Trailblazer: Anjali Joseph

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Imagine the following scenario: a patient comes into an OR for a routine procedure and all goes well, except they develop an infection after the fact. The questions immediately begin. What went wrong? Where cleaning procedures not clear enough? Was the nurse/doctor exhausted or stressed and maybe forgot to properly sanitize something?

But while the questions are many, Anjali Joseph thinks the answer may be much simpler.

“More and more the research is showing that if something goes wrong, you can’t point to a single factor, but instead it is a system of many different things,” says Joseph, who sits as the Endowed Chair in Architecture and Health Design and Research at Clemson University.

Joseph grew up in New Delhi, India, attending the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi receiving her bachelor’s degree in architecture, which was a natural fit for her passions growing up.

“I was always good at art and science and architecture was a marriage of those things,” says Joseph.

From there, Joseph received her master’s in architecture from Kansas State University.

“I was interested in architecture and its impact on human behavior,” says Joseph, “I enjoyed the research so much I decided to do more research and went back to school.”

At Georgia Tech, Joseph earned her Ph.D in architecture, with a focus on architecture, culture and behavior. After graduating, she went to California to work with the Center of Health Design, a non-profit think tank innovating design in the healthcare industry.

Of the Center, she says, “It’s a community of different entities in healthcare. Very multi-disciplinary. They work with architects and hospitals and their focus is research and putting it all together to develop better healing environments.”

After 10 years of work for the Center of Health Design, Joseph was brought to Clemson University as an endowed chair in their Architecture Department. The chair is funded by a grant from Spartanburg Regional Health System, as well as through the SmartState Program, a statewide program between Medical University of South Carolina, University of South Carolina, and Clemson to encourage economic and technological growth by bringing in outside experts and researchers to educate a new generation of South Carolina’s workforce.

Joseph is tasked with creating a strong research base to innovate healthcare design, in addition to working with healthcare organizations across the state, including Greenville Health System, Spartanburg Regional, MUSC and Health Sciences South Carolina.

“We can look at all of the various systemic factors—the different aspects of operating room design, how the room is linked to the operating suite, the flow, the equipment flow, information flow and communication between the operating room team,” says Joseph. “The focus of my position is any health outcome.”

The research will look at everything from room design and layout, to how equipment is used and where it is in the room, to work flow, communication and basically anything that can impact the human element of
the process.

In the end, all of her work will seek to answer one question: how do you make these places safer for everyone involved in healthcare process?

According to Joseph, most of her research and work will be able to directly impact future construction in South Carolina. One example would be MUSC’s new surgery center, in which she is a part of a project on creating an innovative operating room that will be part of the new center.

Joseph has high hopes for this particular project. “I hope to grow the center to where it is the best in the nation, attracting the best students and faculty from across the nation,” she says.

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