Innovation Winners Celebrated Following HHS Employee Vote

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Story Photo: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the six winners of innovation awards in the first cycle of the HHSinnovates program. The program is aimed at supporting a “culture of innovation” in one of the federal government’s largest Departments.

“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,” the Secretary said. “I am proud of all the candidate innovations that were nominated in this first cycle, and I thank all the employees who took part in reviewing and voting for the winners. I look forward to making HHSinnovates a permanent feature of the HHS landscape.”

In response to an open request for innovation candidates last spring, a total of 126 innovations from all HHS operating divisions were submitted. HHS employees were invited to vote for best innovations, and employees cast nearly 10,000 votes, using the secure HHSinnovates intranet site. Candidates were judged on both innovativeness and potential for application elsewhere in HHS and government.
The winners announced today are the top six selected through the employees’ votes. From these six, the Secretary made her pick of the top three.

The “Secretary’s Pick” awards go to:


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.

The other awardees selected through the employee vote are:


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.

“The President has consistently challenged our front-line workers to help deliver a government that works, and thanks to the HHSinnovates program, we have a novel, open process to reward those who are doing just that,” said Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “I commend HHS and Secretary Sebelius for setting a great example, as this Administration continues to work toward new heights of openness and creativity.”

All six winning teams participated in a briefing on their projects with Secretary Sebelius, HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr and HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. An awards ceremony can be seen at HHS also unveiled its Innovation Gallery at the same site to provide an archive of key elements of each innovation story.

Congratulations to the winners were also offered by Craig Newmark, founder of CraigsList, pioneer of social networking web tools and a supporter of HHSinnovates. “When government truly sets free the innovative spirit of its employees and all the stakeholders who work with them, our Nation will take huge new leaps that will benefit all of us,” Newmark said.

The second season of HHSinnovates will commence with a call for nominations beginning in mid-October.

Note: Abbreviations of HHS operating divisions:

CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
HRSA --Health Resources and Services Administration
NIH – National Institutes of Health

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Humn Services Release News

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