The second day of the 2021 HCD Expo in Cleveland kicked off with The Center for Health Design’s presentation of its 2021 Changemaker Award to Dr. George Tingwald, administrative director, medical planning at Stanford Health Care (Stanford, Calif.). The annual award honors individuals or organizations that have demonstrated the ability to change the way healthcare facilities are designed and built and whose work has had broad impact on the advancement of healthcare design.

As a licensed physician and architect, Tingwald has devoted his career to creating innovative healthcare environments. “There’s been years and years of projects all over the world that I’m so proud of, as well as all of the people I’ve been able to work with, and to actually have accomplishments,” he said. “I’ve seen all this stuff get built. To actually see and being around long enough to see the results of the seeds you sow is an amazing opportunity and privilege.”

In addition, The Center presented the Russ Coile Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank Zilm, Chester Dean director of the Institute of Health and Wellness Design at the University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design (KU; Lawrence, Kan.). Zilm’s career includes more than 30 years of master planning, programming, and design work for major medical centers, including M.D. Anderson, The Cleveland Clinic, and University Medical Center at Princeton.

During the presentation, Barry Rabner, retired president and CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health (Princeton, N.J.), led a Q+A with Tingwald and Zilm about their career paths as well as factors contributing to their accomplishments.

During the discussion, Rabner asked the honorees to share what quality or attribute they felt most contributed to their professional success. Tingwald said building trust with the users of the healthcare facilities on a project is an essential piece of being successful and making that connection to serve patients. “[Providers] don’t think that health designers know what they do and you’re trying to design for what they do. So, there’s a lack of trust there [from the provider] from the beginning,” he says. “If a surgeon tells me they are too busy to spend an hour with me, I tell them, ‘Okay, then I will scrub in the OR with you’ and then they make the time. But being that translator between [the designer and provider sides] is the key to serving patients.”

Asking the honorees about diversity and inclusivity in the healthcare design profession, Zilm noted that when he started architecture school, there were two women in the entire school at the time. “At least in terms of diversity we have made incredible progress,” Zilm said, adding that almost 90 percent of the students who have participated in KU’s Institute of Health + Wellness Design have been women.

On the issue of racial equality, Zilm said, there’s still work to be done. Recalling an American Institute of Architects conference he attended in the late 1960s, he said just 1 percent of architects there were minorities. “I am not sure that has radically changed and that we have improved upon that,” Zilm said.  “We need to tout this profession as a career opportunity and get down to the high school level to stimulate interest to attract more minorities.”

Reflecting on the last year and what the next 50 years might hold, Tingwald said he thinks that the future will be powerful for healthcare design.  “Consider the history of the last pandemic 100 years ago, the amount of change and what we’ve done for the last two years, and how that’s going to be involved in the next generation of how healthcare is done both nationally and internationally,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting 50 years.”