Debra LevinAt the end of every Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, I have the same thought: “This was our best year ever.” The 2022 event in San Antonio was no exception, and I’m not alone in my sentiments. In the days following, I saw countless social media posts echoing the same response.

This year felt extra special for many reasons. Though we were able to gather together last year in Cleveland, we were fewer, and people were still being very cautious. There were more fist bumps than hugs, and many friends and colleagues I saw only from the eyes up.

From day one of this year’s conference, the energy was tangible. People were excited to be together to learn and celebrate our accomplishments as a community. And celebrate we did.

There was a packed house when A. Ray Pentecost III, director of The Center for Health Systems and Design, was honored with The Center’s 2022 Changemaker Award. Ray was recognized for the global impact he’s had in changing how the architecture profession, healthcare providers, and academia think about design—from a focus on healthcare to a focus on design for health.

During his inspiring acceptance speech, Ray shared the genesis of his famous “Never better!” greeting when asked how he’s doing. (It comes from a childhood Bible song that helped him understand he’s doing a little better every day than he was the day before.) This was followed by an engaging conversation between Ray and two of his long-time colleagues and friends, William Hercules, CEO at WJH Health, and Kirk Hamilton, PhD, professor emeritus at Texas A&M University. Their stories and anecdotes gave us insight into Ray’s illustrious career and deep research commitment.

The Center also takes an opportunity at the HCD Conference to recognize and celebrate the fantastic work done by our industry to further our shared pursuit of improving healthcare environments. Our annual Touchstone Awards celebrate exemplary use of an evidence-based design (EBD) process in the built environment through projects and products that demonstrate exceptional achievements across the three touchstones of the EBD process: collaboration, evaluation, and sharing. This year, a record 19 Touchstone Awards were earned in a class of awardees more diverse than any in the past, with projects and products in acute care, behavioral health, wellness, and emergency care.

Seven additional projects were recognized with Healthcare Environment Awards. These awards, given in partnership with Healthcare Design magazine, recognize how design can improve safety, enhance experiences, increase organizational efficiency, and improve outcomes. In addition to the professional awards, four were given to students for their innovative and forward-thinking design solutions.

Excellence in product design was also recognized with the Nightingale Awards, in partnership with the HCD Expo and Healthcare Design magazine. This year, 19 products received awards in 13 categories, with the Best of Competition Award going to Zippsafe for an innovative and space-saving solution for employee lockers.

We encourage you to think about entering your work in one of these programs in the coming year. (A complete list of awardees, including past awards, images, and project descriptions, can be found on The Center’s website at

Wishing you all the happiest of holiday seasons and all the best in the new year. I’m looking forward to the great things we’ll do together and celebrating them next year in New Orleans.

Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at