Who We Are

We are transforming the American healthcare experience to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to you and your loved ones.

 

Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience. 

Discover more about West Health (pdf)

 

West Health is four organizations with a common mission—pioneering new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans.

  • The Gary and Mary West Health Institute is a nonprofit medical research organization working to create new, more effective ways of delivering care.
  • The Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center is a nonprofit resource in Washington, D.C., providing policy education and proposals.
  • The for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund provides investments to businesses that share our mission.
  • The for-profit West Health Incubator offers expertise and resources to young businesses who share our mission.

About Gary & Mary West

Operating Committee

Chief Executive

Nicholas J. Valeriani
Nicholas J. Valeriani

Chief Executive

In his role as chief executive of the collective West Health effort, Nicholas J. Valeriani brings valuable expertise in engineering, operations, medical devices and diagnostics, entrepreneurship and non-profit leadership that make him uniquely qualified to advance the mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans through the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience. Valeriani is the CEO of the Institute and the chair of the Executive Committee, the coordinated leadership team of West Health.

Valeriani established himself as a visionary healthcare leader over a 34-year career with Johnson & Johnson where he led several corporate functions and was a member of the corporation’s executive committee as corporate vice president of human resources; worldwide chairman of medical devices & diagnostics; and as vice president of the Office of Strategy & Growth. He was instrumental in identifying the global healthcare trends that led to the creation of a new wellness and prevention business platform and pioneering opportunities in the area of digital health.

He currently serves on the board of directors for the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Valeriani has an M.B.A. from Rutgers University, Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from Rutgers University, College of Engineering.

Chief Medical Officer, Chief Science Officer

Joseph M. Smith, MD, PhD, FACC
Joseph M. Smith, MD, PhD, FACC

Chief Medical Officer, Chief Science Officer

In his role as chief medical and science officer, Dr. Joseph M. Smith brings strategic, engineering and clinical expertise to advance West Health's  mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience. Dr. Smith’s role encompasses directing the West Health Institute’s medical and clinical research and is a co-manager of West Health Investment Fund.

Dr. Smith has an extensive career at the intersection of clinical medicine and engineering. Prior to joining the Institute, he was vice president of emerging technologies for Johnson & Johnson in their corporate office of science and technology. He also served as senior vp and chief medical officer of Guidant/Boston Scientific’s Cardiac Rhythm Management. Before accepting leadership roles in the industry, Dr. Smith was a practicing cardiologist for almost two decades, starting at the Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston, with sub-specialty training in clinical cardiac electrophysiology. Dr. Smith also established the Arrhythmia Institute in Fairfax, VA, which specializes in interventional cardiac electrophysiology and clinical research.

Dr. Smith was named one of "20 People Who Make Healthcare Better" by HealthLeaders Magazine in 2010. He serves as faculty at the University of Southern California and advisor to Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, the Wellcome Trust, and a number of innovative healthcare and technology start-up companies. He has testified before Congress on the value of healthcare technology and the potential of wireless health technology to lower healthcare costs. He's also a member of the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) workgroup, providing expert input on topics identified by the FDA, ONC and FCC concerning the regulation of health information technology. Dr. Smith holds a B.E.S from The Johns Hopkins University; a Ph.D. in medical engineering and medical physics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology; and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Chief Operating Officer

Shelley Lyford, MA
Shelley Lyford, MA

Chief Operating Officer

As chief operating officer of the collective West Health effort, Shelley Lyford works with the executive leadership team to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

In addition to leading operational efforts, Lyford works directly with the West Health Institute’s board of directors and advises management on implementing strategic initiatives, objectives and policies. She also has a leadership role in the West Health Investment Fund.

In addition to her roles at West Health, Lyford also serves as President of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, which was established in 2006 to make a significant impact on the quality of life in the community and in our country. Over the past seven years, the Foundation’s philanthropic investments have focused on efforts to lower the cost of healthcare, improve the quality of life for low income seniors and support the deployment of professionally trained service dogs.

Prior to her work with the Wests, Lyford was a director at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Joan Kroc Institute at the University of San Diego. While with the United Nations and the International Executive Service Corps, she gained experience in assessing the viability of opportunities in emerging markets. Lyford currently sits on the Governance Committee of Grantmakers in Aging. She graduated from the University of San Diego Summa Cum Laude with a M.A. in international relations and political-economy.

Chief Financial Officer

Michael M. Caponetto, MBA
Michael M. Caponetto, MBA

Chief Financial Officer

In his role as Chief Financial Officer, Mike Caponetto brings strategic financial, operating and administrative expertise to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.  

As a member of the executive leadership team, Caponetto oversees investments, long-term financial strategies and day-to-day financial and administrative operations of the West Health entities.  In this role, he maximizes West Health’s resources for achieving its mission, working closely with the other members of management team to help ensure the entities are focused on opportunities with the greatest cost-savings potential.  He also helps lead investments for the West Health Investment Fund.

