Fifteen Years of DOE SSL R&D Workshops

A few shots of Akoyans behind the scenes of a DOE Solid-State Lighting workshop.

Remember where you were in November 2003? A few of us at Akoya do, as that was when DOE’s Solid-State Lighting program held its very first R&D Workshop, in Crystal City, VA. Fast-forward to today, and we’re proud to say we’ve just returned from working our fifteenth R&D Workshop – every one of them under the leadership of account manager Karen Marchese.

What began as a small two-day gathering with a dozen speakers has grown into one of the lighting industry’s most venerable conferences and spawned other SSL workshops as well. This year’s R&D Workshop, in Nashville, spanned three full days, welcomed fifty speakers, and hosted a bustling poster session enhanced by an assortment of cutting-edge product demos and four talented winners of the third-annual student poster competition. And believe it or not, a few of those inaugural participants and speakers have made it a priority to return year after year, because they value the robust and candid exchange of information and ideas that happens at a DOE SSL workshop.

As the workshops have expanded, so has Akoya’s role in them. Multi-city site search? Sure. Tour organization? No problem. Speaker outreach? Notetaking? Video production? All in a day’s work. After over fifteen years working with the DOE SSL program, we’re proud of the integral role we play in these workshops, and the role they play in shaping the future of lighting.

Villarreal, Goldberg Join Akoya MHS Team

Laura Villarreal and Ari Goldberg

We’re glad to have recently welcomed two new Akoyans to our Military Health System team.

Laura Villarreal joined the Health.mil writing team at the Defense Health Agency in November. With more than a decade of health care communications experience across the public and private sectors, Laura crafts compelling stories for Military Health System beneficiaries about health, wellness and the latest innovations across the MHS.    

Laura is no stranger to the MHS: from 2009 to 2012, she served as a senior strategic communications consultant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. She has also worked as an account director for a communications contract at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and as a communications consultant for UnitedHealth Group. 

Ari Ben Goldberg joined the strategic communications team last month as a senior communications consultant, bringing more than 20 years of experience in speechwriting, op-eds, and media relations. Ari’s role involves applying all these skills to special projects that strengthen the Defense Health Agency’s communications and outreach efforts.

Ari’s previous work has included writing speeches and op-eds focused on health, world hunger, global poverty, and peace for high-profile individuals, including former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, the president of Radio Free Europe, and U2’s Bono. He has also served as a producer for BBC News and C-SPAN.

Tuning the Light in Senior Care

LED lighting can do far more than save energy. As a recent pilot by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) demonstrated (download report), tunable white lighting with LEDs can dramatically improve the wellbeing of dementia patients and the working conditions of caregivers. Akoya’s video team got the story from Connie Samla of SMUD, catching up with her at the Solid-State Lighting Program workshop held by the Department of Energy in Denver, Colorado.

The pilot installation in a hallway at the ACC Care Center in Sacramento showed that “tuning” the color temperature of the new LED lighting to match circadian rhythms improved sleep patterns and nighttime safety for residents, significantly reducing falls, use of psychotropic and sleep medications, and agitated behaviors. At the same time, tuning the lighting better equipped the staff with the levels of task lighting needed to provide excellent care.

The outcome of he study revealed the powerful potential of LED to improve healthcare and quality of life, as well as saving energy. The full video produced by Akoya, “Tuning the Light in Senior Care,” is available at the DOE website.

Honest John’s Is a New Pittsburgh Favorite

Akoya designed Honest John’s logo, which includes a playful nod to the restaurant’s Eighth Avenue location.

At Honest John’s, good food and a memorable dining experience come honestly—and Pittsburgh agrees. The casual dining spot, which opened in Homestead in November 2016, won public endorsements in both the Pittsburgh City Paper and The Pittsburgh Business Times this fall.

For three weeks over the summer, Pittsburgh City Paper readers had the chance to vote for their favorite restaurants in the ‘Burgh, and they selected Honest John’s as Pittsburgh’s Best New Restaurant and Best Contemporary American Restaurant.

City Paper staffers declared Honest John’s “an awesome place” that’s helped revive Homestead’s downtown scene. They praised the Eighth Avenue eatery’s candied-bacon BLTs, blackened tilapia fish tacos, and pimiento mac and cheese.

