Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders Today

UVA Health Leadership Institute welcomed first cohort.


In November 2023, UVA Health launched its groundbreaking leadership institute, a visionary initiative that will empower future leaders. The institute not only will strengthen professional development opportunities across UVA Health but also will serve as a beacon of innovation, setting new benchmarks in healthcare leadership on a regional and national basis.

The inaugural cohort of 25 exceptional individuals, including professionals like Mesha Lawan Jones, MSN, RN; Crystal Toll, EdD, MSN; and Arun Krishnaraj, MD, MPH, marks a significant milestone in reshaping the landscape of academic medical center leadership. These individuals, with varied backgrounds from across UVA Health and unwavering commitments to excellence, inclusivity, and innovation, symbolize the essence of this program.

These conversations offer a compelling glimpse into the first cohort’s backgrounds, leadership interests, and career goals. Their unique experiences and shared dedication shed light on the institute’s potential to strengthen leadership at all levels and areas across UVA Health. As they begin this journey, their collaborative approach and visionary outlook will redefine healthcare leadership. 

Mesha Lawan Jones, MSN, RN Clinical Instructor of Nursing, Acute & Specialty Care


Q: Mesha, what interested you about this leadership program, and how will it help you in your career here at UVA?

I am the 2023 president of the Nursing Professional Governance Organization and interim ambulatory float pool and Earn While You Learn medical assistant manager. I’ve been at UVA Health for 21 years, including eight years as a registered nurse and, before that, a certified nursing assistant, so I’ve had some leadership experience. 

Mesha stands smiling

I first heard about the Leadership Institute through my work with the UVA Health strategic plan. I had an opportunity to co-chair the community engagement portion of the plan with Dr. Tracy Downs, which was a great experience. At first, I didn’t see myself participating in this program, as I didn’t know if I would be accepted. But when I saw the application, I thought, “I could do that,” so I’m thrilled to be part of the first cohort. 

I’m also learning how to be a nurse leader through my other educational program. However, I was interested in learning what it would be like to be a leader outside of nursing and how that can impact my aspiration to help people, communities, and my personal and professional growth. 

Q: What aspects of leadership are you hoping to learn from this program to build your skills?

I want to learn more about different leadership styles so I might find ways to adapt them in my profession. I would also like to improve my strategic thinking and innovation skills because we need them to grow as a health system. And I’m excited to understand how effective leadership thinking will help in anything I do. 

Q: How will the Leadership Institute help you achieve your personal and career goals? 

I consider myself a novice when it comes to leadership and management. Hopefully, being part of this institute will provide me with more knowledge to take my career to the next level. I believe once I complete the program, I will be more prepared to take on advanced levels of leadership. 

Q: What are your thoughts about hearing from and collaborating with faculty coming in from Darden, Batten, and McIntire who will be involved in the institute? 

I’m very excited about the networking opportunities that will be part of this program. Being inside the hospital’s walls for so long has given me a particular understanding of leadership. Therefore, gaining varied perspectives on leadership outside of healthcare and how I could adapt some of those ideas will be highly beneficial.


Crystal Toll, EdD, MSN Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Q: Why did you apply to the Leadership Institute, and how does it tie in with your career?

I am an assistant professor in the UVA School of Nursing RN to BSN program. I’ve not only had the opportunity to engage in bedside nursing, but I spent time in a nurse management role and a quality role before transitioning to the academic side.

Crystal Toll stands smiling

When I saw the email inviting me to apply, I was intrigued, as I’m seeking to build relationships with leaders across UVA Health. One of the fundamental pillars of good leadership is developing positive relationships with colleagues. Participating in the Leadership Institute will enable me to engage with established leaders and people like me who are coming up through the ranks. Also, it seems like a great platform, as it will help facilitate a positive culture and foster a sense of community between UVA Health and the School of Nursing. Furthermore, I want to learn the business of academics and health system operations.

