Principal and Healthcare Global Interior Design Leader, Perkins+Will

Tama Duffy Day is internationally recognized in the creation of therapeutic environments, with a keen interest in the measurable effects of designed environments on health improvement. Through her prominent role on the national design scene, she raises awareness of these issues across the healthcare industry. Her innovative interior design work has yielded many design awards, and she has been elected to both the IIDA and ASID’s prestigious College of Fellows.

While Duffy Day’s work as a design leader has been published, awarded, and recognized consistently over the course of her career, her ability to mentor and inspire is also worthy of recognition. She is active in educating the next generation of designers, participating on the advisory board of several interior design schools, and frequently lecturing and providing peer reviews.

Duffy Day influences the healthcare design industry on multiple levels. Through her speaking, coaching, and mentoring, she touches lives and inspires people to find and keep their passion. Through her writing and research, she seeks to make sense of the relationship between place and health. And, of course, through her design work, she influences the healthcare design community on a physical level that knows few peers.

Todd Hutlock: How have you seen the healthcare design scene change and evolve over the course of your career?

Tama Duffy Day, FASID, FIIDA, LEED AP: In many ways I feel very grateful that I entered the healthcare field in the late 1980s, when the initial inquiry of how the physical environment could impact health was just beginning. I remember attending that first national gathering in 1987 and having a paradigm shift, seeing evidence connecting design and healing. Sue Baier, the author of the book Bed Number Ten, gave a powerful presentation of her own horrifying experience of being an ICU patient totally paralyzed with Guillain-Barr syndrome. I left that presentation and sought to master this new understanding of health; to generate positive systemic change in the design of the built environment.

So in many ways healthcare design has been and will always be constantly changing. Teams are now more fully integrated, bringing stakeholders to the table that seek to improve both the physical and the social space. Solutions now focus on the health of the occupants, as well as the health of the building materials, the building itself, and the natural environment surrounding the building. We continue to gather evidence supporting the link between the design decisions and health. This is an exciting time, and with the beginning of healthcare reform, creativity and leadership will be in great demand.

Hutlock: As an interior designer, a leader in healthcare, what is the biggest challenge you face in today's healthcare design environmet?

Duffy Day: Our challenge is to design places that are life enhancing; places that continue to improve over time. Places that improve the patient, their family, the staff, and the healthcare provider organization, but ones that also improve the health of the whole community.

Hutlock: You also devote a lot of your time to the education and mentoring of the next generation of healthcare designers. What would be your advice to someone just entering the healthcare design field today?

Duffy Day: I would share with them the words of Walt Disney: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Hutlock: Obviously you influence and inspire many people in the healthcare design field. Who influences and inspires you in and your work?

Duffy Day: For the past five years I have been actively involved in The Leading by Design action research project. My engagement includes both individual and group participation.  Through our annual group Learning Collaborative, I have been both inspired and influenced by all the active participants. The participants are diverse, and we all seek to make substantial differences in our work, our communities, and in our own personal lives. Those that I hold in the highest regard include: Dr. Mark Rowe, a physician and global leader in health from Ireland; Simon Henderson, head of Cancer Environments at Macmillan in the UK; Bruce Raber, practice leader for healthcare at Stantec, in Vancouver, British Columbia: Annette Ridenour, president of Aesthetics in San Diego; Paul Kingsmore, director of Health Facilities Scotland; Heather Fennimore, president of Humanscale in Englewood, Colorado; BJ Miller, president, The Vision Group in Asheville, Tennessee; and especially, Dr. Wayne Ruga, the founder and president of The CARITAS Project.