VA Center for Innovation

About
About

Team Bios


Peter Almenoff

Senior Fellow

As Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Quality and Safety, Peter L. Almenoff, MD, FCCP, provides a strategic vision to support quality and safety in the VA health care system. He also directs and supervises the Quality and Safety Analytics Center, the Inpatient Evaluation Center, and the Office of Productivity, Efficiency, and Staffing, and is the National Program Director for Pulmonary and Critical Care.

Dr. Almenoff has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 25 years. He served as Network Director for the VA Heartland Network from 2004 to 2008. Previously, he was Chief of Specialty Care for the Network and the Kansas City Medical Center, as well as Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Network Director. He was national editor of the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines on COPD, Asthma, and Smoking Cessation, the VA smoking cessation and sleep-related disorder guidelines, and the National VA Intensive Care Unit Study.

Dr. Almenoff is an Associate Professor of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine at the University of Kansas. He has published extensively in the areas of pulmonary physiology (airway tone), biochemistry, granulomatous diseases, and outcomes research. Dr. Almenoff is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, a member of the American Thoracic Society, and a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Rick Avila

Entrepreneur in Residence

Rick Avila is an Entrepreneur in Residence at VACI and a Senior Advisor to VA CIO Stephen Warren on open source strategies. Mr. Avila is a leader in healthcare technology development with extensive experience developing and deploying advanced healthcare delivery solutions in both academic research and commercial settings. Throughout his career of over twenty years, he has contributed and supported a wide range of open science projects, including having:

Mr. Avila holds a MS Degree in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook, specializing in 3D biomedical imaging and visualization.

Steve Blank

Senior Advisor

Steve Blank serves as a strategic advisor to the VACI team to bring lean startup principles and innovation practices to bear on some of VA's toughest challenges. As a Veteran, Steve also advises VACI on opportunities to connect the startup community with meaningful issues for Veterans.

Mr. Blank is a Vietnam War Veteran, co-founder of E.Piphany, and prime mover behind the Lean Startup movement. He is the author of several influential books on entrepreneurship, and teaches on the subject at Stanford University. Mr. Blank's Lean LaunchPad class is part of the National Science Foundation's I-Corps curriculum and is offered online to over 75,000 students. He writes weekly for the Wall Street Journal Accelerators blog and occasionally for Forbes, the Huffington Post, and NikkeiBP in Japan.

Mr. Blank has been named a "Master of Innovation" by the Harvard Business Review, listed as one of the 10 Influencers in Silicon Valley by the San Jose Mercury News, and counted among the 30 Most Influential People in Tech by Forbes. He is a recipient of the Stanford University Undergraduate Teaching Award in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, and the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award at the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Charles R. Brown

Director, VHA Innovation Program

Charles R. Brown currently serves as the Director of the Innovation Program in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Informatics and Analytics.

Mr. Brown began his career with VHA in 1987 as a Biomedical Engineer. In 1989, he became the Chief Bio-Med Engineer at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and in 1991 assumed the role of Chief Information Systems. He also served as Chief Information Officer at both the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System and Atlanta VA Medical Center. Mr. Brown joined the Office of Health Information in 2002 serving VHA at the national level as the portfolio manager for Health Data Systems. In 2005, Mr. Brown transitioned to VISN 8 as the Network Chief Information Officer assuming leadership of the information management program for the seven major healthcare systems in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Mr. Brown holds a Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and has a Masters Certificate from the George Washington University in Project Management. In addition, he has attended leadership courses in Healthcare Re-engineering at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Jason Carley

VHA Supervisor for Program Management and Reporting

Jason Carley currently serves as the Supervisor for Program Management and Reporting within the VHA Innovation Program. In this role, he serves as the project manager for the annual VHA Employee Innovation Competitions, facilitates the VHA Innovation Selection Board, and supervises a team that provides fiscal, logistic, and reporting support to the portfolios of projects within the VHA Innovation Program.

Mr. Carley began his career working as lead developer for a small web based business for over 5 years. He began work for VA in 2006 as a contractor supporting the Chief Health Informatics Office. He became a federal Management Analyst for the Health and Medical Informatics Office in 2007. Mr. Carley has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Information Technology – Decision Support Systems and a Masters Certification from the George Washington University in Project Management.

Michael R. Cortright

VHA Grassroots Portfolio Manager

Michael R. Cortright currently serves as the Grassroots Portfolio Manager of the Innovation Program in the Veterans Health Administration Office of Health Information. The grassroots portfolio contains all of the VACI health innovations generated by VA employees.

Mr. Cortright began his career with the Veterans Health Administration in 2001 as the Chief Information Officer at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Mr. Cortright has over twenty years of Information Technology experience in the Insurance and Health Care Industry before coming to the VA.

Mr. Cortright served in the Marine Corps and Army Reserves and retired with 30 years service. A Veteran of the Gulf War he retired as a Command Sergeant Major. Mr. Cortright holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Computer Resource Management from the Webster University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). In addition, he is a graduate of the VA Network Executive HealthCare Leadership Institute (NEHCLI).

Adam Darkins

Senior Fellow

Adam Darkins, MD, MPHM, leads VA's National Care Coordination/Telehealth Program. Under his leadership, VA has developed the clinical, technology and business underpinnings to successfully implement and sustain enterprise-wide, telehealth-based services that improve access to care for patients, reduce utilization of health care resources and are associated with very high levels of patient satisfaction.

Dr. Darkins trained as a neurosurgeon in the UK and undertook research for his doctoral thesis at UCLA in Los Angeles. He established and directed an early telehealth program based at the King's Fund in London that had links with Dartmouth Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. As the Medical Director of Riverside Community Health Care, a provider of health care to 300,000 people in central London, he helped pioneer several major clinical developments involving new models of care including telehealth. Since August 1997 he has lived and worked permanently in the US.

