Luke Leyden of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: Face Time – HCD Magazine

Deputy Director & Chief Architect University of Iowa Hospitals and ClinicsS (Iowa City, Iowa) talks about his first project, learning to use design to improve the patient experience, and the story behind a prized Limbo trophy on his desk.

What attracted you to a career in healthcare?

I’ve always been fascinated by healthcare, especially because of the rapid advances in technology and treatment. I am constantly amazed and challenged by the variety of locations and how designers have to constantly adapt, from working in imaging departments to highly complex, technical locations, to creating spaces that are soothing, fun, and engaging for children.

What was your first health care project?

The 200,000-square-foot Pomerantz Family Pavilion West expansion on the main campus of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The lower level housed radiation oncology and the upper floors were shells for future expansion. Years later, I led a project to equip several of those floors with exam rooms for oncology and chemotherapy infusion rooms.

What lessons have you taken away from that project today?

It is our responsibility to advocate for patients and their experience. For this project, a backlit glass artwork was carefully selected and installed in the ceiling above the linear accelerator to give patients a soothing distraction during their treatments. In all the projects I work on, I still try to see things from the patients’ point of view and develop ways to improve their experience, from working on a signage master plan to help patients and their families as they move around our large campus to small rest areas with views outside the patient room.

Three Recent Health Care Projects and Your Role

1 University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics (UIHC) North Liberty on Forevergreen Road Campus, Iowa City, Iowa, Architect of Owner.

Architect of 2 UIHC Intramural Tower, Iowa City, Owner.

3 UIHC Stead Family Children’s Hospital NICU Airframe Floor Arrangement, Iowa City, Architect of Owner.

What do you like most about working in healthcare?

I recognize that some people in our hospital will be going through some of the most difficult times of their lives, so it is very rewarding to design spaces that can aid healing and enhance their experience.

What challenges in your job keep you up at night?

Our organization is growing rapidly and although we have some big projects in the works, it is becoming difficult to find space for our current needs.

an unexpected item on your desk

limbo trophyA Limbo trophy from a networking event at the 2017 Healthcare Design Conference + Expo. I wasn’t the official winner, but by my own calculations, I finished third. I had a great time that night and I wanted to celebrate that experience, so I made my own trophy that I keep on my desk.

Outside the office, we are likely to meet you…

playing golf, snowboarding, biking with his sons, or practicing architecture at his small firm. I love my current role and overseeing design for UIHC at a high level, but I missed the challenges of construction and design, so I opened my own company. I am also interested in the business aspect of architecture and have always wanted to run my own agency.

dog or cat?

Dog! Their loyalty and obedience make them wonderful companions.

Coffee or Tea?

Both! I need coffee in the morning, but I often drink tea in the afternoon.

Morning person or night owl?

Owl. When I have to meet with members of the surgical team it’s usually the morning before their first case comes out – I dread those meetings.

In your opinion the fashion trend should make a comeback

waist pack I wear these on vacation because they’re so useful and I can carry a lot, but my family laughs at me.

How did you earn your first dollar?

In the summer I worked for my cousin laying floors. Although it was hard work, I enjoyed the different challenges and it was my first introduction to construction.

your favorite karaoke song

“My Hero” by Foo Fighters.

the first album you ever bought

The Smashing Pumpkins “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”

cocktail of your choice

Tropical Pineapple from Jefferson County Ciderworks, a craft cider brewery near where I live.

your hidden talent

singing, but my friends and family would disagree!

If you were not an architect, you would…

an engineer. I love coming up with solutions.


Citation “The only time I’ve put the bar down is it hanging in half.” -Michael Scott, “The Office.” I truly believe that it is important to constantly push ourselves to improve and grow. This is something I try to achieve in my professional and personal life.

movie character Cousin Eddie in ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Despite his bad luck and complete disregard for societal norms, he is unshakable. He also has some of the funniest lines in that movie.

show to binge watch “Friend.” It is so well written that I can never read it.

Luke Leyden Cycle Wayweekend activity Bicycling on a trail near my house. This path used to be a railroad, so it is long and flat with beautiful canopy. It is a great opportunity to connect with nature and clear your mind.

band/music artist Foo Fighters. I love his music.

shameful pleasure The occasional Red Bull, when I feel sleepy in the afternoon.

have breakfast when you travel gummy bear.

Play Supercross. I grew up with dirt bikes, so I really enjoy watching it. Our family has a fantasy league and we always have people we cheer for.

Team Iowa Hawkeyes Football.

luke leaden family vacation

city ​​to visit Clearwater, Florida I have traveled there many times with my family and I love the beach.

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