As an undergraduate architecture student and summer intern, one of Adeleh Nejati’s first projects was measuring every space in a hospital building to prepare drawings of the existing conditions for a client. Walking the building and seeing staff and patients interact in different settings opened her eyes to how much the physical environment can impact physical and emotional health and well-being and left such an impression that she decided to attend graduate school at Texas A&M University’s Center for Health Systems and Design, specializing in healthcare design and planning. After graduating in 2014 and working at several firms, she joined HMC in 2019, where she’s recently been leading the firm’s COVID-19 and cancer research studies. She keeps busy outside the office with a variety of hobbies, from hiking and cooking to new skills playing the piano and skiing.

What was your first healthcare design project?

My first major healthcare project in the U.S. was UCS Norris Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

What design lesson from that project do you still carry with you today?

The quality of spaces for clinical staff is as important as the quality of spaces for patients and families. When staff are comfortable and have easy access to the things they need, the patients and families will benefit.

Three healthcare projects you’ve worked on in the last year and your role

1 Design for Empathy: An investigative study on how healthcare environments impact a cancer patient’s journey,” lead researcher.


2 Kaiser Permanente, Sunset Ambulatory Surgery Center, Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles, healthcare planning and design.


3 Kona Community Hospital, 10-year master plan, Kona, Hawaii, healthcare planning and design.


What do you like best about working in healthcare design?

Making a positive difference in the lives of people going through tough times.

What challenges about your work keep you up at night?

Healthcare staff’s physical and emotional health and safety, particularly amid this pandemic.

On healthcare design trends

Thumbs up: Indoor-outdoor connection. Amid this recent pandemic, it’s an even more important trend to focus and explore in different settings.

Thumbs down: Not being able to have operable windows or outdoor balconies in patient care areas. Safety and security are major hurdles to this trend, however, these features not only can provide access to daylight and views, but also physical access to the outdoors and fresh air.

Outside the office, we’ll likely find you …

Hiking in Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, Calif. I enjoy the views of the ocean, the bay, bridges, and the city.

What’s a new hobby you’ve picked up during the coronavirus pandemic?

Playing piano and skiing. I’ve always wanted to add music to my life but never had a chance until the pandemic. I tried skiing once many years ago and didn’t like it at all, but my boyfriend encouraged me to try it again. This season, I managed to ski a blackish-blue run for the first time!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. I love the smell of it!

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person. I usually wake up at 6 a.m., get my coffee, and practice piano for an hour. This sets me up for the whole day.

How did you make your first dollar?

I started tutoring students in math when I was 16 and editing math books at age 18. I majored in math at high school and I was really good at it.

Your go-to karaoke song?

John Legend’s “All of Me.”

First album you ever bought?

Céline Dion’s “Live à Paris.”

Cocktail of choice?

Moscow mule.

Your hidden talent?

Sewing, mainly doing cloth alterations.

You have an irrational fear of …

Necrophobia. I cannot tour the morgue department when touring a hospital building.

Favorite …

Quote “The wise enemy is better than the ignorant friend” and “The wise enemy lifts you up, the ignorant friend casts you down.” Both are Persian proverbs.

Movie character Dory from “Finding Dory.” I love her positive spirit and persistence despite her short-term memory loss issue.

Band/musical artist Elton John.

Guilty pleasure Donuts, especially a buttermilk chocolate one from my local bakery.

App/website Spotify.

Food to cook Vegetarian frittata.

Sport Soccer.

Team Barcelona.

Book “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pocket Quote Book: Notorious and Wise Sayings From RBG.”

Cultural tradition Nowruz Haft-seen. It’s an arrangement of seven symbolic items whose names start with the letters in the Persian alphabet. It is traditionally displayed at Norouz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring.

Place to travel The Therme Vals in Vals, Switzerland, designed by Peter Zumthor.