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Updated April 2023

Often people ask me if I'm an architect or a designer. Or they think I'm a researcher.

But I'm none of those.  I'm a writer and marketer by training who happened to stumble onto healthcare and senior living design.

My discovery began when I met Wayne Ruga in 1987. I was an associate editor with Contract magazine attending a reception at the San Francisco Furniture Mart.

Wayne, who was a practicing healthcare architect at the time, told me he was starting a symposium on healthcare design. I looked at the rather slight bald man standing in front of me and said what every magazine editor says, “Send me some information about it.”

Not only did Wayne send me information, but he invited me to join his Advisory Board and be the Emcee for the First Annual Health Care Interior Design Symposium, which was held in 1988. About 500 people attended that first event at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA, and the healthcare design industry was born.

My Healthcare Design Education

When I left Contract magazine, I remained on the Symposium's Advisory Board and was contracted to edit the Journal of Healthcare Design, the recorded proceedings of the Symposium. The hours I spent pouring over those transcripts for the eight volumes of the journal that I edited gave me extensive knowledge of the people and trends that were shaping the industry.

In 1993, after attendance at the Symposium had grown to more than 1,000 professionals from all over the world and people were calling all the time with various requests, the Advisory Board recognized that the work was much larger than just an annual conference.  So we formed the nonprofit Center for Health Design.

As my marketing communications work with The Center grew, I shifted from being a board member to a staff consultant, serving as Interim President in 1999 after Wayne left.  I also consulted with other companies and organizations that focused on healthcare, including WHR Architects, Bonar Floors U.S. (now part of Forbo), ADD Interior Systems (bought by KI), and Healing Healthcare Systems.

I continued to speak and write, authoring articles for industry magazines, and editing three books on healthcare design. When David O'Neill was hired as The Center's president, I resumed my role as its consulting Director of Marketing and Communications.

From Consultant to Employee

Dave wasn't the right person for the job and left on his own accord after six months. Before he left, Dave and I persuaded the the board to bring Debra Levin back to run the organization.

In 2006, Debra convinced me to join The Center in a full-time capacity as Executive Vice President. My duties included overseeing the Evidence-based Design Assessment and Certification (EDAC) program, supervising strategic marketing for all programs, and participating in new project development.

I also worked with the staff to develop internal processes and systems to support growth in programs and personnel.

While I loved my work with The Center, I wasn't necessarily suited to an operations role and the organization didn't really need both an Executive Vice President and President.  So, in October 2012, I left The Center and decided to start my marketing consulting practice again and do more writing.

What I'm Doing Now

For the past 10 years, it's been great to work with organizations like Carolina, J+J Flooring, MindClick, CannonDesign, the Joint Commission, and Healing Healthcare Systems (again!), whose clients are on the front lines of healthcare and senior living. And I've also done website projects with the Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) and the American Academy of Healthcare Designers (AAHID). (Check out some of my recent projects.)

I've also enjoyed writing for Healthcare Design and Environments for Aging magazines, as well as this blog. And I've continued to speak at conferences and other events.

In 2022, I joined the board CADRE, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance design research and evaluation on the societal impact of the built environment by providing a platform for shared thinking amongst community, industry, academia, and design practice.

The healthcare design path I took long ago has led me to here. So many of you have been on a similar journey, sharing the belief that the design of the physical environment can and does positively impact quality and safety.

How did you get to here?


Listen to this interview I did with Doug Shapiro on the "Imagine a Place" podcast in May 2021. We spoke about what has shaped healthcare design and a better way to imagine senior living.

I also told a story about when my mom was in the hospital and how the design of her room made the experience so much better for my family.

In April 2020, I was also a guest on the "Healthcare Interior Design 2.0" podcast hosted by Cheryl Janis. I share a personal story of traveling back from Egypt during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, thoughts on Covid-19's impact on healthcare facility planning and design, some more of my backstory, ideas about aging in place, and more.

P.S.  Please do me a favor -- if you liked this post and like this blog, please share it with others by sending them the link and/or post it on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, etc.  Also, don't forget to subscribe, so you'll get emails when new content is posted.  Thanks!

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Leave a comment


11 years ago

Thank you for sharing your path. It is always interesting to see how people get to where they are today.

Sara Marberry

11 years ago

Thanks, Andrea!

Henry Domke

11 years ago

A wonderful story well told!

Sara Marberry

11 years ago

Thanks, Henry. Love your cacti photo postcard!

Never Underestimate the Power of Stories - Sara Marberry Sara Marberry

9 years ago

[…] I think every presentation should start with a story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your story, but it should be a story about something related to what you’re going to talk about that […]


8 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story Sara. It's always encouraging to hear how people got to where they are.

Reza Mabadi

4 years ago

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, I have my story as well.
I will be happy to share my story with you here as well. this my uncompleted web site, go to "my story "page.

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Thanks, Reza. Your story is amazing!

Harshada Jashwant

4 years ago

Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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