Ana Pinto-Alexander, who took home the Healthcare Leader award at this year's virtual HiP Awards ceremony, always puts people at the center of her design process, aiming to create holistic healing environments that improve the overall experience of giving and receiving care. Pinto-Alexander, principal and SVP at HKS, begins each care facility project by turning inward, generating design ideas grounded in evidence-based research and empathy. "I am a highly sensitive individual," she admits. "Spaces have always affected my mood and my energy level. For example, when I am surrounded by trees with light filtering through the leaves, I feel grateful and at ease. When I am in an interior environment that is well-designed with a balance of texture, color and light, it brings me comfort and happiness."
An avid traveler—at least before the pandemic—Pinto-Alexander, who grew up in Colombia, references her own experiences as well as her clients' experiences as a design map, starting each project with what she deems as an exchange of "empathetic listening." The approach enables her to collaboratively establish end-goals and design principles with clients and colleagues—who she feels ever grateful to work with—to build a cohesive plan of action. "Having clarity around these elements creates a clear pathway and an enjoyable design journey," she notes.
As for the future of healthcare design, Pinto-Alexander believes evidence-based research centered around the well-being of patients, families, and caregivers will continue to guide design decisions, along with advances in technology. Safe, cleanable materials as well as acoustic and lighting solutions also are vital, she adds. Although most of her work has been in the healthcare sector, Pinto-Alexander is passionate about the role of design in educational facilities. Recognized as a Distinguished Alumni of Purdue University, she gave the commencement speech for the graduating interior design class of 2020 at Texas Tech University.