In January, Debra Levin and I keynoted the opening of the Facilities and Design segment of the Arab Health Congress in Dubai, UAE. It was the first time either one of us had traveled to the Middle East and we were not sure how we would be accepted, along with our enthusiasm for an evidence-based approach to designing healthcare facilities. What we found was amazing interest in all that we do at The Center for Health Design, and an insatiable urge to build the best medical facilities in all the developing communities represented at the conference.

This interest in modernity was no surprise once we arrived at this far-away location, where tropical beaches front desert sands, western dress and behavior commingle with Middle Eastern traditions, and ancient customs and traditional color palettes are housed in ultra-contemporary structures—where, indeed, work and play are a blur. We were struck by the contrasts, yet at every level this Emirate understood all that the word “service” implies in administering to its varied international guests. These countries are building an amazing infrastructure, but also a complimentary culture.

We experienced an international melting pot of young eager service providers understanding that tourism is their livelihood. January is their peak season, with lovely weather of 80° F. We arrived amid their famous Shopping Festival, Golf Dubai, and the playoffs for the Arab Soccer Cup (which our UAE home team won!) For those of us in town for business, the Arab Health Congress was the week's attraction, with 5,000 strong from all over the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Americans and Europeans were well represented in products and services. Needless to say the city was abuzz.


The Emirate's development is the 40-year manifestation of a vision that allowed a sandlot to give birth to a new modern city. Islands are being created to capture the beauty of the Persian Gulf and, miles outside the city, great progress is being made to develop entertainment/shopping/living districts. This development contrasts with the more ancient methods of trading on the docks from the dhows or running the subcontracted camel farms in the desert.

Once it's on your radar screen, you find that Dubai is in the news almost every day. A week before we left, a multipage insert in The New York Times touted all of the incredible land development going on preparing for business opportunities and vacation possibilities. This did not sound like the Middle East I was expecting to encounter. As we landed, though, all I could see were construction cranes for as far as the eye could see working 24/7. This level of growth certainly needs a medical infrastructure to support it, hence the Congress.

In our keynote talk, we spoke before an interesting mix of planners and clinicians. What we learned later was that, although many were planning for large Medical Cities, there were a fair number in the audience involved in private development for medical tourism. Of the speakers who followed us, a number of American, British, and German firms and companies were represented. The messages were quite individual, and I hope for the sake of smart building that those seeking advice will sort out the mixed messaging and heed our advice to approach new building using an evidence-based approach. No doubt the Dubians have done so successfully with the hospitality industry—what a wonderful opportunity to use the model we all so believe in for new medical facilities.

My takeaway thought from this experience is that the knowledge we share at The Center for Health Design on how to build better healthcare buildings will in time have a major impact on healthcare building all over the world. Debra and I were pleasantly surprised at our reception but should not have been, because it is the work that you all do, steeped in evidence, that contributes to a viable, ever-growing body of knowledge that makes perfect sense in any language. HD

Rosalyn Cama, FASID, is Board Chair, The Center for Health Design, and President of CAMA, Inc., in New Haven, Connecticut. The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California.