Caponetto has extensive experience providing strategic, financial and operational leadership to a number of successful companies in the healthcare sector and various industries. Prior to joining West Health, he was Chief Financial Officer, Director of M&A, and a senior member of the management team for two Goldman Sachs-backed companies, via the firm's Special Situations Group.  His roles included financial and accounting operations, administration, human resources, and M&A, financing and growth strategies for Business Records Management LLC, an information management services company, and NorthStar Nuclear Medicine, LLC, a multidisciplinary radiopharmaceutical company he helped found and obtain financing.

Previously, Caponetto was Senior Principal and Managing Director at Triple Tree, LLC and Vine Street Partners/Century Capital Group, respectively, where he was responsible for the origination and execution of transactions involving mergers, acquisitions and venture capital, private equity and debt financings.  He has advised companies across numerous healthcare sectors, including without limitation medical devices, healthcare information technology, medical equipment, managed care, and institutional pharmacies. Caponetto earned an MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago (Booth) Graduate School of Business.

Chief Strategy Officer and EVP, Business Development

Richard Dakers
Richard Dakers

Chief Strategy Officer and EVP, Business Development

In his role as chief strategy officer and executive vice president of business development, Richard Dakers oversees the strategic planning process, all business development, technology transfer and licensing activities, and the interoperability initiative. He also evaluates existing and new strategic areas of interest to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

As a member of the operating committee and co-manager of the West Health Investment Fund, Dakers brings 33 years of experience to his position with an extensive career in business development and recognition as a subject matter expert in the broader medical technology industry. Most recently, he was vice president, business development and worldwide strategy for Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson & Johnson company. He began his career at Johnson & Johnson in 1979, spending the first 10 years in positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing and general management in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. In 1991, Dakers joined Ethicon Endo-Surgery as director of marketing helping to create and establish the minimally-invasive surgery market. He then assumed business development and strategic planning roles, eventually overseeing these functions for the Medical Device & Diagnostics segment of Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he was responsible for coordinating the mergers and acquisition process, as well as leading key acquisitions for the company. Dakers has a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, in science and social science from Edinburgh Napier University in the United Kingdom.

General Counsel

Chris Costa, MBA, JD
Chris Costa, MBA, JD

General Counsel

In his role as general counsel, Chris Costa brings expertise in legal and business affairs to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

Costa oversees legal affairs, including those in connection with West Health’s contracting, intellectual property, investment and development activities.

Costa brings extensive law firm and in-house legal experience to his role of general counsel. Most recently, he was the director of legal affairs and corporate business development at Synthetic Genomics, Inc., a leader in advancing the commercialization of synthetic biology. Previously, Costa was the general counsel at La Jolla Cove Investors, Inc., an investment fund focusing on public equity investments.

Costa was an associate at leading international law firms, including Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Gunderson Dettmer and Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, where he represented a wide variety of life sciences and emerging growth clients. His practice included significant venture-backed and public equity transactions, as well as representing clients in a variety of intellectual property, commercial contracting and regulatory contexts.

Costa earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California at Davis, as well as his M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

Senior Director, Communications
Nancy Ives Schroeder
Nancy Ives Schroeder
Senior Director, Communications

In her role as senior director of communications, Nancy Ives Schroeder leads the management of the organization’s brand, reputation and strategic communications activities across West Health in order to advance its mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

Schroeder is an experienced communications professional, with over 24 years of experience in developing and executing public policy and corporate communications strategy, along with related public relations and advocacy. She has an extensive background in both the political arena and the private sector; a 13-year veteran of Capitol Hill, she was communications director for U.S. Senator John McCain, and later worked in global media outreach for the Vaccine Fund, a grantee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2005, Schroeder founded NIS Strategies, an independent consulting firm specializing in the development and execution of communications strategies to achieve positive outcomes for a wide range of clients. Her clients included Rio Tinto, a global natural resources company; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative; El Paso Corporation; the Waitt Family Foundation; and APCO Worldwide among others. Schroeder earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia.

Executive Vice President, Clinical Research and Medical Informatics

Zia Agha, MD
Zia Agha, MD

Executive Vice President, Clinical Research and Medical Informatics

In his role as executive vice president of clinical research and medical informatics, Dr. Zia Agha leads the development and execution of clinical research activities for the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, an independent, nonprofit medical research organization that works with healthcare providers and research institutions to create new, more effective ways of delivering care. Dr. Agha’s role also encompasses developing a more comprehensive understanding of the evolving field of clinical informatics such as clinical information systems and population analytics.

Previous to joining the Institute, Dr. Agha was Director for Health Services Research and Development (HSRD) division at VA San Diego Healthcare System and Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego. He presently holds an appointment as a part-time faculty member at UCSD.

