Gwen Davies, Decatur

“Improving clinic characteristics became a secondary activity in this grant about keeping people in HIV care, because if they’re not in HIV care, they ultimately will die.”

Ten minutes east of downtown Atlanta is a community that you probably never knew existed. It’s called a cohousing community, and the idea is simple: Everyone has their own home, just like in a traditional neighborhood. What’s different, though, is there are more shared spaces – kitchen, dining area, laundry, and recreational space – which encourage interaction with your neighbors. Gwen Davies has lived there for almost 20 years with her family.

“It’s designed so that you’ll see your neighbors, so it’s kind of like a campus,” she explains.

There’s also an emphasis on shared resources and sustainable living. The community has a three-acre organic garden, orchard, greenhouse, and pond. “The thing that’s relevant here is that the idea that the built environment influences how you interact with your neighbors.” 

It’s an idea that also extends to Davies’ work. She’s a licensed psychologist and behavioral health director for Positive Impact Health Centers (PIHC), where she’s worked for 15 years. The organization provides HIV specialty care and support services, behavioral health treatment, and HIV testing and prevention services. Over the years, Davies has seen PIHC grow from a small staff of 15 people, to now more than 100. She believes the design of a health clinic is a deciding factor in whether people choose to receive care. Davies and a colleague applied for and received a grant that allowed PIHC to hire community health workers and explore how to work better as a team and provide exceptional patient care.

plans for new positive impact health centers

“Improving clinic characteristics became a secondary activity in this grant about keeping people in HIV care, because if they’re not in HIV care, they ultimately will die.”

During this period PIHC merged with another AIDS service organization, and the center was moving from Midtown to Decatur. Davies and PIHC began working with Georgia Tech’s SimTigrate Design Lab to gain insight on how to improve the design of their new center, and another in Duluth. The new layout is client-centered; it also supports better collaboration of the care team, improves coordination and communication of care between departments, and increases the amount of patient-provider interactions. SimTigrate consulted PIHC staff on the design.

“That really improves the morale of your staff, to feel like they’re being asked directly about what the problems and solutions are and not having to go through a layer of management,” says Davies.

The expansion will also provide the square footage for an in-house pharmacy for patients. By providing a better experience for patients, PIHC hopes to improve patient adherence to care and ultimately their health outcomes.


Georgia Tech Connection

Jennifer DuBose portrait

Jennifer R. DuBose is the associate director of the SimTigrate Design Lab and principal research associate in the College of Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is responsible for the operations of the Lab as well project development and research. Her research focuses on evidence-based design for healthcare facilities projects including the development of a business case for evidence-based design, collaboration on the exhaustive 2008 literature review on the subject and investigating the role of innovation in improving design for healthcare systems.


Additional Images

Photographer Vision

“Along one of the rear corridors of the center are ‘consultation suites,’ where counselors meet with clients for various reasons. They are intimate, muted spaces painted in warms tones. The lighting is dim with a soft glow, and sound conditioners drown out any exterior sound. The image with harsh lighting is an interpretation of what Gwen Davies must feel internally, being in the spotlight of these rooms… charged with helping individuals through the most difficult periods of their lives. I tried to capture how clients must see her – a glowing, smiling friend in their time of need.
Jerrold Mobley, Information Associate, Georgia Tech Library