Did you know that up to 20% of Veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are living with PTSD in a given year? These invisible wounds of war are very complex and we need to meet the Veterans where they are in order to connect them to the care they need. VA is partnering with the private sector, non-profits and those who have served to propel brain health solutions for Veterans.
Last month, Veterans, caregivers, clinicians, data scientists, design thinkers and engineers gathered over the course of a weekend for the #VABrainTrust Hackathon. Here, diverse teams worked together to create brain health innovations for Veterans experiencing mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MyVA Strategic Partnerships, VA Center for Innovation (VACI) and Booz Allen Hamilton hosted the hackathon at two of Booz Allen’s Innovation Hub locations—Galvanize in San Francisco and Capital Factory in Austin.
The Austin event was kicked off by Jarah Meador, lead of innovation sourcing at the VA Center for Innovation; Capital Factory mentor and health tech leader Wendy Smith; Dr. Rebecca Tapia and Dr. Robert Beck from the VA’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center; and Mike Rials and KeeShaun Coffey from the University of Texas Dallas’ High Performance Brain Training Team for Warriors. The San Francisco event was kicked off with opening remarks from Mark Gorenflo, director of operations for Defense Innovation Unit Experimental; Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist; James Reid, medical implementation lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects and 25-year Army Veteran; and Andrea Ippolito, Innovators Network lead at the VA Center for Innovation.
At Capital Factory and Galvanize, 20 projects were created over the course of the weekend. Booz Allen’s data curation platform, Sailfish, provided participants with datasets categorized by the hackathon themes. Project ideas included: using Twitter bots for suicide prevention and intervention, creating online communities for Servicemembers to find jobs and re-integrate into society, developing platforms for clinicians to provide qualified Veteran medical referrals, and using wearable devices to monitor and improve sleep patterns and attentiveness.
Judges, mentors and data sets for the event included representatives from VACI, 18F, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Google, Map Box, PARC, Silicon Valley Bank, The University of Texas at Dallas Center for Brain Health, UC Berkeley School of Information, Vets in Tech, Bayes Impact, Bunker Labs, VA’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center and Booz Allen Hamilton.
#VABrainTrust hackathon winning teams—Home, Gray Matter, Awesome Sauce, Air, WhereWeAre, and HER20—will showcase their innovations at the 2016 Brain Trust Innovation Showcase in Washington, D.C., where leaders from industry and VA, including Secretary Bob McDonald and Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin will attend.
About the author: Brian MacCarthy is a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading management and technology consulting firm. At Booz Allen, MacCarthy leads diverse teams to create solutions that combine leading-edge technology and healthcare to help clients, like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services. Brian also leads Booz Allen’s San Francisco Innovation Hub. Booz Allen is invested in serving Veterans, with Veterans making up one-third of their employee population. Connect with Brian on LinkedIn.