Designing Mobile Healthcare

UM News, 11-16-2020

Studio course links students with world-class experts.
History of Healthcare Diagram by Gabriel Soomar Story written by Steve Wright


By Steve Wright

Prof. Joanna Lombard is leading a healthcare studio on a virtual platform. It not only allows students to join from out of state and even outside the U.S., but it also has given them access to a dream team roster of healthcare and design experts who make virtual visits to the studio and elevate the course to a PhD-caliber seminar. The studio course explores community-based healthcare with critical attention paid to the inequity in care that has been exposed during the pandemic.

One of the studio groups is working on a concept for mobile healthcare with a combination of smart parklets and mobile care units to serve a 12-county service area. Their idea is to develop a system that highly patient-responsive, Prof. Lombard explained.

“Data can travel to the hospital where specialists are centered; care can travel to the patients to protect people from unnecessary trips, and the entire system is agile in its ability to adapt to circumstances,” she said.

Gabriel Soomar, class of 2021, is taking the course from Trinidad, where he has ben since Spring Break due to travel restrictions. A person of color of West-Indian heritage, he is very interested in the intersection of race/ethnicity and architecture. Soomar is alarmed by statistics that show how the pandemic has disproportionately affected minority communities.

“Our focus, from day one, has been centered around health equity,” he said. “Who doesn’t have proper access to healthcare? What areas of healthcare do they need? How can we ensure that they receive proper access to the healthcare they deserve? I think taking these things into consideration can allow healthcare professionals to distribute healthcare in a more equitable manner.”

The U-SoA studio course acknowledges the pandemic/healthcare crisis, but demonstrates that every crisis creates an opportunity. The project looks at a post-COVID future for Providence St. Patrick Hospital at the edge of downtown, Missoula, Montana -- with more than 200 beds, 1,600 employees and a heritage back to 1873. Design components address access and equity,
sustainability and resilience.

Tiffani Banks, a class of 2021 Foote Fellow who is studying virtually at home in Indianapolis appreciates how “the Healthcare Studio has been able to connect my studio with dozens of medical, architectural, and healthcare professionals from across the world. Experts in the field who usually would not be able to physically travel to Miami to review student work and answer questions are now able to,” Jheanelle Miller, Class of 2021, praised virtual learning because it allows her to be efficient, multitasking and working on studio projects with only short breaks. “As an architecture student, I love taking on projects that allow me to create togetherness within communities, and learning from COVID-19, I think we should learn how to create inviting spaces that also fit within public health guidelines, which is a challenge that I aim to take on in this project with my team.” she said of the studio’s relevance to the pandemic.

Prof. Lombard is aiming for insights on how the hospital will evolve in the post-COVID-19 future to best serve its community. She emphasizes how the challenges at hand are approached from a human-centric point of view: “we are investigating what works for healing, what works against healing; how does healthcare form the catalyst for better community?”

In addition to the Mobile Healthcare proposal two teams, Emily Camejo and Polen Durak, and Gabby Boyar, Sheinya Joseph and Skyler Lowden are proposing new hospitals; Ryan Daniussis, Daniel Morgan and Tomas Tapias are proposing an integration of new and existing facilities, Nora Alkhalaf is working on a Clark Ford River Wellness Park and Mike Kundin is working with Dr. Bohl and MRED+U students John Henneman, Michelle Hurvitz, Taylor Mcharg, Spencer Sorfleet, and Camila Zablah on a new Life Science and Mixed-Use Center.

Wright (@stevewright64) is a Pulitzer-nominated, award-winning urban and architectural design writer-marketer who blogs daily at: