As part of the 2022 HCD Conference + Expo in San Antonio this month, The Center for Health Design presented its annual Changemaker Award. The annual honor recognizes individuals or organizations that have demonstrated the ability to change the way healthcare facilities are designed and built and whose work has had a broad impact on the advancement of healthcare design
For 2022, The Center honored A. Ray Pentecost III, director of the Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD) at Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas), Ronald L. Skaggs and Joseph G. Sprague Chair of Health Facilities Design, and professor of practice in the College of Architecture and College of Medicine.
Formally trained in architecture, public health, and nursing, and working at Texas A&M, Pentecost has used his diverse background to become an advocate and practitioner of healthcare facility evidence-based design throughout his career.
“When I started out the term ‘multidisciplinary’ was just catching fire,” said Pentecost, who said he was influenced by a mentor who led a dual degree program in architecture and public health. “He showed me how they worked together. If I knew what communities need from a public health standpoint, I could build it.”
During his acceptance speech, he related his career to a “ginormous game of rummy,” where he’s been experienced a variety of “cards,” or opportunities, and found a way to make them fit. “There’s lot of disciplines coming together and blending somehow into a career direction,” he said.
As part of the Changemaker presentation, William J. Hercules, CEO at WJH Health (Orlando, Fla.) and D. Kirk Hamilton, PhD, professor emeritus, Texas A&M University, led a Q+A with Pentecost. During the discussion, Hamilton asked Pentecost about his commitment to research and when it became such a focus in his work.
Pentecost said during a night in the early 1980s at the Texas Medical Center doing research for his doctorate, he was trying to finish a data analysis as it got later into the night. “Finally I got the data to work and the model was built and I just couldn’t sit still with the energy I felt,” he said. “I walked over to the big window overlooking the largest medical center in the world and I thought ‘I know something nobody else knows.’ I couldn’t get enough of research after that. Being the first person to know something and being obligated to share it. That’s a powerful thing.”
Beyond the university setting, Pentecost has also helped guide the worldwide architecture community toward more research to impact global health. For example, as the director of the International Union of Architects (UIA) – Public Health Group based in Paris. Pentecost co-authored a declaration for the UIA, approved by 104 member nations, to make “2022: The UIA Year of Design for Health.”
This initiative urges all UIA Member Sections to encourage architects and their clients to use evidence-based design to promote health in buildings and cities. “This is a signal that health design is a priority,” Pentecost said.
He added that he wants to change the way architects see their role to that of “health professionals” and evolve the current curriculum. “I want to change the way architects are educated to include a greater emphasis on research,” he said. “If we don’t find a way to incorporate and prioritize research in the curriculum, we’re going to graduate brand new graduates who are not relevant and that would be a tragedy.”
Reflecting on being chosen as this year’s Changemaker, Pentecost said his journey has definitely been a group effort. “Everyone knows healthcare is a team sport,” he said. “And I have been surrounded by team members who really understand what mattered and were a huge influence on me. The people surrounding me over the course of my career have changed me.”