The VHA Innovators Network (iNET) was launched in 2015 to empower VA employees to design and implement their own innovative solutions to problems they experience firsthand.

The network fosters a culture of innovation throughout VA through an education in innovation-related principles. It is comprised of 33 VA facilities across the country. A highly trained innovation specialist hosts each facility’s local innovation program.

As VA medical center employees, backed with iNET training and resources, innovation specialists are well-positioned to understand on-the-ground challenges and innovation-related competencies, which aid frontline employees in developing creative solutions.

In 2019, iNET began recognizing the work of innovation specialists with the Innovation Specialist of the Year award. iNET co-directors nominated the three finalists and their peers voted on them.

Please join iNET and the VHA Innovation Ecosystem in congratulating this year’s Innovation Specialist of the Year finalists.

Julie Whitney

Julie Whitney

Whitney is the innovation specialist and a nurse at the North Florida/South Georgia VA Health System. She has molded her local program into an employee engagement machine, thanks to her understanding of human-centered design and employee empowerment. She has local leadership support in all her innovation-related activities.

Whitney is a powerful influencer at her facility. This enables her to connect with employees on many levels and recruit them into iNET programming. She is a frontline employee who understands and listens to the problems of her peers. This gives her powerful insight into how to support employees as they travel along their innovation journey.

Lindsay Riegler

Lindsay Riegler

Riegler is dually a research speech-language pathologist and an innovation specialist at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. She is a certified brain injury specialist with 13 years of expertise in delivering evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation. Riegler has demonstrated a keen ability to work with her local employee innovators.

She has led them to the true understanding of the iNET mission, designing solutions for Veterans and employees. Riegler has also become adept in spreading the message and the stories of employee innovators.

Frank Zitko

Frank Zitko

Zitko is an innovation specialist and an engineer at the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System. He has stepped-up as a leader in managing employee innovations with a tech or design edge. Zitko believes he is well positioned to dominate this space with his background and interests as an engineer. He helps the creative employee innovators and works with them as they go through their innovation development cycle and beyond – through the patent process. That experience is invaluable to his fellow innovation specialists and the network. He has also been an active participant in external maker events and represents both Cleveland and iNET publicly in that community.

See who will be crowned the 2020 Innovation Specialist of the Year Oct. 29 during the closing of the 2020 VHA Innovation Experience.

This story was submitted by VHA’s Office of Communications.

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Published on Oct. 8, 2020

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