Twenty-three-year healthcare design veteran Daniel DiMarco was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in fall 2016 and next underwent six months of chemotherapy. Although he had always been driven by a mission to create places for healing, the experience brought new perspective to his work—particularly in how to improve the patient experience (for example, the importance of providing patients with views to nature or positive distractions).

With his cancer now in remission, he’s bringing that knowledge to the table as he continues to lead a variety of specialty projects at AECOM, including the Virginia Tech Carilion Biomedical Research Expansion Project and the Carilion Clinic Simulation Center, both in Roanoke, Va.

An added bonus came this past November when DiMarco won the $10,000 cash giveaway at the 2017 Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in Orlando, Fla. What did that moment feel like? “It was surreal, followed by a rush of euphoria,” he says.

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

Interest from a young age in urban design helped lead me to healthcare. Most healthcare facilities are like microcosms of a city. They have a variety of areas with varied requirements that all come together and work in an interconnected way on multiple levels.

What was your first healthcare project like?

Working at H+L Architecture in Denver, one of my first projects was a large medical center on the western slope of the Rockies. For over a year, I would drive to Denver International Airport every other Wednesday and take a one-hour flight over the Rockies to spend a full day in design meetings, then take the last flight back to Denver. That commute will never be topped.

What did you learn on that project that still influences your work today?

That healthcare facilities are a place of constant change. When doing renovation work or tying into existing buildings, you can never fully rely on original or as-built drawings to tell you the story of what you’re working with. You must do field work to discover the real conditions that will affect planning opportunities and new design.

What will you do with the $10,000 cash giveaway prize you won at the 2017 HCD Expo?

The money sure came at a great time based on some recent major expenses, including my cancer treatment. That was followed by an unexpected renovation project at our home last November that included replacing all the old lead pipes in the upstairs bathroom of our 90-year-old house, which triggered a full gutting of the room, followed by all-new fixtures and finishes. The money will help with the financial challenge both events brought on.

Three words that describe your design aesthetic

1 Functional

2 Contextual

3 Simple


Three items on your desk

1 Jason Werth bobblehead

2 My son’s early artwork

3 Limestone rock fragments from a previous project


Coffee or tea?

Coffee with some cream, no sugar.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person.

Window or aisle seat?


Dog or cat?

One of each. Both are rescues, but our cat, Rocky, came first. Lexi, our dog, was rescued from a farm outside of Lynchburg, Va., and she’s a city dog now. On long walks with her some mornings, our cat follows. It’s always an adventure to see the neighborhood with these two along.


Quote: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”—Winston Churchill

Movie character: Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption.” I admire his strength of spirit and attention to detail.

Weekend activity: Spending time outdoors with my wife and son, or solo. Biking, hiking, walking the dog … it’s all good.

Guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate. Recent research on its health benefits makes moderate intake not so guilty.

Ice cream flavor: Chocolate. Is there such a thing as too much chocolate?

Hobby: Currently renovating our old house. I also taught ceramics in grad school at Virginia Tech and would like to circle back to a ceramics studio at some point.