On Aug. 4, HHS completed the first cycle of our new HHSinnovates awards program.  Secretary Sebelius announced the six winners of innovation awards in a ceremony at the Humphrey Building headquarters.  Teams of employees and others who worked on these winning innovations were present from many different agencies throughout the Department.  The ceremony can be viewed here (http://www.hhs.gov/open/innovate/index.html ).

Even more important is the purpose we’re serving. HHSinnovates was created and designed to support a “culture of innovation” in one of the federal government’s largest Departments.  As the Secretary said: “We launched the HHSinnovates awards program this year because we recognize that innovation is the lifeblood of continual improvement in our Department’s performance in serving Americans.”

There are a number of innovative aspects to the HHSinnovates program itself.  We held an open nomination process for innovation award candidates.  And we chose the six top winners through a vote by HHS employees, using our secure intranet site.  Then, out of those six, the Secretary made her pick of the top three.

HHSinnovates stems from the Secretary’s commitment to innovation and from the President’s push for more open government.  When we launched HHSinnovates, we expected to find that there is a lot of innovation already underway throughout HHS programs, and that is indeed what we discovered.  More than 100 qualified candidate innovates were nominated.  They included great new ideas of all kinds.

But even though innovation already has a firm foothold at HHS, we want to do even more to make every employee feel that he or she has a unique set of experiences and ideas that need to be shared.  Each of us can think of ways to do the job better, and everyone needs to know that we welcome those ideas.

I actually think we should celebrate not only the innovations that prove most successful, but even the new ideas that don’t quite work out, or that get changed before they finally succeed.  The truth about innovation is that there are always false starts – but we have to be open to new ideas and let improvement go forward in the best way possible.

Thanks to everyone who took part in this great initial cycle of HHSinnovates!  The next cycle starts October 15, so get your innovation candidates ready.

And congratulations to the winners of Cycle One:

The “Secretary’s Pick” awards:

  • National Collaboration on Childhood Obesity Research – To address a lack of adequate scientific evidence regarding causes and effective responses to the epidemic of childhood obesity, a public-private collaborative was formed to help steer research across institutions, enable more nimble and rapid research responses, and identify needs quickly.  Team:  Laura Kettel Kahn, CDC; Rachel Ballard-Barbash, NIH;  Tracy Orleans, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation;  Molly Kretsch, U.S. Department of Agriculture;  Terry T-K Huang, NIH;  Todd Phillips, Academy for Educational Development.
  • Text4Baby – Makes free information about pre-natal and post-natal care available to mothers via their mobile phones.  Information is timed individually to serve each woman personally, with information available in English and Spanish.  Team: Juliette Kendrick,CDC; Sabrina Matoff-Stepp, HRSA; Yvonne Green, CDC; Valerie Scardino, Office of Women’s Health, OPHS;  Judy Meehan, National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition;  Paul Meyer, Voxiva Inc.;  Paul Stange, CDC.
  • Purchasing Online Tracking System (POTS) – Electronic procurement process and requisition management system that enables NIH to request and track orders throughout the purchasing cycle, reducing errors and delays and reducing burden for staff.  Team:  Yang Fann, NIH;  Trissy Knox, NIH;  Gladys Wang, NIH;  Quynh Ly, NIH;  Robert Dean, NIH;  NINDS POTS Support Team, NIH.

And the other awardees selected through the employee vote:

  • CDC Lab Recycling Pilot Program – To avoid substantial dumping of plastic containers which had held biohazard materials into waste landfills, CDC laboratorians devised a process for cleaning the containers after use to be suitable for recycling.  Team:  Sandy Steiner, CDC; Sandy Martin, CDC; Kathy Slawson, CDC.
  • Personal Dust Monitor – The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), working with labor, industry and others, developed a personal monitor to measure a miner’s cumulative exposure to dust and enabling reduced disease.  Team:  John Volkwein, NIOSH; Bruce Watzman, National Mining Association;  Jeffrey Kohler, NIOSH;  Mike Nemergut, Thermo Scientific;  Joe Main, U.S. Department of Labor;  Dennis O’Dell, United Mine Workers;  Joe Lamonica, Bituminous Coal Operators Association.
  • CDC Course on Public Health and Aging – To increase understanding throughout CDC of the needs of the rapidly-growing older population of the U.S. and the potential roles of public health in serving older populations, a CDC-wide one-day introductory course was developed and is now made available to all CDC employees.  Team:  Letia Boseman, CDC; Jeffrey Hall, CDC;  Kristine Day, CDC;  Andree Harris, CDC;  Jason Lang, CDC;  Stacey Mattison, CDC.
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