2019 HKS Health Fellow Will Research the Effect of Emergency Departments on Psychiatric Patients

Clemson University graduate Hannah Shultz has joined HKS as our 2019 Health Fellow. The annual fellowship allows a health care design graduate to spend a year researching a topic while working on projects with designers at one of the most influential architectural firms in the industry.

The prestigious fellowship — open to applicants finishing their undergraduate or graduate studies — is much more than an academic opportunity to delve into a topic of choice. The winning applicant is given full-time employment at HKS and the opportunity to continue his or her career with the firm after the one-year fellowship term.

“We prioritize research in everything we do, and the fellowship infuses this mentality into a unique entry-level position,” said Southern Ellis, a designer in our health group and 2011 Health Fellow. “It’s creating the next leaders in our firm.”

Shultz, who is based in our Dallas office, will study the impact of emergency department environments on patients who show up at the door experiencing a mental health crisis. She’ll work with a committee of HKS leaders to refine the parameters of her research and to receive guidance throughout her fellowship. 

“We need better design guidelines for the initial planning in the redesign of emergency departments,” Shultz said.

Her interest in behavioral and mental health dovetails with the pursuits of HKS’ health group, including a comprehensive addiction recovery center that recently opened in Oklahoma and our partnership with the state of Texas to revamp two public psychiatric hospitals.

A native of Alton, Missouri, Shultz attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and channeled her passion for art into a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies with an emphasis in interior design. She became an undergraduate research assistant, helping a graduate team evaluate trauma room data and separately conducting research on simulation rooms for medical students. After graduation, Shultz joined a commercial interior design firm and worked in St. Louis for a year before pursuing graduate studies in health care design.

Shultz moved to South Carolina after gaining admission into Clemson University’s distinguished Architecture + Health program. She was also offered a graduate assistant position in Clemson’s Center for Health Facilities Design and Testing, a multidisciplinary group of researchers, practitioners and industry experts who seek to improve people’s health through better architecture and building design.

As graduation approached, Shultz began applying for design fellowships. She said the HKS Health Fellowship was her top pick because of the program’s longevity and the firm’s expertise in emergency department design, emphasis on research and wealth of resources.

“There’s so much passion that I felt just by being here,” said Shultz, who started at HKS in July after graduating from Clemson in the spring. “It’s very reassuring for somebody who just came out of a three-year master’s degree. It feels good to keep up that momentum of chasing a dream, of not losing the greater vision.”

At the end of the fellowship, the designer delivers results. That might be a research paper or a design tool, such as the benchmarking and data collection practice developed by 2016 fellow Kaitlyn Badlato to measure the performance of HKS health projects. Other fellows have studied how policies and population trends are shaping Chinese medical facilities and the role of empathy in health care design. 

“HKS is doing everything in our power to fill our firm with incredible people and to invest in research so we have informed decisions on everything we design,” said Ellis, whose fellowship experience propelled him to become a mentor in the program. “When you’re in a meeting with someone from HKS, you know this is a firm that invests in those two things.”