The Pittsburgh Business Times polled their readers too, asking for their favorite restaurants in the region. Of the 240+ restaurants mentioned in responses, Honest John’s was voted one of the top 50 restaurants, which were published alphabetically.

Having designed the restaurant’s website and logo, we’re glad that Pittsburghers are fans of Honest John’s. And perhaps no one is more thrilled than Akoya President Holly Wray, who is both mom and business partner to son John, Honest John’s owner and manager.  

Holly is a frequent visitor to the restaurant, and she loves bringing fellow Akoyans with her. During recent trips to visit our Pittsburgh office, Akoyans from Falls Church have all had the chance to savor this honestly good fare.

Akoyans from Falls Church and Pittsburgh break bread at Honest John’s.

“Marvelous” Reviews in Portland

Lighting expert Steve Paolini presents a light source spectrum demo in this colorful photo from this month’s U.S. Department of Energy Solid-State Lighting Technology R&D Workshop in Portland.

Enthralling! Energizing! Marvelous! These aren’t words most people associate with technical meetings. So imagine how gratifying it was to get reviews like this for the U.S. Department of Energy Solid-State Lighting program’s 12th annual Technology R&D Workshop in Portland, Oregon. During the second week of November, an intrepid team of Akoyans trekked to the Pacific Northwest to support the event, the culmination of six months of agenda crafting, tour planning, speaker coordination, and promotion. Akoya’s efforts were key to a smooth rollout for 25 speakers and 100+ attendees, setting the stage for a lively and engaging meeting of the minds on the latest lighting technology advances and trends.

Without missing a beat, we continue planning our client’s next event, the flagship SSL R&D Workshop, coming January 29–31, 2018. Stay tuned for more exciting SSL developments!

Once a Marine, Always a Marine

Wearing his Dress Blue-Whites, Neal Fisher awaits giving a speech at a Memorial Day celebration in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands during his final year in the Marine Corps.

Our Akoya Military Health System team wouldn’t be complete without veterans, whose unique perspectives on military life and operations are a crucial component of our success in working with the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Agency (DHA). This month, in recognition of Veterans Day, we will profile Akoyans who have served our country.

Neal Fisher joined our team in 2015 and writes and implements communications plans for DHA’s communications shop.

Neal’s military story started in 1992, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. He spent five years as a member of Company A, 863rd Engineer Battalion in Kankakee, Illinois, and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant before requesting an inter-service transfer to the active duty Marine Corps and Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. He was commissioned in April 1998 and was selected to serve as a Field Artillery Officer following his completion of The Basic School in October 1998.

In 2001, the Marine Corps offered Neal a tour of duty in Public Affairs. “I thought Public Affairs/Communications would be a relaxing tour of duty after three hard years in artillery,” he says. Then 9/11 happened.

“After receiving orders to the Pentagon, and then experiencing the terrorist attack on September 11 from just 25 miles away at the Defense Information School, my misguided impression of Public Affairs as an easy job changed very quickly,” Neal says. 

Neal returned to artillery after his time as a public affairs officer at the Pentagon and says that he was fortunate to experience “the challenge and honor” of commanding a field artillery battery, leading 155 Marines for 14 months.

But Neal’s interest in public affairs never waned. “Though I considered commanding Marines the highlight of my military career, the daily challenge of public affairs and communicating with the public on behalf of the Marine Corps was unmatched,” he says. “In 2007, I committed to Public Affairs full time, relinquishing Field Artillery as my primary specialty.”

In 2015, Neal left the Marines with the goal of becoming a civilian public affairs professional. Someone directed him to Akoya two weeks after he and his family moved to northern Virginia, where his wife Yvonne had accepted a new job.

Neal appreciates the challenge and reward of working in dynamic and highly visible communications environments. “I have always loved the adrenaline rush of responding to a crisis situation, or the challenge of developing a communication plan that immediately produces ‘something,’” he says.

Working for DHA has been an enriching opportunity for Neal. While his military experience informs how he communicates with the military community and TRICARE beneficiaries, he had never previously worked in military medicine. Joining the Washington, DC, chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives helped him gain a different perspective on healthcare management and administration, and he credits Yvonne, a healthcare administrator, with helping him understand the language and mindset of healthcare outside of the military. “This has been very valuable in working the accounts I’ve been assigned here in the DHA Communications Division,” he says.

