For so many of us, 2020 can’t end soon enough. It’s been an exhausting and challenging year on so many fronts. And though things won’t be magically idyllic on Jan. 1, 2021, the new year offers a fresh start.

As we prepare to ring in 2021, there are things to be grateful for and other things to look forward to. For starters, we’ve all learned a host of new skills. In March, most of our lives changed dramatically overnight and we were forced to pause our usual day-to-day routine, giving us an unexpected opportunity to take stock and hopefully gain some clarity around what’s most important in our lives. We became Zoom masters; scheduled virtual get-togethers with family, friends, and colleagues; and, if you’re like me, reached out to people we hadn’t connected with for a very long time to check on how they were faring. And we sharpened our pencils regarding our finances and re-evaluated how and why we do many of the things we do in our work, frequently coming up with new and better ways to do things.

Another cause for celebration was the incredible work done by our industry. This year we had an unprecedented number of projects submitted to The Center’s Healthcare Environment Awards competition, produced in association with our partner Healthcare Design magazine. For more than two decades, this program has been recognizing and celebrating innovation and the impact of design on safety, experience, efficiency, and outcomes in healthcare projects, both built and conceptual. This year, five projects received awards from the jury and an additional five took home honorable mentions.

The jurors were impressed by the quality and level of innovation of this year’s submissions and the extent to which design was leveraged to solve specific challenges faced by their clients. The design thinking and consideration that went into how the environment could improve the experience and optimize outcomes was notable in both the professional and student categories.

Not surprisingly, a new category was created this year after receiving a significant number of submissions exploring groundbreaking solutions to the challenges healthcare clients experienced in adapting to the COVID-19 virus. Also of note was the extent to which research was integrated into many of the projects, clearly showing the growing number of firms incorporating an evidence-based design approach in their work.

I’d like to congratulate all the awardees:

Acute Care Winner—Mercyhealth, Javon Bea Hospital and Physicians Clinic—Riverside, submitted by AECOM
COVID-Response Acute Care Winner—STAAT Mod, submitted by HGA and The Boldt Company
• Ambulatory Care Winner—Spencer Cancer Center, East Alabama Medical Center, submitted by TRO Jung / Brannen
Student Winner for Post-Graduate Project—Transitional Model for Stroke Rehabilitation Clinics, submitted by Maja Kevdzija, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Architecture
Student Winner for Graduate Project—NOLA Behavioral Health Inpatient Facility, submitted by Samia Mansour and Juhyun So, The University of Kansas, Department of Architecture
Acute Care Honorable Mention—Banner University Medical Center Tucson, submitted by Shepley Bulfinch
COVID-Response Acute Care Honorable Mention—McCormick Place Alternative Care Facility, submitted by Stantec Architecture
Ambulatory Care Honorable Mention—Kaiser Permanente Clairemont Mesa Medical Offices, submitted by Architects HGW (Hanna Gabriel Wells)
Student Honorable Mention for Graduate Project—Zero-conflict emergency department, submitted by Nastaran Hashemi, Texas Tech University
Student Honorable Mention for Graduate Project—Catena Healthworks, submitted by Ravideep Singh and Sharanya Reddy, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

For more coverage on some of the winners, see the December issue or hear from the award recipients themselves by watching the program presented during last month’s HCD Virtual and now available to view on The Center’s website,

And finally, as we close the book on such a memorable year, I hope that you, too, have things both personally and professionally to be grateful for in spite of all the challenges you faced. I wish you continued health, happiness, and peace of mind in 2021. Whatever comes your way, whatever challenges may be ahead for us, know that The Center for Health Design will be here to help support you on your professional journey.

Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at