One of the features in this month's issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN is “The 25 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design.” Introduced several years ago, this feature highlights the work of professionals who are helping to shape our field. The list of nominated individuals is as varied and diverse as our industry, from young researchers who have made significant contributions early in their careers to seasoned professionals who have been working for decades to improve outcomes and the quality of the built environment of healthcare.

Why is this list important? First of all, while the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editorial Advisory Board and publishing team ultimately select the individuals who make the list, participants are nominated by their peers. Every one of us had the opportunity to nominate someone. Granted, some people make the list every year-and with good reason. But there are always new people whose work deserves to be recognized, and so many more who help to move our industry forward but who may never get recognized in any formal way.

This list inspired me to think about the people who have been the most influential in my life. We all have people in our lives who have helped guide us along our paths. Some may have been there during pivotal moments and pointed us in specific directions. Others may have been more consistent forces over longer periods of time, helping to shape and mold the people we have become-like wind and water on ocean cliffs, soft touches with significant impact. Either way, we are both who we are because of them, as well as where we are thanks to the help from them.

In the same way that the editors of this magazine recognize the contributions made to the healthcare design industry by those on the “most influential” list, I decided to take a few minutes and make a list of the top 25 people who have significantly affected my life and career. It took me about an hour, but once I was through, the list was overwhelming. It filled me with such a sense of happiness and gratitude for all of the people who took the time and effort to care, to guide, and to teach. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You'll be amazed by the sheer number of people-from teachers and parents to colleagues, friends, and sometimes even people we barely even knew who took the time to show up and say “yes” when they could have so easily said “no” or decided they were too busy.

From there, I started to think about whose list I might show up on today. Who had I taken the time to mentor or lent a helping hand? Whose life had I unknowingly impacted by granting an informational interview to a student or by answering the questions of someone looking to change careers? Seeing that list of names as a whole and realizing the collective impact of the group made me start to question how I could continue to pay these generosities forward and give back in the same way that so many gave so unselfishly to me.

So, take an hour and make a list of the most influential people in your life. There is no magic in the number 25-it can be more than or fewer than that. The key is to take the time to think about it and remember those who influenced you. After you get it down on paper, spend some time over the next few weeks letting them know the impact they have had on your life. Pick up the phone or drop them a note; one day they may not be there to thank. And, if you know someone who should be nominated for HEALTHCARE DESIGN's list, remember to nominate him or her next year when you get the e-mail.

I've always believed in the power of a single person to change the world. Working through this exercise made it crystal clear to me how change can start by changing the world for one single person.

Carpe diem.

The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California. For more information, visit Healthcare Design 2010 December;10(12):8