I aim to learn how strategic planning takes shape from its inception to implementation and how an institution’s resources are effectively allocated. It will be great to also meet the members of our workforce on both sides of the street—academic and health systems have equitable access to the resources they need to succeed. 

Q: What are your long-term career goals, and how does this leadership intersect with those goals?

My personal goals are consistent with UVA’s goals. I have no desire to be anywhere else with UVA. Still, I want to develop a leadership path focused on education—whether on the academic side or the health system. I want to formally be a leader and contribute to our methods and decisions around nursing education. Specifically, I hope to enhance my skills to enable a pathway to future leadership opportunities, possibly as a program director, chair, dean, or in nursing-care quality. 

Q: How do you see this program helping internally and on a regional or national scale? 

A personal goal I set as I entered this program is to foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork actively. Once we accomplish this, we can promote equitable recognition of leadership potential that is sometimes not seen. This program will also build my confidence as a leader and enable me to mentor others in professional transitions. Broadly, we will see the greatest gain from this program in the culture of collaboration across UVA Health and set us as a model for other institutions. 


Arun Krishnaraj, MD Associate Professor, Radiology and Medical Imaging

Q: What is your interest in the Leadership Institute, and how does it tie in with your career?

I was recruited to UVA from Mass General in 2013 to lead the Division of Body Imaging. When I arrived in Charlottesville, my chair, Alan Matsumoto, MD felt I would benefit from participating in the UVA Leadership in Academic Matters (LAM) course. LAM is a leadership development course that brings together emerging faculty leaders from across Grounds to participate in various enrichment and networking activities. 

Arun stands smiling in white coat

I thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity and hope to build upon that experience through the Leadership Institute. As a leader within my department, I look forward to learning more from other leaders across the healthcare enterprise and how my skills and talents and my teams can benefit UVA Health. 

During my conversation with Jason Lineen, chief strategic officer at UVA Health, he indicated that part of our strategic plan is to grow leaders from within the institution. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to strengthen my leadership skills. It would help me learn more about strategic planning and new ways to work with my team to achieve our goals for the institution, the citizens of the commonwealth, and the patients we serve.

Q: What are you hoping to learn from this program? 

I’m looking forward to the networking aspects of the program and learning from others across the institution. Healthcare is a team sport, and connecting with other leaders will be something that I know I will benefit from.

I’ve had the opportunity to guest lecture and participate in courses at the Darden School, and I’ve always found their education to be world-class. I’m also aware of McIntire and Batten Schools’ outstanding reputation, so learning from domain experts from those schools will be a great benefit. There’s always more to learn in healthcare, but I am particularly interested in learning more about the financial aspect of UVA Health. 

Furthermore, we’re in a period of healthcare consolidation and growth. I was in the Boston area and, before that, in the Chapel Hill area, and in both of those regions, there was mass consolidation and integration of healthcare systems, and that’s just beginning here at UVA. So, to be involved at the ground level and to see how those processes work will be beneficial. 

Lastly, I’ve been in leadership and advocacy roles in my specialty since I was a resident. I’m fortunate to serve on the Board of Chancellors for the American College of Radiology, and one of our organization’s goals has always been advocating for the role radiology plays in improving patients’ health and assisting other physicians in making the best care decisions for patients. I think being able to represent my specialty and the role our department plays in delivering exceptional care will be something I look forward to. A strong radiology department makes for an efficient healthcare system.

Q: What are your career goals in leadership? 

I hope to one day lead a health system, either at the CEO or EVP level, so learning how a strategic plan is rolled out broadly is something that I’m excited to learn more about. I believe the skills I will learn by participating in the Leadership Institute will benefit me or any healthcare provider with aspirations for health system leadership. 

Learn more about the UVA Health Leadership Institute and how you can support this vital program by contacting Ashley Cullop, Principal Gift Officer, UVA Health Development, at or call us at 434.924.8432 or 800.297.0102.