Dr. Darkins has spoken widely on telehealth in the US, UK and continental Europe. He has published on telehealth topics including clinical risk management in telemedicine, developing a viable business case for telemedicine, contracting for telemedicine services and the physician/patient relationship in telemedicine. Dr. Darkins was a founding member of the Royal Society of Medicine's Telemedicine Forum and was an elected member of the Council of the Patient's Association in the UK.

Patrick Littlefield

Acting Director, VA Center for Innovation

As Acting Director of VACI, Patrick is responsible for designing and leading the program's implementation across VA.

Patrick is a seasoned Healthcare IT entrepreneur with over 20 years experience driving growth, building strong customer relationships, bringing products to market, and developing high performance teams. Patrick is the founder and former Chairman of WaveMark, Inc., a provider of real time application services to healthcare systems across the US and Europe and to global medical device manufacturers. Prior to WaveMark, Patrick worked in a variety of technology companies developing products for distributed sales forces and in the development of game based learning simulations.

Patrick is actively engaged in healthcare policy issues. He has a strong interest in new care delivery models and the use of technology to facilitate improved care coordination outside of the traditional venues of the hospital and physician's office. Patrick served as a member of the Massachusetts State Steering Committee for MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). Patrick received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1989.

Craig Newmark

"Nerd in Residence"

Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark is a self-described nerd, as well as a pioneer of the Web, speaker, philanthropist, and a strong advocate of the use of technology for the public good. He joins the Center for Innovation as a Nerd-in-Residence to work with us in pursuing creative ways to bolster a customer service culture and capability at VA.

In 1995 Mr. Newmark founded craigslist, which has become one of the world's most-visited websites with around 50 billion page views per month. In 2011 he founded craigconnects, his personal Web-based initiative to stand up for organizations "getting stuff done" in areas Craig is passionate about. These include Veterans and military families, open government, public diplomacy, back-to-basics journalism and fact-checking, consumer protection, and technology for the public good.

Matthew G. Robinson

Management Analyst

Matt Robinson coordinates project evaluation for VACI and works with VA's administrations to integrate mature innovations into regular operations. He also maintains VACI's presence on the web, helps to manage the Industry Innovation Competition review process, and oversees a portfolio of pilot projects through selection, project design, and contract award.

Before joining VA, Mr. Robinson worked to develop a Job Hunters' Program for the Helping Hand of Goodwill Industries in Kansas City as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA). He graduated with honor from the Michigan State University Honors College (B.A., Political Science) and earned his Master of Public Policy from the George Washington University's Trachtenberg School.

Mollie Ruskin

Presidential Innovation Fellow

Mollie is a cross-sector designer, currently serving as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In her capacity with VACI, she leads efforts to bring human-centered solutions to VA's online and off-line Veteran-facing services. To this focus, Mollie brings a background in visual design, user experience, service design, grassroots organizing, and communications.

Mollie's career began in the nonprofit sector, where after serving as a National PolitiCorps Fellow with the Bus Project, she orchestrated voter registration and GOTV efforts, organized young people around federal climate policy, and executed successful statewide communications efforts for public health campaigns. She served as the aide to a state representative, managing broad coalitions of diverse policy advocates and legislators around issues of human trafficking, energy efficiency, and consumer protection. Mollie was a participant in the SVA Impact! Design for Social Change residency and has designed print and web materials for countless campaigns, nonprofits, and businesses.

Before joining VACI, Mollie led creative projects at Reboot, a service design and innovation firm focused on governance and development in the US and abroad. She holds a B.A. in Media Studies from Pomona College.

Amber Schleuning

Deputy Director

Amber Schleuning serves as the VACI Deputy Director. She designs and builds a portfolio of public and private partners focused on doing and implementing change. VA is committed to partnering with creative, innovative, and disruptive organizations to ensure the most meaningful and effective services are available for our Veterans. These partnerships are living relationships, ever evolving to directly support VA objectives (e.g., eliminating homelessness, resolving the claims backlog, and improving mental health services) and to ensure sustainable innovation at VA. She also leads strategy design and development in order to identify opportunities for future innovation.

Amber is a third generation Veteran. As an Army Engineer stationed in Germany, she proudly led soldiers through multiple combat tours of duty to Iraq, defining, designing, and conducting counter-IED operations. After five years of service, she left active duty in 2007 and began her own transition to civilian life.

Prior to joining VACI, Amber researched post-conflict mental health at Emory University. She volunteers with many grassroots Veteran support organizations and is committed to enabling progressive and healthy transitions. Amber is a COMMIT Foundation fellow. Previously, she supported the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict / Irregular Warfare Support Program, redesigning how big data is operationalized and shared. Amber holds a B.S. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an M.P.H. from Emory University, and has studied with Georgetown University's Security Studies Program.

Douglas Trauner

Entrepreneur in Residence

Douglas Trauner is a leader in the field of mHealth having co-chaired the FCC mHealth task force. He founded Health Analytic Services, Inc. in 2007 and launched the outpatient care-coordination platform of TheCarrot.com in 2008. TheCarrot.com is an award-winning, mobile and online service that helps healthcare providers coordinate discharge planning, chronic care services and patient self-management. Its clinically validated platform offers solutions for reducing readmissions, managing post-discharge care and enhancing wellness.

Mr. Trauner is a frequent speaker on the subject of patient engagement and privacy. He previously co-founded PM Squared, Inc., a health care information company providing financial and actuarial services, which was acquired by United Healthcare. Mr. Trauner has an engineering degree from the University of California at San Diego.

About