Marvina Williams grew up in a household with four sisters and a mother who always wanted to be a nurse. “But with WWII, the economy, and having five daughters, she wasn’t able to achieve that goal,” says Williams.

Still, her dream made an impression on her children, all of whom found careers in healthcare, including Williams who is a registered nurse and has served in several different clinical environments, including as director of a trauma center.

More than a decade ago, she joined Perkins+Will’s Atlanta office, where she’s a senior medical planner and Lean clinical operations specialist working on such recent projects as Intermountain Healthcare System’s Alta View Hospital campus, The University of Virginia Health System, and the CARTI Cancer Center.

She says her diverse experience on the clinical floor—from treating new patients to negotiating bed priority with other departments—helps her serve as a bridge between the architectural team and the clinical side.

“My experience allows me to relate to the client because I’ve worked in their world,” she says. “I’ve been a staff member and I’ve been in an administrative role dealing with staffing, budgets, and regulations. Both have given me the ability to have a bigger vision.”

On her move from clinician to medical planner

“I started being asked to review plans and give input on projects and found real enjoyment in looking at new ideas and ways to be more efficient. Another reason [for making the change] is that my husband and I adopted a child late in life and I was missing out on a lot of family time while I was working as the director of a very busy trauma center. I don’t think people realize that healthcare is 24/7, especially if you’re in administration. Though I still travel in my role at Perkins+Will, I’ve been able to find a better life balance. I also still work clinically a few days a month, but it’s a more controlled schedule.”

On industry trends

Thumbs up: “More facilities embracing Lean concepts and methodologies and departments coming out of their silos to work together as a team.”

Thumbs down: “Semi-private rooms and wards. I realize this isn’t always feasible due to budget restraints, but if you’ve ever been a patient, it’s a humbling experience [to share a room]. The patient is at their most vulnerable state and providing them with dignity, privacy, and some control of their environment is important in the healing process.”

Dream healthcare makeover project

“Behavioral health room in the emergency department (ED). Many of these patients are in the ED for several days due to issues within our healthcare system and aren’t even aware if it’s day or night. Locating these rooms on an outside wall with high windows could bring in natural light. Our firm has an Innovation Incubator project that’s looking specifically at the design of a behavioral health room and I’m consulting on their design ideas.”

Biggest pet peeve on a project

“People who don’t want to have an open mind for new ideas. In Lean, we’re always looking at ways to continuously improve and we need to be open to change.”

Three words would my coworkers would use to describe me

1 hard-worker

2 detail-oriented

3 kind

Outside the office, you’ll likely find me …

“Spending time with my family: my husband, our daughter, and our four-legged son, Chip, an adorable Cocker Spaniel. My daughter cheers at the University of South Carolina so we spend a lot of time in the fall watching SEC football games.”

Favorite architect

Renzo Piano

Favorite quote

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”—Eleanor Roosevelt
Favorite …

Vacation spot: “Sandestin Beach in Destin, Fla.”

TV character: “Julie Bowen from ‘Modern Family.’ She provides an excellent portrayal of what it’s like to be a ‘type A’ working woman with a family. She’s hilarious and so much of it hits home!”

Snack: “Peanuts with a big glass of northern ice tea.”

Way to unwind after a long day: “Walking with my dog, Chip.  Animals are so therapeutic and can take your mind off of everything.”

Weekend activity: “I was a runner for years, but I now walk to save my knees. I enjoy being outdoors and being on the lake.  I’m also with hospice patients on some of my weekends.”

Anne DiNardo is senior editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at