VITL Announces Leadership Team Changes

Release Date: 
February 13th, 2018

Michael K. Smith to assume Interim President and CEO; Kristina Choquette serving as COO, with Director of Technology Damen Lease and Manager of Infrastructure Justin Zellem.

Burlington, VT – The Board of Directors of Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL) announces that Michael K. Smith will become Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of VITL on February 20, 2018, following the end-of-year retirement of John Evans, who lead VITL for 5 years and helped create Vermont’s health information highway through VITL’s online patient medical records portal known as VITL Access.

Smith will help VITL during this critical time of transition, as it works to fulfill the promise of health information technology to support Vermont’s transition to a value-based payment model that delivers high quality health care at a lower overall cost. Smith has extensive leadership experience in the public and private sector. Smith began his career serving honorably in the U. S. Navy, first with Underwater Demolition Team 21 and then with SEAL Team 2. He then was elected to the Vermont Legislature and later served as Deputy Treasurer, Secretary of Administration, and Secretary of Human Services. As Secretary, Smith oversaw the creation of the State’s partnership with VITL. After leaving state government in 2008, Smith was Vermont State President for FairPoint Communications. He also has served as interim president of Burlington College and as a consultant to the Enhanced 9-1-1 Board and the Burlington School District. More recently, Smith hosted Open Mike, a radio talk show on WDEV, and wrote opinion columns for VTDigger.

“VITL is such an important partner in the delivery of quality health care in Vermont,” said Smith. “I am excited about this opportunity to help VITL succeed for the benefit of Vermonters, and I thank the Board for their confidence in asking me to help lead this organization. I am especially pleased to be working alongside an experienced staff that’s dedicated to the success of VITL. My sole goal is to help them succeed in achieving VITL’s objectives during my time here.”

Smith will benefit from a very talented leadership team with deep experience in this field. Kristina Choquette, who has worked at VITL since 2012, will continue to serve as Chief Operating Officer and oversee VITL day-to-day in its efforts to meet the needs of the State of Vermont and VITL’s other customers. Kristina helped see the organization through Evan’s retirement, serving as acting President and CEO since the beginning of the year. Damen Lease, who has served as Chief Technology Officer at Patient Engagement Systems for 11 years, will become VITL’s Director of Technology and will work closely with Frank Harris, who is completing his tenure as VITL’s Interim Chief Technology Officer this spring. Justin Zellem, who has worked at VITL since December 2015 as Systems Administrator, has been promoted to Manager of Infrastructure.

“I am pleased that Mike has agreed to join VITL as the Interim president and CEO,” said Dr. Bruce Bullock, Chair of the VITL Board. “His extensive public and private sector leadership experience will help ensure VITL delivers what the State and our other customers need going forward, and will complement the considerable talents of our leadership team and staff. I would like to especially thank Kristina Choquette, VITL’s COO, who stepped in to serve as acting CEO at the beginning of the year, working tirelessly to continue VITL’s mission.”

Smith has agreed to serve as Interim President and CEO for up to two years at a base salary of $175,000 annually.

About VITL: VITL is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 that advances health care reform efforts in Vermont through the use of health information technology, and is the legislatively-designated operator of the Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE). The VHIE is a secure, statewide data network which gives health care providers in Vermont the ability to electronically exchange and access medical records. VITL collects and manages patient data such as demographics, laboratory results, discharge summaries, radiology reports and medication histories, from multiple sources including hospitals, primary and specialty care, Federally Qualified Health Centers, home health, long term care, designated agencies and commercial labs. With patient consent, the information in the VHIE network is available to authorized, treating providers, to help them make more informed clinical decisions at the point of care. VITL assists Vermont health care providers with adopting and using health information technology to improve quality of care while enhancing patient safety, and reducing the cost to deliver care. VITL is funded primarily from state and federal dollars through the Vermont Health Information Technology Fund, and through private customer contracts. VITL’s Board of Directors includes representatives from health plans, hospitals, physicians, other health care providers, state government, employers, and consumers. Check out for more detailed information.