Amy Lussetto did analytical chemistry, neuroscience research, and financial analytics at a major health system all before finding her way to healthcare design. “I’m a geek,” she says. “A science geek to be exact. … I could go into more depth about HPLCs or c-AMP assays if anyone is interested.”

Eight years ago, she joined HDR in the firm’s analytics department, before taking a position with its strategic innovation team, which focuses on strategy and transformation, service and experience design, and thought leadership. There, she’s been involved in a variety of projects, including Kaiser Permanente’s Project RAD (Re-imagining Ambulatory Design) in southern California, helping design a new ambulatory system that included peer-to-peer networks and technology integration, and using experience design for a new bed tower for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Still, Lussetto says her favorite role is spending time with patients, families, and staff to immerse herself in their experiences. “When these individuals trust you with their deeply personal stories, you feel compelled to ensure the design reflects a better way to meet their needs,” she says.

Why did you make the jump from research to design?

I wanted to explore other ways to make a difference in the healthcare space. My role as a strategic innovation designer allows me to blend all my interests (science, public health, design thinking, art, and economics) and work with incredible healthcare organizations that are trying to solve some critical problems within the industry. The work that we do gets upstream of the needs of a patient population and the caregiving team that serves them, which creates solutions that allow an organization to navigate changes for years to come.

What skills from your previous work do you still use today?

My time as a bench scientist taught me to appreciate and seek out diversity of ideas, and how important it is to enjoy the people you work with. It can sound cliché, but I found that loving your team is the one consistent thing that matters despite the career.

What current design trend excites you?

I love that experience design has gained momentum in the healthcare industry. The competitive marketplace will keep healthcare institutions seeking out differentiators, with experience being one of those areas that rises to the top. Experience design is far deeper than just a “feel good” service. For us, it’s about using the deep insights from real people experiencing and providing healthcare and using them to design better services, spaces, operations, and technologies.

What challenges keep you up at night?

Ensuring the solutions we design truly meet the needs of the people they serve. In general, a lot of issues in the public health space—such as health disparities, housing issues, and environmental health—also keep me up at night.

What’s on your desk?

I don’t have my own desk. Our group travels so often that five of us share a few spots in the office. On our desks, we mostly have design thinking books, snacks, a set of unicorn foam toys that shoot balls out of their snouts, and a pile of Post-it notes and Sharpie pens.


Morning person or night owl?

Night owl.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Yes. I love anything by Atul Gawande or Siddhartha Mukherjee (I mentioned the science geek bit, right?), as well as Chuck Klosterman for balance.

Window or aisle seat?

Window, so I can see outside and nap.

Must-have travel snack

Crunchy. Salty. Sweet. I don’t discriminate. Snacks are a primary driver of our team. I once earned the nickname “goat” because I’ll eat pretty much anything— even that sad, smashed candy bar at the bottom of your work bag right now.

Coffee or tea?

Green tea.

Dog or cat?

Dog, named Bisbee. We rescued him when we lived in Arizona. He’s named after a small town in southern Arizona.




Favorite …

Quote “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Movie character Anyone from the “Fast and the Furious” series. Some would say this is a guilty pleasure, but I say it with a sense of pride.

Color Black.

Guilty pleasure Any crime TV show that solves a murder in 60 minutes will suck me right in.

Social media outlet Instagram. Pictures. Fewer words. Funny hashtags.

Ice cream flavor Vanilla. I know, I know … so basic.

Sport I’m an Olympics addict.

Hobbies Learning Spanish and painting.

Summer vacation spot I grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska (shown here). It’s kind of hard to get there, but when I get a chance, that’s still my favorite place to go. Summers on the farm are the best.