Outside of the office, Neal is an avid motorcyclist. He and Yvonne both have their own Harley-Davidsons and they are members of the Harley Owners Group (HOG). They also rode with Ma’Gachong, a  motorcycle club for married couples, when they lived in Guam. Neal recommends riding along the southern stretch of Route 1 in Guam, between the villages of Agat and Talofofo, for its amazing views of mountains and the ocean.

Neal is the proud father of two teenage sons, three adult stepchildren, and two adopted daughters, ages 11 and 7, whom he and Yvonne fostered while stationed in Guam. And of course, Neal is “once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Neal and his wife Yvonne at Talofofo Falls Park in Guam

Akoya Wins MarCom Awards

We are pleased to announce that our work has earned recognition in the 2017 MarCom Awards, an annual creative competition for marketing and communications professionals.

Three of our projects were selected as MarCom Gold Winners: a fundraising report for The Midwife Center of Pittsburgh, a benefits awareness campaign for Puget Sound Military Health System, and the feature article “D-Day Through the Eyes of Combat Medic, 73 Years Later” for the Military Health System.

Additionally, our 2017 National Nurses Week campaign for the Military Health System earned an honorable mention.

MarCom is sponsored and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. A full list of winners can be found on their website.

Preparing Military Surgeons, Caring for Military Families

To keep their skills in top form, military surgeons need a sizeable and clinically complex caseload. That’s why “recapturing care”—encouraging TRICARE-eligible military personnel, families, and retirees within driving distance of a military treatment facility to seek care there first rather than at civilian medical facilities—is a strategic priority for the Defense Health Agency .

Akoya recently wrapped up our engagement supporting a successful recapture pilot program at the Puget Sound Military Health System (MHS). Our integrated marketing campaign emphasized the superb care the system provides to patients and its unique strengths in serving the military community. One of our challenges was creating a unifying brand for the consolidated Puget Sound MHS, which includes Army, Navy, and Air Force facilities that were traditionally operated independently. Another was supporting internal communications to convey the new business plan and processes that are driving high quality, effectiveness, and efficiency across the system.

The new brand, along with a suite of patient-centric marketing tools, has raised the profile of the system as a preferred provider for TRICARE beneficiaries. Many thanks to our project lead, Carrie Petershagen, who has accepted a permanent position at the Puget Sound MHS starting next month to continue the good work!

Akoya to Manage Logistics for 2018 DesignLights Consortium Annual Meeting

For the third consecutive year, the Boston-based DesignLights Consortium has chosen Akoya to manage logistics for its annual stakeholder meeting, scheduled for summer 2018 in DLC’s home city.

Akoya will work with the client to help select and negotiate contracts with venues and vendors, manage registration and the room block, supervise all logistics for the run of the event, and oversee post-event wrap up for this conference of 250+ lighting designers and manufacturer representatives.

Akoya’s Role With Defense Health Agency Expanded

Transforming one of the largest health care delivery systems in the world entails monumental communication challenges, even in a disciplined structure like the U.S. military. Leaders responsible for standing up the Defense Health Agency (DHA) in 2013 had just two years to reach full operational capacity, integrating the management of functions previously executed by the individual services. In 2014, Akoya was honored to be selected by DHA as prime contractor for strategic communications during this start-up period. We continue to support the agency by effectively engaging all the diverse constituencies vital to its mission success.

The Department of Defense recently expanded Akoya’s contract for DHA to include health communications support in the National Capital Region and to support the broad policy and operational issues within the Military Health System by driving more integrated communications across the enterprise. Under this expanded contract, we are thrilled to be working more closely with the Military Health System to communicate health policy and services to military members, family members, and retirees in the Washington, DC, and surrounding areas.

Kudos to our dedicated Akoya team in Falls Church, Virginia!

A Night on the North Shore for Cleaner Waterfronts

Illustration: Mark Bender/Riverlife

Akoyans are always happy to join the party–especially if it’s for a good cause. We love doing our part to make our hometown a better place, and we’re proud to support Riverlife in their mission to make Pittsburgh’s riverfronts cleaner, safer, and more fun for everyone.

As a corporate sponsor of this year’s royalty-themed War of the Rosés fundraiser, Akoya was represented nobly by partner Genna Cavanaugh and her husband Sean, who danced, braved the waves on an Allegheny River paddleboat, and enjoyed all things pink throughout the whimsical North Shore fête.