2019 Rising Star: MaryAnn Wilmot, RA, NCIDQ, architect, interior designer, Wilmot Sanz (Gaithersburg, Md.)

As both a registered architect and interior designer at Wilmot Sanz, MaryAnn Wilmot leverages the two disciplines to elevate the quality of design and delivery for complex healthcare projects. Her background has also empowered her to take on a role in business development, using this well-rounded perspective to better address a wide range of issues for a variety of healthcare systems. Additionally, she’s currently engaged with the industry and community as a board member of the Women in Healthcare Maryland Chapter, guiding the development of new programs for the organization.

Healthcare Design: What drew you to a career in healthcare design?
Wilmot: As a third-generation healthcare designer, I was exposed to the industry at a young age. However, it was my first healthcare project as a summer intern that truly ignited my interest in this field. The complexity of the projects and the ability to create a healing environment that impacts the lives of both the patients and families while addressing the needs of the staff was a challenge that I was interested in pursuing. My passion for healthcare design did not result from one particular event; instead, it evolved from the layered impact of multiple experiences—working on my first healthcare project as an interior designer (and later, with fresh perspective as an architect), being a visitor to a loved one receiving care, and hearing positive feedback from users and patients after my first major project opened its doors. It was through these experiences that I began to understand how, as a healthcare designer, my work truly impacts a broad, diverse range of stakeholders.

What’s one recent project that you’re most proud of?
I was a member of the team working on the Johns Hopkins Skip Viragh Outpatient Cancer Building, which was completed in spring 2018. This project was a newly constructed, 184,000-square-foot facility designed to simplify the care process for patients by creating a single destination for cancer diagnosis and treatment on the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s East Baltimore campus. By integrating clinical care and research under one roof, the building embodies team-based precision medicine, providing more opportunities for clinical trials and offering innovative cancer treatments and supportive care. My participation on this project included involvement with the design development and documentation on to construction administration and furniture drawings and specifications. My work on this, and other highly complex healthcare projects, has reinforced the importance of collaboration and empathy at every stage of the design and construction process. Good design is only as successful as its execution, and this requires the entire team (owner, designers, and contractor) to coordinate carefully and proactively solve issues. If all commit to listening, open solution-oriented communication, and striving to achieve the client’s vision, the process will go much more smoothly.

What do you think is the number one issue facing the healthcare design industry in 2019?
I believe providing the community with good access to a range of healthcare facilities will always be an important issue. However, lately, there is an acute need to better address the design of behavioral health environments. Creating safe environments for patients dealing with mental illness and the staff providing the care to these patients is an issue the healthcare design community must continue to advance.

What’s one idea you have for overcoming that problem?
We need to develop a new design paradigm that is based on comprehensively improving the well-being for behavioral health patients, family, and staff. This is “destination healthcare” that needs to be safe and flexible, promote a healing environment, and adapt to a range of patients and treatments. Exceeding regulatory requirements and standards isn’t enough. We need to better engage with the behavioral health community—patients, caregivers, and patient/family advisory committees—to leverage their knowledge to improve design quality.