Health Design Thinker
Dr. Kate Martin


NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit

I had the honor of participating in the NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit yesterday. There were amazing keynote speakers, Eric Deggans and Haben Girma, and sessions focused on strategies to advance institutional equity, intercultural education, and promote access and success for individuals from diverse identity groups in higher education. This year’s theme was “Embracing Community Care: Higher Education’s Role in Addressing Health Inequities,” so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spread the word about our UNLV Down Syndrome Program. Program Coordinator, Samrawit Misiker, co-lead an interactive group discussion that started with a brainstorming activity. We asked the attendees how they would improve their own healthcare experience. After writing everyone’s responses on a whiteboard, it didn’t take long to realize that our audience members wanted the same things we had heard previously from individuals with Down syndrome and their families: more coordinated care, better communication with healthcare providers, and help navigating insurance coverage, to name a few. Making the most of healthcare shouldn’t be so hard! We should all get to reap the benefits of our technological advancements, evidence-based practices and receive compassionate care. Being part of a diverse and expansive university like UNLV provides enormous potential for change that can have a positive impact on our community and beyond. Here’s to a better healthcare system for all of us, healthdesignthinkers.

Samrawit Misiker (left) and Kate Martin (right) are standing on each side of a Southern Nevada Diversity Summit sign that states, "Reaching the Stars: A University / Community Collaboration for Nevadans with Down Syndrome." Samrawit is wearing a brown and white patterned blazer and Kate is wearing a red and black patterned blazer.
Samrawit Misiker (left) and Kate Martin (right) at the NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit

Primer on Health Design Thinking

Kate Martin, MD | March 29, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant gaps and design flaws in our healthcare system. Long-standing health disparities acutely worsened in vulnerable populations and the need to address them became even more important than ever. Problem-based learning, commonly taught in medical schools, engages students in a subject by working through a poorly-defined problem. Design thinking is a way to develop and promote creativity in the problem-solving process. Health design (a form of human-centered design) takes on the complex social problems often encountered in healthcare.

There are five stages to the health design thinking process: (1) empathize, or exercise the ability to step into other people’s shoes, to understand their lives, and start to solve problems from their perspectives; (2) define – the problem you would like to solve; (3) ideate – AKA idea generation, to find new solutions from the user’s perspective; (4) prototype creation, or map out the most important ideas to propose a solution concept; and (5) test the prototype, incorporating feedback from the user. Note that design thinking is a non-linear process, as depicted below. You can go forwards, backwards and in between!

Now that you have learned the stages of the health design process, what problem in healthcare would you fix, and better yet, how would you start? Send your health design thinker superpowers to the rescue!


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