Alumna Helps Improve Health Globally Through Design

MAY 23, 2014 – Monique Guimond (NHS’10) says she first became interested in the way architecture and design plays a role in health promotion and disease prevention during her senior research internship in Uganda.

The alumna was in Kampala conducting a project with the Ministry of Health on malaria as part of the Department of International Health’s practical experience abroad program.

“We were doing research on malaria and rainfall patterns,” she says.  “I became interested in how rainfall around hospitals affected malaria rates, and I looked at roofing and landscaping and how that might help prevent the spread of disease.”

Hospital Design

After graduation, the Maine native met one of the founders of Mass Design Group, which has partnered with organizations such as Partners in Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to design hospitals and other facilities in Africa.

The organization, for example, worked with Partners in Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health to build the Butaro Hospital with a focus on developing the physical space in such a way as to reduce hospital-borne infection.

It now has expanded its model to work with clients in over a dozen countries, using design to mitigate the health and economic burdens of the communities in which they work, says Guimond, who joined the Boston-based group in 2010.

“The built environment does play a huge role in global health,” she says.

Managing Operations

“I am not an architect,” she notes.  “I have a public health background from Georgetown.  I came in wanting to combine my interests in public health and design by working on the policy and research side of a global health infrastructure organization.”

An early project that Guimond worked on, for instance, involved developing an online database and interactive tool that contained case studies from around the world dealing with public health and design.

She then moved into helping manage the organization and increase the staff from four people to 44.

“I became very involved in the operations and development side of the organization,” she says.  “Now I manage our operations.  Where I thought I was going to be involved in the health research, I became really captivated by how social enterprise organizations function and what is needed in order to do that across multiple countries and funding models.”

‘Outside of the Box’

Guimond says that she and her colleagues have broadened their focus to look at the various elements that contribute to health in addition to well-designed health care facilities – from economic development through local labor and material choices to housing and education.

“You have to look at the picture very holistically,” she says.

She encourages current students to be creative when selecting a career path.

“Think outside of the box in terms of how you can apply a public or international health degree,” she says.  “It isn’t cut and dry.  There are so many fields out there where public health is applicable, such as the field of architecture and design.”

By Bill Cessato