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Veterans Affairs Secretary Delivers Remarks at Innovation Event

August 9, 2017 – ABC’s “Shark Tank” happens to be the favorite television program of the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The contestants who win, Dr. David Shulkin said, are usually the ones who pinpoint a real problem and offer a solution.

“You can innovate and really not get traction with your innovation if it’s not solving a problem,” Shulkin noted.


Shulkin spoke about health care innovation on Georgetown’s campus yesterday to more than 400 people gathered on campus for the department's second annual health-care and technology Innovation Demo Day.

The Strategic Innovations Group at the School of Nursing & Health Studies collaborated with the VA to co-host the event, which is sponsored by the federal department’s Center for Innovation, Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, and Innovators Network.

“VA Innovation Demo Day gives frontline staff the opportunity to share highlights, progress, and lessons learned about the innovative projects they spent the last several months designing, piloting, testing, and implementing, to improve the Veteran experience,” according to event literature. “These staff represent the driving force behind VA’s unique innovation and best practice programs.”

According to a VA press release, presentations at the event included a "Self-Leveling Walker" designed to help veterans with orthopedic injuries or movement difficulties  safely negotiate stairs and inclines; a 3-D-Printed Upper Extremity Orthotics project; and an Opioid Buyback Program that offers financial reimbursement to veterans who return unused medication to a VA pharmacy for proper disposal.


“One of the things that I’d really like to see us do in our Innovation Network and for all of you who are working on things is to make sure that you’re solving one of the problems that our veterans are experiencing – one of the problems that we as VA are experiencing,” Shulkin told the attendees.

Shulkin outlined a five-part strategy to help improve the VA and asked the innovators in the audience to see how their ideas might advance that plan.

The five areas, he said, are “choice” – giving veterans the chance to choose their place of care and make the VA system attractive as one of those choices; bettering wait times and efficiency of other services like disability claims; making facilities, information technology, and management practices more current; directing resources to issues that are most crucial for veterans; and addressing the “absolutely unacceptable” problem of suicide among veterans.


Shulkin encouraged the attendees to share what they have discovered.

“VA has a great tradition of developing and disseminating innovation,” he said. “All of you know so many of the things that we rely upon every day and our families rely upon came out of the VA system. So you are following in the footsteps of lots of great innovators in VA.”

The speech by Shulkin may be viewed on YouTube.