It’s no secret that talent acquisition is a tricky task in healthcare design. The sector is already up against sexier rivals like hospitality, workplace, etc. Layer on the inherent complexities of the building type, endless codes, and several-years-long project schedules, and it all becomes a much tougher sell. That is, until someone is exposed to it.

I can’t tell you how many times an industry member has shared with me that she didn’t set out to focus on healthcare until landing on a project and realizing how deeply meaningful it is. After all, you get to devise ways to combat those challenges I listed—and many others—to deliver an environment that will improve peoples’ lives. What other design sectors can say that?

Yet getting young designers to that point is, again, no easy task.

One trailblazer on that front is David Allison, who heads up the Architecture + Health graduate program at Clemson University. He’s responsible for not just developing healthcare architects but sending them into the field to become the industry’s champions. For his three decades spent doing that, Allison was named The Center for Health Design’s Changemaker at our Healthcare Design Expo & Conference held in November (more on page 20). During the Changemaker general session, Allison mentioned that one of the things that drew him to healthcare design was its collaborative spirit.

I can’t help but agree that the deep level of knowledge-sharing and camaraderie that exists here is unique—another selling point for any young person.

For those who have attended the HCD Expo, you know what I mean. Every year, industry members come together, throw competition out the window, and coalesce. To bring more college students and recent graduates into the fold, this year in New Orleans we collaborated with our partners at The Center and the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Health to introduce the NextGen Forum.

We worked with local universities and other healthcare design programs as well as design firms to get the word out, establishing special student and young professional rates for conference passes, too. We also created a NextGen Lounge where those new to the field could pause to hang out, talk shop, and share a few business cards. And, finally, we added the forum itself, an evening that included a panel conversation between me and industry leaders including Allison, a presentation from an impressive newcomer to the field, and details on various association opportunities.

It was a great first step, and I can’t wait to develop it more. Yes, this industry and its members must clear an impressive number of hurdles each day, but I hope we can all work together to make sure talent isn’t one of them.