October 15, 2015

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Design of Healthcare by Joyce Lee, MD



What are you working on—on the side?

Design and Making. I am passionate about integrating patient-centered participatory design and the maker movement into healthcare.

This side project started when I fell into design by accident. I started designing/“making” tools for food allergies with my son, including a series of YouTube videos, educational nametags, cardboard creations and mobile applications. And along the way, I started working with a talented group of individuals (healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, artists, designers, librarians, curators, entrepreneurs and gamers), forming a collaborative innovation network called HealthDesignBy.Us. We’ve been prototyping different ways to integrate design and making into health, including patient-centered design workshops for co-design of health tools and technologies, the pairing of patient advocates with design students to create educational materials like comic books and emoticon apps, and a new model of diabetes education using participatory game design. We’ve also been working on creating a maker movement for health. If you can, you should join us for the We #MakeHealth Fest on October 25, 2015, in Ann Arbor, Michigan!

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

It’s a passion project for me, so I make time for it! Luckily, I am now integrating this work into my role as a researcher and healthcare stakeholder. I know that the integration of human-centered design and participatory design into healthcare will be transformative—I just have to prove it to the nonbelievers!

I’ve also embraced the methods and tools of design in my clinical practice. I have come to the realization that doctors are designers—we design clinical experiences everyday. I have, therefore, been tapping into the methods of goal-directed design in my encounters with patients, and in the use of design artifacts for improved collaboration with my patients.

Why have a side project?

My “side project” has allowed me to meet up with a diverse and stimulating community of designers, patients and entrepreneurs, and has expanded my approach to problem-solving as a clinician, researcher and mom. There are transformative solutions for health that I can now pursue, because I have adopted these methods of creation and have some amazing co-collaborators! Check out B’s [my son’s] awesome making activities from last year and for our upcoming Fest!

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Diptych courtesy of Joyce Lee.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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Joyce Lee spoke at the 6th Cusp Conference in 2013.
See my coverage: write-up and photos.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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