Lindsey Westphal presented her design proposal during Research and Creative Activity Week in April. Her design was intended to provide a comfortable, peaceful treatment space for patients at Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


Interior design student’s work has healing influence for cancer patients

April 21, 2014

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Don’t let the term “interior design” summon thoughts of paint swatches and throw pillows. That’s decorating. The type of design that interests East Carolina University student Lindsey Westphal brings comfort to the sick and can even aid healing.

Westphal, a Raleigh native studying in the College of Human Ecology, recently completed a design proposal complete with renderings and models for the redesign of a treatment space in the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center. The center provides outpatient cancer treatment services through the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health.

Her design included calming colors and centered on the concept she calls “a ripple effect.” It reflects her hope that change can come from one simple improvement, such as what she proposed for a treatment room.

Westphal developed a budget for the improvements and answered to a real-world client – Allison Clary, office coordinator at the center.

“Design is huge in health care,” Clary said. “We want our patients to feel comfortable and at peace while they are waiting to get treatment or being treated for their cancer.

“Acoustics are important in healthcare so that the patients can relax and not feel overwhelmed with others around. You want something pleasing to the eye, something a little cheery but not overbearing, keeping a positive environment. You also want materials that are easily cleaned and that will accommodate people of all shapes and sizes. There is a lot more to designing the perfect space that many would never think of.”
Westphal points out her design for a restful patient treatment space at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center.

The ambitious work was prompted by Westphal’s involvement in the Honors College at ECU, which requires all seniors complete a research project or portfolio of work. However, it also capitalized on a decade-long partnership between interior design associate professor Susan Meggs and Annette Greer, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Brody School of Medicine.

The pair has designed numerous courses and projects linking health care with interior design. Their students have worked at a daycare in Duplin County, the James D. Bernstein Community Health Center in Greenville and on rooms in the Brody Building.

“We’re always serving the community,” Meggs remarked. “Not just my class but everyone in the (interior design and merchandising) department.”

Westphal arrived at ECU with an interest in residential design, but that morphed into commercial work and eventually narrowed to health care. The field brings unique challenges, she said.

“You’re not designing for one person or for one family of four, but for a space many people will use,” she noted.

A model demonstrates the layout of the proposed treatment spaces at the center.
Prior to developing her design proposal, Westphal researched the diseases treated at the cancer center, studied the philosophy of health care design, attended a national design conference and interviewed patients at the center.

Westphal remembers connecting with one in particular, who spoke candidly to Westphal even as she received treatment intravenously.

“She understood that I was trying to design the space for her,” Westphal said. “A lot of patients don’t get that experience. They just go into a crisp, white hospital.”

Under Meggs’ mentorship, Westphal presented her research and design proposal at the annual Research and Creative Achievement Week held at ECU in March.

“(The project) was a good ending (to college) because it encompassed everything I’ve learned,” Westphal said. “I hope it’s something that will be implemented.”