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Program turns improvement ideas into cash

By Tony Perez | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Sept. 21, 2007

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — People have ideas all the time, and many of them go unrewarded. The IDEA program, a government run program, was designed to change all of that.

The Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program gives monetary rewards to military personnel and government employees for ideas that help the government by increasing productivity and efficiency of their work environment.

Recently, Lt. Col. Richard Lane and retired Master Sgt. Pamela Singleton took advantage of the program and were rewarded with $10,000 total for their idea, the highest amount that can be awarded by the program.

"People think of ideas all day long, and this is a way you can get paid for improving your own job. I don't see why everyone isn't doing it," said Lackland AFB IDEA program coordinator Donna Leeth.

Colonel Lane, a doctor for the 59th Medical Wing, and Sergeant Singleton, who worked with him until she retired, had been using Macugen to treat patients with age-related macular degeneration.

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in elderly people. Each year more than 2 million people lose vision because of this disease and more than 200,000 become blind. Macugen, the current drug used to treat this disease, costs the government $16,915 a patient.

Keeping up with the most current literature on AMD, Colonel Lane and Sergeant Singleton discovered that a new drug, Avastin, was being used to treat the disease. However, Avastin is not a drug that's commercially available.

Coordinating with the bone marrow transplant unit at Wilford Hall Medical Center, which produces Avastin in the laboratory, the duo arranged to share Avastin vials with the chemo-therapy clinic, which uses Avastin to treat patients recovering from cancer.

While Macugen costs nearly $995 a dose, Avastin only costs approximately $5 a dose.

With Wilford Hall treating roughly 30 AMD patients a month, the federal government will save an estimated $929,760 a year by switching from Macugen to Avastin.

Ideas submitted to the program do not have to be as elaborate as Colonel Lane's and Sergeant Singleton's medicinal substitute.

"One idea we had a while back was to put in a new sign to ask drivers to slow down on a street here on base," Mrs. Leeth said. "If you file the paperwork for it, and it gets approved, that's all you need to submit something as an idea."

Ideas such as these with no concrete data to support financial savings for the government can earn submitters $200.

There is a misconception that an employee needs a supervisor's approval in order to submit an idea. Anyone can submit an idea at anytime.

Mrs. Leeth is hoping to see the program grow. Last year, she had 42 ideas submitted, but in years past there have been more than 200 ideas submitted.

"I'll go to your office and sit with you and walk you through the process if that helps you out," Mrs. Leeth said. "I just want people to be recognized and rewarded for their ideas."

For more information, visit the IDEA program Web site at https://ipds.mont.disa.mil.