Announcements 03.29.2021

Meet Sabah Mohammed, an E. Todd Wheeler Fellow, Class of 2022

Sabah will be based in our Atlanta studio

Where are you from?
I’m from Bangalore, India, known for its lush gardens and great weather year-round.

Where do you live now?
Ithaca, New York

What is your degree, and from what institution is it from?
M.S. in Design + Health with a minor in Human Development from Cornell University. I have a Bachelors of Architecture (B.Arch) from the National Institute of Technology, India.

Sabah participated in a Healthcare Design Conference (HCD) design charrette.

Why is healthcare design important to you?
I grew up in a family of doctors where dinner table conversations were seasoned with medical jargon. As a result, I developed a fascination for the sciences and I was convinced that I would pursue a similar professional path. At the same time, I would race to finish my homework so that I could pick up my paint brushes. For me, art was therapeutic and allowed me to fluidly express myself. Ultimately, I chose to pursue architecture, as it was the perfect balance of the arts and sciences!

Over the years, I discovered my voice as a designer at the intersection of impact and empathy. The potential for impact, scale, and complexity of healthcare initially attracted me to healthcare design. I am a strong advocate for making a difference through design; interested in core issues in health that pertain to creating a better environment for all through intentional and innovative design informed by research.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your perspective on healthcare design, or altered your traditional methods of research?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, planning for community and infrastructure resiliency has been brought to the forefront. Topics such as the role of HVAC systems in reducing risk, sanitation protocols, and providing healthcare staff spaces for respite are a  few topics currently informing my work and research.

Hospitals have had to adapt quickly to the changing landscape. Many health systems have adopted ‘flex’ infrastructure planning which involves moving from a ‘normal mode’ to a ‘pandemic mode’ in response to a surge in demand. It highlights the importance of spatial design and programming in maintaining operations during a pandemic involving long-range airborne transmission: The design of the physical environment plays a critical role in building resiliency.

I believe that designers must continue to strategically engage with health systems and other stakeholders at the building and policy levels to address design issues alongside public health challenges to bolster our infrastructure resiliency and emergency preparedness in the present and the future.

Resulting plans from the above HCD charrette workshop.

What was it about the E. Todd Wheeler Fellowship that attracted you?
I was introduced to the Fellowship at the 2019 Healthcare Design Conference in New Orleans where I witnessed a presentation by the E. Todd Wheeler Fellows. Inspired by the potential to bridge research and design, I reached out to a few of them to hear about their fellowship experience.

Upon doing further research on the fellowship, I was inspired by the legacy of E. Todd Wheeler and his pursuit for answers to some of the most pressing challenges in healthcare design. Infusing humanity into healthcare, finding the balance between technology and humanity, flexibility, and resiliency in the built environment are challenges that ring true even today. For my fellowship project, I am excited to continue my research on maternal and infant care, specifically the couplet care model, an extension of my graduate thesis at Cornell University.

What do you hope to learn from the experience?
I am excited to deeply engage and listen to diverse perspectives in the healthcare industry. I see this as an essential part of tackling complex challenges that lack a silver-bullet solution. Deep listening, which involves being able to  discern both the message and the underlying emotions, happens in the absence of background noise. I believe that it adds depth to conversations where seemingly different stakeholders can coalesce around shared goals.

I am excited to explore Perkins&Will’s approach to addressing the challenges of healthcare access and service delivery, and the opportunity to learn from the leading mentors in the practice by seeing the world through their eyes! I believe that this will shape my approach to healthcare design now and in the future.

When you are not designing healthcare projects, what do you do for fun?

During my free time, I enjoy spending time outdoors. Hiking on Ithaca trails and paddle boarding in the Finger Lakes have been the highlight of my time in Ithaca. I am also training to compete in my first full marathon in 2022.

I also enjoy experimenting with nature photography. Recently, I’ve been working on a photo essay that explores the play of light on water.

I am always on the lookout for opportunities to travel off the beaten path. These experiences have constantly shifted the kaleidoscope through which I view life, enriching my perspective and appreciation for diverse communities, cultures, and contexts.

5 Fun Facts About Sabah
  1. I’m left-handed and struggle using everyday objects from scissors to can openers, a case for the importance of inclusive design!
  2. From the ages of 5-15, I tried my hand at playing the piano, snare drums, trombone, bugle, and clarinet…all in vain. In hindsight, embarrassing childhood experiences make for funny stories.
  3. I’m a polyglot and grew up speaking three different languages. I attribute this to growing up in India which is home to 122 major languages.
  4. In the past 5 years, I’ve lived in four cities in three countries. From the scorching heat in Dubai to the notoriously frigid Finger Lakes region in New York, I’ve loved every bit of it!
  5. Last year, I adopted a Peace lily plant named Billie (or ‘cat’ in Hindi), in honor of my childhood cat named… you’ve guessed it, Lily.