With a career in primary care, public health, and healthcare administration, Avein Saaty-Tafoya most recently opened her own consulting firm focused on medical and nonprofit administration and evidence-based design. “By being thoughtful, decisive, hospitable, and evidence-based in our approach, we can then be most impactful on the health outcomes of those we serve,” she says. She supports others outside the office, too, including cheering on her sons in soccer.

What was your first healthcare project?

My first project from the owners’ perspective was Adelante Healthcare Mesa Comprehensive Primary Care Center, a community health center in Mesa, Ariz. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Jain Malkin, whom I consider the mother of healthcare design and my mentor in transforming community healthcare environments. This was the first LEED Platinum-certified community health center in the country (and still is).

What lessons do you hope the industry learned from your work at Adelante?

That the poor and the underserved do not deserve substandard environments of care or poorly delivered services. Every one of our patients, no matter their walk of life, has choices. Evidence-based design is not about buildings per se; it’s about delivering care with intention, and there’s no better and more deserving industry than community health.

What do you like best about working in healthcare design?

I can bring my whole self to the table. My experiences in medicine, research, art, operations, leadership, advocacy, philanthropy, and certainly as a patient and mother are all important in achieving great design. My empathy, calm demeanor, and natural curiosity are a good match for the multiple priorities I must manage and the diverse teammates that join forces within healthcare design.

Three items on your desk

1 a stone from my Changemaker keynote session at the 2014 Healthcare Design Expo & Conference. I left a stone with inspirational words under every chair and saved one to remind me, too, of why I got into this work when the going gets rough.

2 haiku poetry cubes.

3 speakers for a tone meditation system.

Dog or cat?

My two boys and I have two Siberian Forest cats at home, named Gryffin and Raven (after my sons’ favorite Harry Potter houses, of course).

Outside the office, we’ll likely find you

On the soccer field cheering on my boys or hiking in the Sonoran Desert.

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

1 Olathe Health Antioch, ambulatory primary
care clinic, evidence-based design and clinical/operational consultant.

2 Olathe Health East Ambulatory Care Center, evidence-based design and clinical/operational consultant.

3 Olathe Health Integrity Spine Surgery, evidence-based design and clinical/operational consultant.

Coffee or tea?

Tea. I was born in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and in the Middle East it’s not uncommon to give kids tea with condensed milk from an early age.

First albums you ever bought

“Purple Rain” by Prince & the Revolution, and “Diamond Life” by Sade.

Your hidden talent

Flower arranging.

Favorite book

My favorite as a girl was “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I recently gifted my entire set saved from my childhood to my niece.

City to visit

Paris. I love the people, language, art, architecture, history, natural beauty, and incredible food.

Favorite quote

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
—Mother Theresa

Last game you played

Scrabble with my boys.

Favorite sport

Olympic gymnastics