“Reflections” is a new column featuring thoughts and commentary by former HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Peck.

One of the fun things for an editor is when articles that he or she has selected for a particular issue fall inadvertently into a theme. That happened with this issue, with three articles that could have run under a common title, say, “Interior Design Meets Healthcare Design.” Specifically, “Seeing the Design Challenge from Three Sides” (p. 92), “To Each Its Own” (p. 58), and “Portrait of the Designer as a Cancer Patient” (p. 78) show interior designers approaching healthcare design from a variety of viewpoints, respectively: as part of a mixed career history encompassing healthcare and design; reflecting on close encounters with imaginative owners; and recounting a designer-as-patient experience.

In the first, Brenda Smith, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, Team Lead for Health Care Interiors for Perkins + Will (Atlanta), discusses her three-pronged career history as a nurse, a commercial interior designer, and a healthcare facility owner's representative; it has given her a uniquely rich perspective on the field (a field, ironically, that she initially rejected). If any healthcare interior designer can lay claim to “seeing things as others see them,” it has to be Brenda.

The author of the second piece, Jain Malkin, needs no introduction to the readers of HEALTHCARE DESIGN, who know her as a leader in the field and, possibly, as an Editorial Board member from Day One. In her piece on two projects, she discusses working with owners who supported the “something extra” she tries to bring to each project. The relationship she alludes to underscores the old architectural shibboleth: A project is no better than its sponsor.

The third piece, an interview, shows the lessons learned by the similarly prominent and well-known art and interior design consultant Diana Spellman, during her recent two-year stint as a breast cancer patient. Suddenly, she notes, she was experiencing healthcare environments not from the professional standpoint, but from the viewpoint of someone battling for her life and riding a “roller coaster of emotions.” A telling exchange in the interview: to the question, “Did you experience any good environments along the way?,” Diana responds, “Not really.” The central lesson she learned from all this: to recognize and plan for the multisensory experience undergone by patients.

It would be difficult to imagine a more all-encompassing picture of the role of the healthcare interior designer. We hope readers will come away with a reasonably full picture of the difficulties, rewards and potential of this critical team member. HD

Healthcare Design 2009 November;9(11):116