In the 1980s, The Center for Health Design started providing grants in support of high-quality research that would contribute to growing the body of knowledge in the healthcare design field. We continue that work today, focusing on supporting new researchers whose work can fill critical gaps in the field of evidence-based design.

One such program is the New Investigator Award (NIA). Sponsored by Joseph G. Sprague, an iconic architect and early proponent of using research to inform design decisions and guidelines development, the annual award is designed to support and recognize best-in-class research from around the world in the field of evidence-based healthcare facility design.

In summer, The Center coordinated with an esteemed panel of reviewers to evaluate and review this year’s impressive submissions covering a variety of topics, including pediatrics, behavioral health, operating room design and workflow, senior living communities, and healthcare for ethnically diverse groups.

2023 New Investigator Award recipients

From this process, two awards were granted: one to a current PhD student and another to a recent PhD graduate.

Devi Soman attends Clemson University. Her study “The Impact of Free-Standing Birth Center Physical Environments of Patient Experience and Maternal Health Outcomes for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Women” will contribute to national efforts to improve health equity for historically marginalized groups.

A recent graduate from Politecnico di Milano, Dr. Alessandro Morganti is a pediatrician who is serving as a visiting research scholar at the Stanford Autism Center and a medical/design research consultant with LS3P Associates Ltd.

Dr. Morganti proposes to apply evidence-based design strategies to create autism-friendly healthcare spaces. His work will investigate whether specified design features reduce anxiety and associated behaviors in patients with autism.

Past winners’ research continues

Research studies by the 2022 NIA winners, Becky Gill and Marzia Chowdhury, are progressing, as well.

Gill’s study focused on the development of multiple measurement tools to evaluate recommended affordances within family spaces typically found in the adult intensive care unit (ICU) environment. She compared preliminary findings to the identified spatial needs and preferences of family members of critically ill patients. Her subsequent analysis demonstrated environmental congruence, such that elements in the physical environment supported families and their activities and/or needs.

Chowdhury has completed quantitative data analysis for her study on emergency department (ED) isolation practices using predictive analytics simulation modeling. Her work found that ED adjacencies with essential amenities (like medical gas, water, electricity, and climate control) can be used to effectively manage surge responses and facilitate seamless transitions between spaces to reflect a fluctuating volume of COVID-19 patients.

Look for both researchers to share more details about the results of their studies at the 2023 Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, Nov. 4-7 in New Orleans, or in upcoming Center webinars.

Investing in the next generation of research is important to the long-term health and growth of our industry. Through funding support and providing a platform for these studies to be disseminated broadly when completed, we hope to continue building this important body of knowledge for the industry.

Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design and can be reached at Yolanda Keys is a research associate at The Center for Health Design and can be reached at