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Yesterday’s keynote conversation between Derek Parker and Len Berry at the Healthcare Design conference in Phoenix, AZ, was thought-provoking and entertaining, offering a glimpse into some of the issues the industry is facing today.

Berry, a distinguished professor of marketing in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M, turned his focus on healthcare about 12 years ago after rising to the top of the retail service marketing field.  And Parker, a healthcare architect with more than 50 years of experience, has been a leader in the field for the past 25 years.  The two met each other while serving on The Center for Health Design’s board of directors.

As this year’s Changemaker Award winner, Parker was asked to give a keynote address and the idea of a conversation evolved as the conference planners put together the program.  “I don’t know what I have to say that anyone would want to listen to for an hour,” he told me when I saw him this past June.

It’s too bad we didn’t have two hours.

Among other things, Parker told us that he didn’t think that the design of healthcare facilities has changed much in the last five years.  “We have much more work to do on the research side,” he said. “There needs to be more replication of studies.  And our buildings are too expensive to build and operate.  We can’t afford them.”

Plus, he said, “Clients don’t know what they are getting until they’ve got it.”

Journey of Discovery

On the subject of design, Parker told the story of when a big chunk of Carrara marble was delivered to Michelangelo in the 1500s, the great sculptor said, “David’s in there; I just have to take away the excess material.”

“Design is a journey of discovery,” Parker said. “Discovering what’s already there.  You have to go slow, listen, and discover.”

When asked what the high and low points of his career had been, Parker talked about winning the Kaiser Permanente’s Big Ideas, Small Hospital competition and shared an emotional, personal story about the death of two infant sons that changed his perspective on the hospital experience.

Parker, who was the first board chair of The Center for Health Design, also gave a shout out to the the organization’s influence, and the three ladies — Rosalyn Cama, Debra Levin, and myself who have been instrumental in its development and growth since it was founded in 1993. “None of those women came to us in binders,” he quipped.

For an interview I did with Derek Parker in 2009, click here.

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Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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