Melinda Lin has spent her 17-year-career learning the ins and outs of medical and equipment planning from both sides of the industry, working for a number of architecture firms as well as healthcare organizations, including Kaiser Permanente and Stanford Health Care.

Less than a year ago, she went back to her firm roots, joining DGA’s San Francisco office. Lin calls medical planners “future forward thinkers by nature,” and says the most important skills for the job are being an active listener, taking the time to ask the right questions, and walking a user’s space to “live in their shoes.” “We see things differently, speak a different verbal language … we have to keep drilling down to get the answers we need for a successful design.”

It’s a lesson she learned early on during her first healthcare project: A 110,000-square-foot medical office building for a developer that had never done a medical office core and shell. “Don’t assume anything,” she says. “Provide information on medical planning and construction to those who are not familiar with the work, because you don’t know what you don’t know.”

What drew me to a career in medical planning:

“The opportunity to speak with front-line users and truly understand the journeys of caregivers and their patients and support staff. As a planner you’re constantly learning new things—technology, procedures, equipment. We don’t live in stagnant times, we have to keep learning, adapting, and being innovative in our thought process.”

Challenges that keep me up at night:

“Patient privacy. We want to have all our medical information at our fingertips, and yet we don’t have secure servers in our homes or we use mobile devices, which can be hacked, to access the information. We want wearable devices and tele/home medicine to monitor metrics and personal data, but we don’t know how to take this information from all organizations and make it applicable big data to help researchers create analytics and cure illnesses. Also, we hear so much about the cost of healthcare and the financial models and viability of major providers. There’s a lot of pressure to cut cost, but I worry that this happens at the expense of patient care and staff retention.”

Biggest pet peeve on a project:

“Not observing in real-time with a client or user to know their space and daily interactions with others.”

Three words my coworkers would use to describe me:

Passionate, inventive, reliable.

Three items on my desk:

1: a rock from Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska

2: driftwood from Little Moose Lake, Wyo.

3: smiling ceramic face (It was supposed to be a gift for my sister and well, she never got it…)


Outside the office, you’ll likely find me:

“Working on a modern quilt, testing out a new modern quilt pattern, or in the kitchen making a lavish meal for family and friends. My husband, John, and I tag team well together and our latest go-to meal is potato gnocchi with meat ragu. We try to have family dinner with our closest friends once a month and they’re all told if they don’t come and help make the gnocchi, they won’t be eating!”

Favorite …

Vacation spot: “Anywhere that requires a passport and is a minimum of three time zones away.”

Unusual objects in my house: “I have sand/dirt/rocks/nature things from all over the world in small apothecary-like jars from my own travels and from family and friends: pebbles with sea glass from the Amalfi Coast in Italy, salt from the Dead Sea, beautiful garden snail shells from Versailles in France, granite from Beartooth Pass in Montana, sand from a golf sand pit and a golf tee from Scotland, and many others.”

Line from a movie: “I hate to admit this, but it’s ‘Just keep swimming,’ from Dory in ‘Finding Nemo.’”

Way to unwind after a long day: “I love being greeted by the dogs (Turley and Saxum, two German Shorthaired Pointers, and Lucy, an English bulldog) and having an adult beverage of some sort.”

Lin was a part of the transition strategy team for Stanford's Neuroscience Health Center in Palo Alto, Calif. Photo credit: Bruce Damonte