The transition from academia to the workforce — with its deadlines, budgets and client demands — can be a crash course for young professionals. The HKS Health Fellowship helps recent health care design graduates bridge the two worlds with a unique experience in the health care field. Participants — a single applicant is chosen annually for the one-year program — reserve a portion of their Fellowship for research on a proposal they submit, while enjoying many other benefits.
“Architecture is unique in that it changes with the world around it. The Fellowship allows you to feel that,” said Tyler Schwede, 2014 Health Fellow. “[The Fellowship] got me into three conferences in my first year after graduation, and it put me in front of CEOs, allowed me to travel and it catered to what I thought was important. Research opened these previously inaccessible doors.”
These aspiring health leaders work under the guidance of some of the most influential architects and researchers in the profession and they are exposed to opportunities for networking, travel and more. In addition, the Fellow joins a tight-knit community of designers who encourage each other to make a difference in the field.
“This Fellowship is our own little fraternity,” Tyler says. “We hold a lot of the firm’s research and we know the people who make the big impacts. You’re at an advantage because you know all the people that are a part of this and it’s always improving.”
Sophie Crocker applied because she was working in China’s architecture industry and was frustrated with a lack of local research in health care. Through the Fellowship, she spent several months in China in 2018 and produced several reports she plans to submit at conferences. When she submitted her research idea, Fellowship leaders helped her refine her proposal without redefining it.
“My proposal was pretty big,” Sophie says. “Although I got a lot of support in framing my study to be more manageable, it was still very much focused on making sure I was doing what I wanted to do and not trying to push me into some pre-designed objective.”
Most Fellows, such as Tyler, begin the Fellowship immediately after college but Sophie spent two years working in the field before joining the Fellowship. Both undergrad and graduate students in their final semesters are eligible to apply.
Former Fellows say the program helps them get a jump-start toward a successful career. “In school, you’re used to doing all this research and pursuing topics you’re intimately interested in, but when you get into the field you’re put on a team and you’re assigned a project,” said Southern Ellis, 2011’s Fellow. “The Health Fellowship helps you bridge that gap with research and discovering what you’re passionate about.”
Past proposals have addressed a variety of topics. Kaitlyn Badlato, the 2016 Fellow, developed a method of benchmarking for HKS’ health projects, a process vital to improving design and understanding a building’s impact. And Tyler researched how to make inpatient units more efficient by basing design on walking frequency instead of distance while Lindsay Todd, the 2010 Fellow, shadowed an inpatient oncology nurse for six months to better understand how our designs impact the user experience.
“It’s forever changed the way I approach design as a health care architect,” Lindsay says. The Fellowship “affords recent graduates that push to challenge, imagine and to ask what if.”
The Fellowship’s schedule accommodates the research proposal and applicant. Some Fellows dedicate several months in a row to research, but others reserve a portion of each week and some work in spurts throughout the year.
The Fellowship was organized to recognize and encourage recent graduates with a passion for health care design, but Southern, a health care designer with HKS and an administrator of the Fellowship, says that it has grown into something more. After their Fellowship year, participants are challenged to become leaders within the HKS health group and the design industry.
“We’ve seen that fanning the flame of these future leaders and giving them the tools and exposure to be successful has created an avenue for our health studio to have an increasing impact around the world,” Southern says.
And Kaitlyn says the Fellowship carries personal value for its participants as well.
“It’s been great to know that my work has had an impact and it’s relevant to what people are working on today,” Kaitlyn says. “People who bring something different to the table are always welcome.”
Can you design a healthier future? Apply to the HKS Health Fellowship to test the limits of what you can do through design research.