When Vietnam War Veteran Michael Nicoletti faced surgery to address hearing loss, he invented GioStent, a straw-like device inserted in the external ear canal that prevents it from collapsing and allows sound to pass through. He engaged his Audiologist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, who worked with the 3D Innovation Center at Charleston VA Advanced Manufacturing Hub to create and perfect the 3D-printed ear stent to customize Nicoletti’s unique hearing needs. This Veteran-led innovation is just one example of how VA’s Office of Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks (DEAN) partners with Veterans to create innovative, cost-effective and often life-changing solutions for Veterans.
Since its establishment in 2018, DEAN leads how VHA is becoming a learning organization through its affiliate offices: the Office of Academic Affiliations, the Office of Research and Development; the Office of Healthcare Learning and Innovation, including VHA Innovation Ecosystem, the Simulation Learning, Evaluation, Assessment and Research Network, and the Center for Care and Payment Innovation; and the VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships.
Much of this change has been led by the learners DEAN is privileged to serve: our Nation’s Veterans. “Our Veterans are extraordinary partners,” says Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, assistant under secretary for Health for DEAN. “They have such a strong sense of service that they choose to serve their country twice: first in uniform and later as collaborators, teachers, researchers and innovators.”
Veterans are also collaborating through DEAN to help VHA promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). For example, when Pamela Black, a Veteran and Equal Employment Opportunity manager at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, wanted to train and empower DEI advocates, she turned to the VA Diffusion Marketplace within DEAN as a resource to market an innovative idea: the VA Diversity and Inclusion Advocate Program (VADIAP).
Black designed the program to assist VA leadership, employees and Veterans with disseminating information on facility DEI events; promoting DEI ideals in their work; and cultivating a safe place where everyone can report concerns, such as workplace discrimination, harassment or wrongdoing. This emerging program is being adopted by Clermont VA Clinic, Crossroads VA Clinic, Deltona VA Clinic, Kissimmee VA Clinic, Lake Baldwin VA Clinic, Tavares VA Clinic, Viera VA Clinic, and William V. Chappell Jr. Veterans’ Outpatient Clinic.
Other notable examples of Veterans driving innovation include Dr. Gabriel Gonzales, whose military service inspired him to become a research biologist and find treatments and clinical applications to improve Veterans’ quality of life. There’s also Dr. Yani Levya, a Veteran researcher whose disability inspired her to encourage other Veterans to participate in research studies that can improve the level of care they receive at VA. Additionally, there is VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP), one of the world’s largest genetic and health databases, where more than 870,000 Veterans are partnering with VA Research to make groundbreaking discoveries in precision health care. These are just a few examples of how VA is engaging Veterans to identify and develop health care solutions that respond to the specific concerns and needs of Veterans.
Read more about these extraordinary partnerships and other stories showcasing Veterans’ unique and enduring contributions in DEAN’s 2021 Annual Report.