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VA Center for Innovation


About VACI

Since 2010, VACI has worked to identify, test, and evaluate new approaches to the agency's most pressing challenges. Balancing the practical with the aspirational, VACI ensures a steady flow of high value innovations from concept to implementation, within the largest civilian cabinet agency.

VACI believes in innovation that provides a tangible value to Veterans and/or VA—not innovation for its own sake. The work of VACI is driven by a strong commitment to a Veteran-centered approach to service delivery, and dedication to data-driven decision making, design thinking, and agile development.

From empowering patients with access to their own electronic health records, to providing clinicians with time-saving and life-saving mobile technology, our innovations are measured by their ability to improve the quality of VA care and services, increase access to those services, reduce or control costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

The VA Center for Innovation is a team of innovators and doers who are constantly looking for opportunities to improve VA's products, services, and processes.

Patrick Littlefield

Director, VA Center for Innovation

As 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 PhD from Harvard University in 1989.

Andrea Ippolito

Innovators Network Lead

[bio coming soon!]              

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.

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

Michael 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. Michael holds a Master 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).

Jarah Meador

Portfolio Lead: Innovation Sourcing

Jarah serves as VACI’s Sourcing Lead where she leads efforts to improve and broaden both internal and external innovation sourcing practices and strategy.

Prior to joining VA, she was an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at USAID working on prizes and challenges as part of the innovation design team in the US Global Development Lab.

Jarah is a broadly trained scientist who has worked in government, academia, and the private sector.

Jarah’s Ph.D. is in Environmental and Molecular Carcinogenesis from the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center, and her research career at NASA and Columbia University elucidated causal relationships between radiation exposure and cancer.

At USAID Jarah led the Desal Prize – a $1M project aimed at creating small-scale brackish water desalination technologies for the rural farm environment.

Jarah served in the Air Force Reserves for 8 years as an aeromedical evacuation technician at the 433rd Airlift Wing, Lackland Air Force Base.

Drew Myklegard

Portfolio Lead: Project Transition and VA Integration

Drew Myklegard supports transitioning projects for VACI. He works with the Veterans Health and Benefits Administrations, as well as the Office of Information Technology, to gain adoption of VACI projects across the greater VA. Before joining VACI, Drew supported former VA Chief Technology Officer Peter Levin on a number of projects including the Open Source Tiger Team, Blue Button, and Project REACH Mobile App Challenge.

Drew began his career at a medical start-up focused on implementing emergency response programs and government agencies, non-profits, and large retailers. He joined the military in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a couple of years later. He holds a BS in Chemistry from the College of Idaho.

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 Craig 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.

Jonathan Robinson

Entrepreneur In Residence

Jon Robinson serves as entrepreneur-in-residence in the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, focusing on optimizing veterans’ military-to-civilian transition.

Prior to joining VACI, Robinson was a senior program officer in Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he developed and led strategies to improve conditions for entrepreneurial success in cities around the country. He also managed the Foundation's work on expeditionary economics, a research agenda examining the role of entrepreneurship in economic growth in post-conflict areas.

Robinson served for eight years active duty and as a drilling reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps infantry, including as a weapons company section leader in Iraq and Mozambique. Robinson worked as a reporter for The New York Times, the Financial Times, and as an editorial assistant at the International Herald Tribune. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Emory University with a concentration in law and international relations.

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 BS from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an MPH from Emory University, and has studied with Georgetown University's Security Studies Program.