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Up Close with Tanya Singh Chadha

Tanya Chadha Rising Star

Tanya Singh Chadha, AAIA, EDAC, recently was selected a 2020 Rising Star by Healthcare Design magazine for her commitment to the architecture profession and improving healthcare environments. Chadha is a medical planner and researcher in HGA’s Milwaukee office, where she works on master planning, programming, research, and process improvement. She has a Master of Architecture and certification in Health Systems and Design from Texas A&M University at College Station and a Bachelor of Architecture from Guru Nanak Dev University in India.

In the following, she discusses the opportunities for young designers specializing in healthcare environments.

What does the award mean for you?

It’s a great honor to have my work recognized by Healthcare Design. I feel grateful for all the opportunities I got early on in my career to pursue my passion and commitment in this field. And it inspires me to work even harder in the future.

What inspired you to pursue healthcare architecture?

I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare design because of my own experience. Growing up in India as a sick child, I became quite familiar with the hospital environment, yet I was always terrified in these facilities.

I often thought of the dual nature of hospitals. These are places where babies are brought to the planet, where we celebrate a new life. Yet hospitals also are places where we are most vulnerable and sometimes end up losing our loved ones. I became passionate about reducing the suffering of people, especially when they are ill. I started my quest to explore more, which brought me to United States where I saw my vision in action, being practiced in real-time. That was more than a decade ago. And the rest is history!

How did this influence your ideas of design?

I began to think of hospital as a place of healing and a place of wellness offering preventive care. Evidence-based design (EBD) widened my think tank. I learned the impact of design interventions on built environments. My experience in the hospital also made me realize that design could only do so much if not aligned with the operations of the place. I strongly believe that buildings shape us, and we should strive to create holistic design solutions that heal and do no harm.

How do you help healthcare organizations improve patient and staff experience?

Amalgamation of design with operations, technology, and culture of a place yields an enhanced overall experience. EBD and Lean approaches help me understand operational goals and their implications in facility design. I try to infuse this understanding to tie together all aspects of the built environment at the onset of a project.

As a medical planner and researcher working in the pre-design phase, I focus on user engagement and learn their operational processes to truly improve staff and patient experiences and support wellbeing.

Caregivers are responsible for patient’s wellbeing, and they often deal with burnout and fatigue. I start by creating workflows to understand their operations and employ a variety of research tools, such as shadowing and Gemba walks to learn what caregivers experience during their shifts—their mental, physical, and emotional state. My admiration and perception of caregiving has changed having done this.

Research gives us a clearer understanding of critical-to-quality measures that enables us to improve operational efficiencies and ultimately clinical outcomes. Design flows from this research and translates into an empathetic, human-centered, healing environment. It’s a holistic process.

What has been the most satisfying moment of your career?

I really love and feel satisfied with what I do every day. But if I must pick a moment, I would go back to Dr. Mardelle McCuskey Shepley’s studio at Texas A&M. We were asked to design a NICU and incubator. I did a literature review of the premature conditions of newborns and studied evidence-based design in terms of circadian lighting, artificial womb, and kangaroo care.

It was at that moment that I realized the direct impact of design on human life and wellbeing. Design has such a huge role to play in the survival of life. That studio project was a life-changing experience for me. My client was a baby. I designed the incubator through the eyes of a baby. It was the most satisfying moment even before my career started.

What advice do you have for other young designers?

I would say two things:

  1. Continuous learning is key to keeping up with the pace of evolving healthcare industry. Strive to measure the impact of your design solutions via pre-/post-occupancy evaluation as it’s a credible way to calibrate the impact of your hypothesis. It aids in the continuum of learning and helps in making informed decisions in the future.
  2. Never get too comfortable with what you know. Have a curious mind. I always push my boundaries, often to disciplines I do not know much about. As a young designer, be nimble. Try a new tool, cross-collaborate with someone outside healthcare and it might change your perspective.
What inspires you outside of work?

Working on a social cause, especially eradicating hunger and starvation and serving unprivileged sections of our society inspires me.

If not an architectural designer, what would you be?

I think I gave away my answer. I would be a full-time social worker in India, working in refugee camps and slum shelters.

For more information, visit Healthcare Design’s 2020 Rising Stars.