This episode starts with a question: “what if the architectural design of an obstetric unit influenced the c-section rate in that unit?”
That question occurred to obstetrician/gynecologist Neel Shah when he attended a presentation by Michael Murphy, the co-founder and executive director of Mass Design, an architectural design and research firm that focuses particularly on healthcare architecture. Neel thinks about c-section rates all the time and is a leading researcher in the field of maternal health. C-section rates vary widely throughout the US – from 7 to 70%, and where a woman delivers better predicts whether she will get a c-section than her own personal risk factors. So, Michael Murphy’s contention that “Architecture is never neutral. It either heals or hurts” stayed with Neel and inspired him to pursue a research initiative between Mass Design and his research group, Ariadne Labs.
Amie Shao is a director with MASS Design Group, where she oversees research focusing on health infrastructure planning and evaluation. In addition to guiding impact research for MASS built projects, she coordinated the production of National Health Infrastructure Standards for the Liberian Ministry of Health and has been involved in the design and evaluation of healthcare facilities in Haiti, Africa, and the United States. Deb Rosenberg joined MASS in 2015, with a unique background in healthcare and architecture. Throughout her career in nursing and architecture is a common ambition to promote health and well-being, and she believes that the spaces where people live, work and heal have the capacity to greatly support or restrict our human potential. Neel Shah, MD, MPP, is Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs. His team is currently collaborating with hospitals across the United States, and using methods from design, systems engineering, and management to reduce the epidemic of avoidable c-sections.
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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.