Tama Duffy Day, FASID, FIIDA, LEED AP BD+C, has been a designer of distinction throughout her career but now she’s one officially! ASID has named her its 2014 Designer of Distinction, THE premier award for personal achievement in the field. The award recognizes an ASID professional member who exemplifies a commitment to the profession as demonstrated by a significant, high-quality body of work.
For 30 years, Duffy Day, who is the firmwide area lead for Health & Wellness at Gensler in Chicago, has helped set the standards and agenda for the field of healthcare design. She holds 15 board positions and affiliations ranging from national magazines to prestigious universities, has earned more than 50 honors and awards, and has been involved with more than 100 articles, videos, and speaking engagements.
Among her award-winning projects are the Mayo Clinic (largest cancer treatment center in the world); a portion of the Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut that was the first medical facility to use the hospitality concept within a healthcare setting; and the Arlington Free Clinic, a private, nonprofit, community-based organization in Arlington, Va., that provides medical care at no charge to low-income, uninsured persons.
Duffy Day begins each project with a client by assigning a single word or phrase to represent the spirit of the project. For the Arlington Free Clinic, the guiding word was “dignity,” because people come to a free clinic with certain notions about how others judge someone who needs the services of a free clinic, and Duffy Day wanted to ensure that the clinic’s clients would, at all times, be keenly aware they were being treated with dignity. For a project involving a national guard facility in Saudi Arabia, the key word was “respect” — reminding Duffy Day and her team that the social and cultural imperatives of Saudi Arabia had to be respected at all times.
She also stays current, recently tweeting (@TamaDuffyDay), “What Disney’s MagicBands can teach hospitals about personalizing the patient experience.” This was about wristbands that were enabled with RFID (radio-frequency identification) to function as tickets and room keys but that also carry personal information and preferences. Duffy Day was asking us to imagine the possibilities for that kind of technology and integration in a hospital setting.
Duffy Day designs interior spaces but she’s in love with the big outdoors and says, “Every single design I work on is influenced by nature.” She grew up in North Dakota near the Canadian border and was a self-proclaimed tomboy, going on frequent nature adventures — which she still pursues to this day. Duffy Day has been scuba diving, fly fishing, on a safari, trained on a trapeze, sky diving, and on extended bicycle trips.
A lifelong learner who likes to be around people who remain curious and open to new experiences, Duffy Day can imagine a future life in which she is writing books or teaching college courses. And still designing spaces that support a sense of health and well-being regardless of where — hospital, airport, school — those spaces might be.