Heather C. Beard

Photo credit: DLR Group

The healthcare project manager at DLR Group (Charlotte, N.C.) shares an early design lesson that she still talks about 15 years later, her love of 1920s fashion, and how her minor in travel and tourism comes in handy.

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

At a relatively young age, my grandmother had a brain aneurysm and stroke. This caused her quality of life to be significantly lowered. She could still communicate through facial expressions and grunts but was unable to speak. When I was 14, my grandfather was unable to care for her and she moved into a nursing home.

I remember going to visit her and the room she lived in was a double-occupancy room with hospital beds, a bathroom, and off-white walls. There was nothing about this space that was comforting or felt like a home. I kept thinking to myself, there must be something better.

This has helped drive my passion for creating spaces that I would want my family or myself to receive care in.

What was your first healthcare project?

Scottsdale Medical Imaging Ltd., Mountain View MRI in Scottsdale, Ariz. I completed all the drawings, coordinated with the consultants and vendors, selected interior finishes, and attended every owner/architect/contractor meeting.

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

This was a complex MRI project with the magnet located over a parking garage. I’ll never forget learning we needed a minimum 1/4-inch-thick steel plate the full length of the magnet suspended below the concrete slab. It taught me about the complexities of radiology equipment and the importance of coordination between all the trades. Almost 15 years later, I still talk about this project with clients.

Three recent healthcare design projects you’ve worked on and your role

UNC Health

Photo credit: Tim Buchman

1 UNC Health Blue Ridge Valdese Cancer Center Addition & Renovation, Valdese, N.C., project manager (shown at right).

2 UNC Health Terrace Café Expansion, Chapel Hill, N.C., project manager.

3 UNC Health Blue Ridge Valdese Life Safety Assessment, Valdese, project manager.


What do you like best about working in healthcare design?

I’ve had the privilege of working in multiple rural facilities in Arizona and North Carolina. I love being able to make an impact in these communities that don’t always have their voices heard. I am also the luckiest girl in the world to have a job that I love and an amazing team of colleagues to work with every day.

What challenges about your work keep you up at night?

I think our profession is still in a process of recovery from the recession. A significant number of my graduate school peers faced challenges securing employment after graduating in 2008, which led some to pursue different career paths.

Additionally, there are noticeable gaps in age within our sector, particularly among individuals aged 45-60. This generation holds valuable experience and knowledge, but their presence for mentoring and guidance is not as prevalent as it could be.

Further, adequate compensation is often a challenge for those working so hard in this industry.

An unexpected item on your desk …

Take a number ticker

Photo credit: Heather C. Beard

A take a number ticker. There’s a running joke in our studio that I answer so many questions, on certain days you need to take a number.

Outside the office, we’ll likely find you …

Chasing my twin boys.

Dog or cat?

Dogs, cats are evil. Our first “baby” was a bichon poodle mix that we named Desoto. He was the best lap dog, who also loved chasing squirrels and thought he was much larger than a 20-pound dog. Sadly, we said goodbye in March 2021.

Coffee or tea?

Kona coffee.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person. I’m the most efficient in the morning, but don’t talk to me. I’m an introvert, I need time to wake up.

Fashion trend you think should make a comeback

1920s flapper dress

Photo credit: Heather C. Beard

1920s flapper dresses. When my mother-in-law turned 60, she had a decades birthday party. Everyone came dressed as their favorite decade. I love the minimalistic shape of the dresses and the intricate beading to elevate the style.

How did you make your first dollar? 

In middle school I had a summer job at my mom’s work, Surplus Sales of Nebraska. I spent the summer photocopying amateur radio manuals, sorting vacuum tubes, and labeling shelving in the warehouse.

I learned about work ethic and the not-so-glamorous jobs in the world, which have shaped me into the architect I have become. After rummaging through all the electronic parts, I never found the flux capacitor.

First album you ever bought

*NSYNC’s self-titled album.

Cocktail of choice

Aviation. It’s a classic, delicious, and pretty!

Your hidden talent

Travel planning. I have a minor in travel and tourism and love to plan our vacations. As a detail-oriented person, I have a spreadsheet itinerary for every major trip my husband and I have taken over the past 10 years.

If you weren’t an architect you would be …

Either a travel planner or anything healthcare adjacent. I’ve always been interested in healthcare, but don’t necessarily have the stomach for medical school.

Favorite quote

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you. It’s your attention to yourself that is so stultifying. But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible. If you fail the first time then you’ll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there’s no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

I have always been in my own head thinking others are going to criticize my every move. This is a reminder that they aren’t and when you do things you care about, it will translate, and great things will happen.

Favorite movie character This is really tough. Some of my favorite movies are “Beetlejuice,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “Romeo + Juliet.”

Favorite show to binge watch “Friends,” for so many reasons. My husband and I purchased the full series DVD box set and watched every episode together in college. I still cry every time I watch, “The One with the Proposal,” and “The Last One.”

Heather C. Beard

Photo credit: Heather C. Beard

Favorite weekend activity Doing absolutely nothing! We are so busy during the week I just want to relax and spend time with my kids.

Favorite band/musical artist Muse. I think my husband and I have seen them six times in concert.

Favorite guilty pleasure McDonald’s double cheeseburger. Sometimes you just need that ooey-gooey plastic cheese.

Favorite snack when you travel Chex Mix.

Favorite sport Baseball.

Favorite teams Arizona State (my alma mater) and Boston Red Sox.

Favorite book “The Great Gatsby.”

Favorite city to visit Napa Valley. My husband and I went to Napa last year for our annual child-free vacation. It had been more than 10 years since our last visit. The first winery we visited was Cuvaison. We sat in a beautiful modern space surrounded by vineyards. It was so beautiful and quiet, my husband said, “This is exactly what I needed right now.” We are going back in April, and I can’t wait.