Designing For Infectious Disease

hospital-room.jpgThis industry has a funny way of surprising you. As a structural engineer, it’s not often that I find myself engaged in a seminar on infection prevention in healthcare design. The most exposure I ever get is during our weekly Owner-Architect-Contractor meeting; that 2-minute subsection when I have some time to check my email. After all, structural engineers don’t really need to know about infection prevention. At least that’s what I thought before I heard Barbara Edson and the rest of the select panel speak at the PDC Summit ( this last week.

Barbara is the Vice President of the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) (, so it’s her job to educate the healthcare industry about topics like this. But her connection to infection prevention is much more real. Her sister-in-law is an amputee, the victim of a Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI). She underwent 24 separate surgeries, and she was one of the lucky ones. Every year, there are at least 1 million HAIs across the country. In addition to the 30 billion dollars they cost our healthcare organizations, they cost us life. After listening to Barbara’s story, I realized that the impact of this epidemic goes beyond a 2-minute subsection of our weekly OAC. It is a problem that belongs to us all.

What we do as healthcare designers is vitally important. It affects our community in ways that are immeasurable. I’ve always believed that it is our job as designers to safeguard life, to see the risks down the road before they arrive at our doorstep. That truth was made all the more apparent to me at PDC. It was a reminder of why we do what we do. Why we choose healthcare. Why we choose to safeguard life.

helipad-reduced.jpgI might never design true infection prevention, but it will always make me proud to work with those who do.

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