VA innovators gather at McGuire - Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center - Richmond, VA
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Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center - Richmond, VA


VA innovators gather at McGuire


Suzanne Shirley, Innovation Specialist at McGuire, speaks to a group of VA innovators in Richmond.

By Patrick Gordon, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, March 5, 2018

Innovation specialists from around the country gathered at the McGuire VA Medical Center in January to share ideas about how to improve quality of life for Veterans. The quarterly meeting brought together over 60 VA innovation specialists from 33 VA Medical Centers to deep dive into skills around human centered design, developing a business model, marketing and how to develop and track innovation through metrics.

Melissa Oliver, an innovation specialist at McGuire, hosted the event, which ran from Jan. 23-25. Featured speakers included Jeff Gallagher, CEO of Virginia Bio, and David Chen, from the University of Virginia’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Scott Bryant is a National Innovation Specialist at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center in Ohio. His facility has created significant value for both the medical center and the Veteran by using 3D printing to create under-the-counter jar openers for Veterans.

The facility used to purchase the devices for $80 each. 3-D printing reduced the cost to about $2. This project has saved the facility more than $20,000 per year. In addition to saving money, this “print in-house” concept often means the Veteran gets the item they need in a fraction of the time. The Innovators Network focuses on the Veteran experience, so getting them the items they need as quickly as possible is a priority.

Bryant said the VA Innovators Network has helped spur the spread of 3-D printing to VA facilities.

“Innovator Specialists work to teach others about tools available and give employees a clear pathway to spreading ideas across VA,” said Bryant.

In the past, VA innovation has resulted in significant medical technology breakthroughs. Among others, VA has been involved in the creation of the artificial pancreas, nicotine patch, first electronic health record, and cardiac pacemaker.

“VA has always been innovative,” Bryant said. “We’ve always been leaders.”

In the future, Bryant said he expects to see more projects help Veterans gain needed employment and job skills, as well as a rise in projects dealing with dementia and suicide prevention efforts.

Attendees toured the Richmond VAMC Assistive Technology Design Lab, which features individualized rapid prototyping through electronics and 3D printing. The conference helps VA employees share ideas about how to integrate innovation into the culture of their local medical centers.

Oliver, the Assistive Technology Program Coordinator at McGuire, said the event gave her fresh perspectives and new ideas.

“Human Centered Design training with David Chen always challenges me to look at things differently when facing a problem,” Oliver said. “It was great to exchange innovative ideas and share what our VA employees are developing through innovation.”


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