VHA Innovators Network AwardThree finalists for the Innovators Network Award show how employees are driving innovation at VA.

The VHA Innovators Network (iNET) was launched in 2015 to empower VA employees to design and implement their own innovative solutions to the problems they experience on the frontlines providing of Veteran care. At the core of this effort are iNET’s Innovation Specialists. Across iNET’s 34 VA facilities across the country, Innovation Specialists lead an innovation revolution focused on nurturing an organizational capacity for innovation throughout VA. This is achieved through an education in innovation-related principles and enabling opportunities for frontline employees to translate their solutions into Veteran-impacting programs and products.

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 that aid frontline employees in developing creative solutions. Their leadership is critical to making VA one of the most innovative health care systems in the world. That’s why, in 2019, iNET began recognizing the work of Innovation Specialists with the Innovation Specialist of the Year award.

This year, iNET co-directors nominated three finalists, whose peers will vote to be named the Innovation Specialist of the Year. Discover how this year’s three finalists are breaking boundaries to forge a healthier future for all Veterans.

Kalyn Essex

Kalyn Essex is the VA Palo Alto Health Care System Innovation Specialist. Essex rocketed the Palo Alto program to new heights this year with her perseverance and networking. She built local and external community relationships that have enabled her to strengthen the program dramatically. She also stepped up to serve as a leader within iNET and mentors her fellow Innovation Specialists so they can reach their best potential. In addition, Essex assisted with larger-scope VHA Innovation Ecosystem communications efforts and stepped in to represent iNET on critical platforms, like at the VA Patient Experience Symposium. Her creativity and positivity also contribute towards keeping iNET’s energy alive and healthy.

Kathryn Beckner

Kathryn Beckner is the Innovation Specialist at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System in Richmond, VA. Beckner not only dove in headfirst into the role after it had been vacant for some time, but catapulted the Richmond program into action. She is deeply connected to employees at the site and engaged in building a culture of empowerment and inclusivity. Beckner was a critical component in the success of launching the Greenhouse Initiative and exploring new business models for co-designed collaborations. She has also represented iNET nationally; served as a panelist at the VHA Innovation Experience (iEX) Virtual Series event, Breaking Boundaries Collaboration Challenge; and will moderate a session of the 2021/2022 Incubator series.

Matt Knight

Matt Knight is the Innovation Specialist at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital (EHVAH), outside of Chicago. This year, Knight sprung into action and brought innovation back to the forefront of local leadership’s strategic planning. He was so successful he was given additional responsibilities to grow a new innovation-led service line at EHVAH. He is a thoughtful team player and contributor – someone other Specialists can lean on and ask for support. Knight stepped-up as the lead of one of the first Greenhouse Initiative projects and continues to be open-minded and willing to explore external collaborations. He has served as the face of VHA innovation with Chicago-based companies and academic institutions – not just representing Hines, but truly representing innovation at VA.

See who will be named the 2021 Innovation Specialist of the Year on Oct. 28 during the closing of the iEX Marquee Event.  Register below, and you’ll not only be signed up for all the 2021 iEX Virtual Series programs, but you will also gain access to the iEX virtual event platform, where you can begin connecting with Veterans, innovation leaders and more!

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