VHA Innovation Experience iEX Talks

Want to know how the VHA Innovation Experience 2021 breaks boundaries with Veteran-impacting innovation?

When host Eric Bruns opened up the 2021 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Innovation Experience (iEX) in front of a curved LCD wall at the National Press Club last week in Washington, D.C., one thing was clear: this wasn’t your usual VA event. As with the past three years, iEX not only showcased the boundary-breaking innovation that occurs at the VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE) every day but delivered an exciting and engaging event that allowed Veterans and the public to see how VA is leading the way in forging a healthier future for Veterans and the rest of the country.

The event kicked off with VA Secretary Denis McDonough discussing the impact that VHA IE has had over the past year, highlighting nine inspiring innovations that are already impacting the lives of Veterans across the country and fundamentally changing how health care is delivered.

“As we look to the future together, as we do that today and tomorrow, as we do that every day,” McDonough said. “We should, and must, do better for Vets. We must continue to be better for Vets. And that’s what VHA’s Innovation Ecosystem and this conference is all about.”

VHA Innovation Experience Shark TankHe was not the only high-profile attendee to deliver a keynote, however. On the second day, Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal spoke on how resilience is closely linked to innovation and creativity and the ways that resilient workforces, like VA’s, can drive the future of care. Dr. Ryan Vega, chief officer, Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning at VA, spoke candidly with Jennifer C. Goldsack, CEO, Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), on the role of a structured ecosystem in supporting and spreading innovation.

The real excitement started, however, when the innovators took the stage for the iEX Talks and iEX Demos. These two events give viewers the chance to discover not just the innovative work being done at VA, but the people and stories behind it. These events included an exciting look at how VA is building an Extended Reality network across VHA, a groundbreaking Smart White Cane, analytic tools for COVID-19, and an open and honest discussion on sexual health and fertility for paralyzed Veterans. The emotional and personal stories behind this work must be seen to be understood, so check them out the moment you have a chance.

There were winners at iEX as well. Both the VHA Shark Tank Competition and the VHA IE Awards Ceremony took place. The former delivered 10 new Promising Practices into the Diffusion of Excellence portfolio, including a mobile application that will help Veterans with cancer prevention and the Compassionate Contact Corps, which contacts Veterans weekly to help them feel more connected and supported. There are so many deserving innovators breaking boundaries in Veteran care, but below are this year’s big winners:

Under Secretary for Health’s Robert L. Jesse Award for Excellence in Innovation:

  • Clinical: Melissa Tran of Orlando VA Healthcare System for her work developing a multi-disciplinary medical team to provide services for perinatal and postnatal Veterans.
  • Non-Clinical: Angela Gant-Curtis of VA Office of Information Technology (OI&T) for her work standing up an innovation department within OI&T.
  • Team: 3D Innovation Center of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System; Nikki B. Beitenman, Bethany M. Baldwin, Jose M. Rodriguez III, David J. Gaitlin, and Dr. Kent Flanagan for their work designing 3D-printed medical devices like the Gio Stent.

VHA Innovators Network Awards

  • Innovation Specialist of the Year Award: Kathryn Beckner of Richmond VAMC for catapulting the Richmond VA Medical Centers iNET site forward in her first year as a Specialist.
  • Tanked Award: Debra Cole of Richmond VAMC for her determination in innovating for Veterans after applying three times for the iNET Spark-Seed-Spread program before being accepted this year.
  • Investee of the Year Award: Brian Higgins of VA Palo Alto Health Care System for embracing the experiential, iterative attitude that exemplifies iNET.

We encourage you to check out the fourth annual iEX event showcasing the groundbreaking technology and practices VHA innovators and our collaborators are building, scaling and delivering to reshape American health care. You can find all the videos on this Playlist.

By VAntage Point Contributor

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Published on Nov. 19, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.6 min.

Views to date: 525


  1. Mario Gonzales December 2, 2021 at 10:05 am

    I suggest that you add a
    non-employee suggestion area.

    Basically, I have wanted to be able to create a Federally run program for Veterans and all human beings. The reality of our oceans being polluted and the fish there containing mercury must be dealt with. The people need a National program that provides LOCAL fishing ponds to EVERY neighborhood. This program should have Veteran owned fish farms, logistic transporters and fishing pond/ picnic area managers. Everybody needs healthy fish, a connection to the earth and family gatherings.

    Take the business out and add Humanitarian in.

    VA Hospitals could provide their patients with THERAPEUTIC exercises that includes making bamboo fishing poles, gardening (for seed production), creating fertilizer from recycling and insect farming. They could also create fish farms, fishing ponds, gardens and picnic areas at VA Hospitals for patients and their families.

    Mankind was made from the earth. We are the earth!

  2. John Stone 2598 November 20, 2021 at 11:54 pm

    I was eviscerated on Feb 3 2021 at VAMC
    Charleston by VA and MUSC.. I filed claims
    for compensation and pension in may 2021
    and they are floating in the VA nether
    world 6 months. I’ve got 2300.00 in VA
    copays I need to attend to plus 2300.00
    owed to the IRS and mortgage. payments.
    Could the VHA get some of your new
    Innovative ideas to solve the claims
    BACKLOG.. thanks.10

  3. John Lawrence November 19, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    This sounds like a truly great event to help veterans. From my experience working in an attorney office, every one of the clients we served with a military background were the most remarkable individuals with amazing personal stories as well.

    So many veterans are enduring PTSD and recovering from injuries, Innovation programs like this looks like it has enormous potential to help our veterans who gave the most for this country.

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