Native Alaskan Tiffany Coffman began her college career at Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.) studying psychology and sociology, before a class on biophilic design set her on another path toward healthcare design.

During her studies, her grandmother became sick and the family struggled to find an assisted living community that supported her independence. For Coffman, the experience drove home the importance of viable senior living and healthcare options, and inspired her to focus on an academic project on reimagining elder care in Alaska. She was even able to share the project with her grandmother before she passed away.

In 2013, Coffman joined Bettisworth North Architects and Planners (, Anchorage, Alaska), where today she works on healthcare design and senior living projects, including the Nome Wellness and Training Center in Nome, Alaska, and the Native Village of Unalakleet Elders Assisted Living Facility in Unalakleet, Alaska. Another benefit to her position: moving back to Alaska. “Until you’ve experienced this amazing place in person, you can’t truly understand how breathtakingly gorgeous it is.”

What was your first healthcare project?

A 40,000-square-foot tenant improvement for Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The project required renovating existing open offices into clinical space including departments for internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology, infusion, podiatry, and pulmonology. Being an integral part of the project from concept to completion early in my career was a huge learning opportunity and solidified my desire to work in healthcare design.

What lesson did you learn on that project that you still carry with you today?

Document everything, be a team player, and seek solutions, not blame. Considering the project’s expedited schedule, construction challenges, and abundance of owner-prompted changes during construction, the project was very successful. I attribute the success to a positive team dynamic between the design team, contractor, and owner.

What challenges about healthcare design keep you up at night?

I worry if the spaces I’m designing will have longevity and serve the client’s needs beyond substantial completion. With the half-life of medical knowledge and technology rapidly progressing, the unknowns of the future can be daunting. I mitigate the stress by staying up on current research and trends and learning from others.

Outside the office, you’ll likely find me …

Currently, every minute is spent remodeling my newly purchased home. When I’m not designing or constructing, you can find me in nature, hiking, and playing with the dogs or in front of a campfire.

Three unexpected items on your desk

1 Metallic miniature dachshund-shaped office supplies. (I have two adorable miniature dachshunds.)

2 Preserved flowers in a glass dome from my husband.

3 A piece of acrylic with custom-printed Alaskan berry graphics.

Favorite …

Quote “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

Guilty pleasure People watching, especially on vacation.

Snack when you travel Beef jerky.

Ice cream flavor There’s a local ice cream shop in Anchorage that makes a malted milk cookie flavor I could eat every day. But when I’m feeling serious about my ice cream consumption, I reach for Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.

Sport College basketball. March Madness is my favorite time of year. In 2015, my bracket ranked in the top 500 out of 12 million brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge. My husband is still talking about it!

Hobby Playing with power tools in my garage, usually repurposing furniture or building something from my wood pile.

Favorite City to visit Florence, Italy. I studied design in Florence during college, and five years later returned with my husband for our honeymoon. It’s a magical city brimming with history, art, architecture, and gelato.

Coffee or tea?


Morning person or night owl?

Morning. I generally wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed regardless of the amount of sleep I’ve gotten the night before.

Fiction or nonfiction? 

Fiction. Getting lost in a good story is a great escape from the day-to-day realities of life.

Beer, wine, or liquor?

Wine. Nothing is more relaxing than a glass of red wine. Although, a cold Alaskan microbrew on a sunny day is always a fantastic option, too.

First album you ever bought?

Cassette tape of the Beach Boys from a garage sale. I played that tape relentlessly on my Fisher-Price tape recorder.

I have an irrational fear of …

Dragonflies. They’re very large, buzz, and always seem to be heading right for your face.


Left: Coffman’s first healthcare project for Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, included renovating open office space into clinical departments. Credit: Ken Graham Photography