Diana C. Anderson, MD, M.Arch, is a licensed architect and a board-certified healthcare architect with the Order of Architects of Quebec (OAQ) and the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA), in addition to a board-certified Internist and Geriatrician through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). She completed her medical residency training at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and her Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at UCSF.
As a “dochitect”, Dr. Anderson combines educational and professional experience in both medicine and architecture, in order to truly understand what is involved in medical planning and working within the healthcare environment. Dr. Anderson has worked on hospital design projects within the United States, Canada and Australia, specializing in medical planning of inpatient units, specifically intensive care unit environments.
Dr. Anderson is a past recipient of the 2003-04 AIA Arthur N. Tuttle Jr. Graduate Fellowship in Health Facility Planning and Design, and the 2008-09 Tradewell Fellowship in healthcare design and medical planning awarded by WHR Architects in Houston, Texas.
Dr. Anderson is the past Chair of the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s (SCCM) ICU Design Committee which, along with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Institute of Architects/Academy of Architecture for Health, co-sponsors an annual competition for critical care unit design. She was also part of a task force to update the Guidelines for Intensive Care Unit Design, published in the journal Critical Care Medicine and a 2013 SCCM section award winner for published guidelines. She has been recognized by the SCCM six years in a row with a Presidential Citation for her extraordinary contributions of time, energy, and resources to the organization.
Dr. Anderson is widely published in both architectural and medical journals, books and the popular press, including Healthcare Design magazine, the Health Environments Research & Design journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, World Health Design, the British Medical Journal, the American Journal of Medical Quality, and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
A frequent speaker about the impacts of healthcare design on patient outcomes, staff satisfaction, and related topics, Dr. Anderson has presented at both national and international conferences and meetings, including the Center for Health Design annual Healthcare Design expo & conference, the International Union of Architects Public Health Group annual healthcare forum, the International Academy for Design & Health World Congress on Design & Health, the Society of Critical Care Medicine annual congress and at the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds, Columbia University Medical Center. She has also lectured at the Texas A&M University College of Architecture, and the New York School of Interior Design.
Dr. Anderson is a Co-Founder of the Clinicians for Design group. Clinicians for Design is an international network of leaders with a vision to inspire and accelerate the design of environments and systems, enriching the healthcare interface. Its mission is to engage clinical professionals within research, education and practice- seeking to enhance health outcomes through innovations in the design of healthcare spaces, technologies, care delivery systems and policies. Increasingly, clinicians are asking not only for the architect’s perspective, but to develop a skill-set and knowledge-base that will allow them to help shape the future of hospitals, medicine, and healthcare.
Dr. Anderson was recognized for her contributions to the field by the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Health “The U40 List- AIA/AAH List of Healthcare Design’s Best Under 40.”
A past Fellow at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Anderson continues to explore the field of bioethics related to health care spaces, including the application towards design guidelines. As a geriatrician, she also applies design thinking to environments and care for older adults. Currently a Clinical and Research Fellow in Geriatric Neurology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Anderson pursues research in the area of architectural design and dementia.
A Dochitect’s Story
As an architect, I joined the profession because of a desire to improve the environments in which people live and work. This ambition is accentuated in the area of hospital design where medical planners have the opportunity to design spaces in which people experience the most joyous of occasions, as well as times of extreme suffering and distress. Alongside design, medicine had always appealed to me as a humanistic field and offered an opportunity to help people in the most vital aspect of their lives – their health.
Despite the inclusion of clinicians into the design and construction process, there can remain some disconnect between the initial vision of those who design the hospital and final clinical use of the space. This dichotomy is perhaps best expressed by the architect Louis Kahn who said that “once challenged, the architect will find completely new shapes and means to produce the hospital, but he cannot know what the doctor knows.”
Throughout my medical school years and during my residency training I maintained two notebooks in my white coat pocket; one for the medical facts, a common finding amongst trainees, and the other for design notes and sketches. These books represent my intent to bridge the gap between architecture and medicine through the field of healthcare design.
My hybrid career began as an undergraduate architecture student, with the realization that within architectural practice there existed a subspecialty of hospital design. I can recall the first time I entered a hospital building and did not experience that uneasy sensation in the depths of my gut that most feel as they enter such an unfamiliar environment. I immediately felt at ease in the space, inspired by what I saw and determined to understand this effect of wellness initiated by the design of my surroundings. My career direction changed course that day. The hospital was the Paimio Sanatorium, built in the early 1930s in Finland, designed by Alvar Aalto. Aalto not only designed the hospital with the tuberculosis patient as the primary inspiration, but expanded his architectural solutions beyond the physical layout of the building itself. For example, Aalto believed that each patient should have his own washbasin and designed angled faucets to prevent noise and splashing; the Paimio Chair was designed to optimize the best position for the sitting tuberculosis patient to breathe.
Read more about the Paimio Sanatorium design in my article entitled Humanizing the Hospital: Design Lessons from a Finnish Sanatorium.
As I went on to tour other facilities, I found myself intrigued by the biological sciences and the humanistic work that took place within hospitals, prompting me to pursue the study of medicine. Interestingly, as I began to work in health care settings as a medical student, I would often see design teams touring while I was busy rounding with the physicians and I found myself reflecting on my design experiences. I suppose I have never been able to put both feet into the same bucket, so to speak.
I believe that hybrid professionals can provide integrated solutions which cross disciplines in new ways. By combining my background in hospital architecture with my medical education, I am committed to developing multidisciplinary approaches to improving the quality and delivery of health care.