Dr. Agha joined UCSD and the San Diego VA in 2006 because of his expertise in telemedicine and health services research. By 2007, he was appointed Director of the San Diego VA Health Services Research and Development (HSRD) division based on his strong research, clinical, and interpersonal skills. Under his effective leadership and research management proficiency, the HSRD division experienced exceptional growth in term of extramural research grants, which increased from $6 million in 2007 to $21 million in 2013. As an expert in innovative, patient-centered telehealth services, Dr. Agha was appointed Director for Telemedicine Research in 2006, and successfully led an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers, and engineers who collectively obtained funding for new telehealth projects totaling over $15 million. He has co-authored over 35 peer reviewed publications, presented his work at National and International conferences and his research has been funded by VA, DOD, NIH, PCORI, and AHRQ. As a scholar and expert in his field he has served on scientific abstract review panels, editorial boards, and served on study sections for NIH, PCORI, and the VA.

Dr. Agha is a practicing physician whose clinical observations, patient care experiences, research and analytical skills, and leadership abilities drive his passion for improving national healthcare delivery. He is dedicated to using his multifaceted expertise in research, medicine, and leadership to develop, test, implement, and advocate for innovative solutions with a common goal of improving clinical care, while lowering healthcare costs.

Dr. Agha received his MD degree from Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan and a MS degree in Clinical Epidemiology and General Internal Medicine fellowship in Health Services Research from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Vice President, Research, Development and Engineering

Freeman Rose
Freeman Rose

Vice President, Research, Development and Engineering

In his role as vice president of research, development and engineering, Freeman Rose brings more than 40 years of experience in healthcare industry research to the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, an independent, nonprofit medical research organization that works with healthcare providers and research institutions to create new, more effective ways of delivering care.

As a member of the operating committee, he is responsible for the research, development and engineering teams to drive the effective development of innovative solutions in service of our mission and strategic priorities.

Previously, Rose served as vice president of engineering and CEO of Medstone International, a public medical technology company that provided savings in healthcare by replacing kidney stone surgeries with extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. He also founded and served as CTO and CEO of MagneVu, an innovative private company that designed and marketed a portablemagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system costing less than a tenth that of conventional MRI.

Freeman Rose joined the West Health Institute in October 2011 as director of research and development. Since that time, he has successfully contributed to the Institute’s innovation process and provided leadership for all aspects of research, technical support and technology transfers. His broad background in many technical disciplines, medical and non-medical, provide West Health with proven capabilities and experience in reducing the cost of healthcare through the use of innovative, disruptive technologies.

Rose received both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and holds multiple U.S. and foreign patents in the fields of precision instrumentation, in vivo ultrasound localization and MRI.

Vice President, Human Resources

Mary Ellen Ciafardini
Mary Ellen Ciafardini

Vice President, Human Resources

In her role as director of human resources, Mary Ellen Ciafardini brings more than 30 years of experience in human resources and talent management to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

As a member of the operating committee, she is responsible for organizational development, performance management and talent acquisition.

Ciafardini has a strong history of creating high-performing cultures within professional services firms. She worked most recently as the Talent Director for Deloitte LLP in New York, where she managed the overall delivery of strategic and consultative HR services to its 10,000 person northeast region, with prior experience at other organizations including Dewey Ballantine, LLP and Andersen LLP.

Ciafardini earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Fairfield University. She earned her C.P.A. certification and has also completed her SPHR certification in Human Resources.

Senior Director, West Health Policy Center

Roy Ramthun
Roy Ramthun

Senior Director, West Health Policy Center

In his role as senior advisor, health policy, Roy Ramthun brings expertise in governmental affairs and legislative policy to advance West Health’s mission to pioneer new and smarter technologies, policies and practices, to make high-quality healthcare more accessible at a lower cost to all Americans. This is accomplished through the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center, the for-profit Gary and Mary West Health Investment Fund and the for-profit West Health Incubator. Together, the four organizations of West Health are transforming the American healthcare experience.

Ramthun recently served as the founder and president of HSA Consulting Services, LLC, a private healthcare consulting practice. Prior to this he was a member of the National Economic Council staff and served as the senior health policy advisor to President George W. Bush regarding healthcare issues. He also helped lead the Bush Administration’s implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Before joining the President's staff, Ramthun was the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for health initiatives. In this role, he led Treasury's implementation of the Health Coverage Tax Credit program and the Health Savings Accounts program.

Ramthun began his career in Federal service in 1987 as a Presidential Management Intern (PMI) and subsequently became a legislative analyst with the Healthcare Financing Administration, now known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). He also held a variety of positions at Humana, Inc. and was a healthcare analyst with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. 

Ramthun earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).