in the simulation lab. His efforts allowed staff to become proficient at their clinical, leadership and interpersonal skills by diminishing the risk of error and enhancing the care of the Veteran by training competent staff.

When the education director presented the concepts and proven outcomes related to simulation training as the framework for the SAVAHCS Clinical Simulation Center, he readily supported the proposal to expand from a one-room simulation lab to a multi-disciplinary simulation center. This center became a “showcase” for the medical center and VISN 18, and the training resulted in a reduction in blood stream infections related to central line insertion, as well as a reduction in ventilator associated pneumonia related to out of operating room intubation.

Gardner created an organizational climate that views simulation as an integral component of the training experience. His personal contributions resulted in a program that is well known throughout VHA.

Other nominees for the Excellence in Clinical Simulation Training, Education and Research Practice Award

  • David Adriansen – Minneapolis, MN VA Medical Center (VAMC)
  • Misty Bennett – Mountain Home, TN, James H. Quillen VAMC
  • James Dresser – VISN 17 Workforce Development Manager
  • Dr. B. Price Kerfoot – VA Boston, MA Healthcare System (MAHCS)
  • Regina Knowles - Mountain Home, TN, James H. Quillen VAMC
  • Margaret Kohn – Greater Los Angeles, CA VAHCS
  • Dr. Joseph Leung – Sacramento, CA VAMC
  • Sherri Porterfield – Southern Arizona VAHCS
  • Dr. Jerold Saef – Bay Pines, FL VAHCS
  • LeAnn Schlamb – VAMC Cincinnati, OH
  • Janet Sprehe – James A. Haley, Tampa, FL VAMC
  • Dr. Sharon Stanke – Minneapolis, MN VAHCS

Other nominees for the Clinical Simulation Training, Education and Research Executive Leadership Award
  • Charlene Ehret - Mountain Home, TN, James H. Quillen VAMC
  • Janet Murphy – VISN 23
  • Patrick Sullivan – Captain James A. Lovell FHCC, North Chicago, IL

To learn more about the VHA SimLEARN program, visit