“Atlanta was having a very serious problem, and its continued ever since then to have a serious problem with HIV.”
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It was the mid-1980’s and Larry Lehman, an Ohio native who relocated to Georgia, began volunteering for AID Atlanta. The non-profit provides HIV/AIDS-related services, care, and education. It was the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and during this time Lehman struck up a friendship with another volunteer.
“He came out as a young gay man,” Lehman remembers. “[His] father threw him out; he lived in some friend’s garage.”
Despite these challenges, Lehman’s friend put himself through school and became a computer programmer. He continued to face difficulties—this time health-related—when doctors diagnosed him with HIV. He remained a volunteer, and less than a year after meeting Lehman died of AIDS-related complications. Their friendship inspired in Lehman an enduring desire to work with HIV non-profits and give back to the community. “I feel a great passion that I think that’s what we’re here to do.”
In 1987 Lehman volunteered with Open Hand, then became one of the organization’s first board members, and its treasurer. In 1990, he returned to work for AID Atlanta and then AID Gwinnett as director and the organization’s first full-time employee.
In 2015, AID Gwinnett merged with Positive Impact, another AIDS service organization, to become Positive Impact Health Centers (PIHC), one of the largest HIV care centers in metro Atlanta. The board of directors named Lehman CEO of the newly-formed center. PIHC relocated its Midtown Atlanta center to Decatur and received a grant to redesign the space and another in Duluth. The SimTigrate Design Lab drew up plans for a center that’s more client-centered and supports the collaboration of staff members.
“In our former building people were isolated in corners; people were siloed. You don’t come in my area, I don’t go in your area, and it works well if you were all separate groups, but we’re not. We’re one agency, and we all see the same patients, and we all work together.”
Lehman says SimTigrate changed not only the physical layout of the centers, but also PIHC’s culture. 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 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.