October 12, 2016

Cornell Symposium Links Health, Hospitality Research

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The Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures hosted its first symposium on Hospitality, Health and Design over fall break, bringing together academic and industry leaders to discuss the intersection of hospitality and health.

According to coordinator Valerie Kelly, the symposium consisted of approximately 20 different events spread between Sunday and Tuesday, featuring a large range of panels and keynote speakers. Organizers aimed to unite practitioners from different areas of healthcare to “collaborate on how to make a healthy future.”

“There was a panel all on healthcare, like what do we need to be able to do for our patients,” Kelly said. “Now they’re trying to make designs better in hospitals so that when [patients] are actually there they don’t feel like they’re in a hospital.”

A wide array of professionals — including hospital staff, environmental gerontologists, architects and senior living providers — attended the symposium. Attendee Carly Andrews ’17 said she appreciated the interdisciplinary focus the institute determined in approaching the event.

“If you think about hospitals, they’re providing you medical care but also there’s a lot of services that they provide, like the concierge, parking, food, different amenities,” she said. “So [we talked] about how healthcare can implement hospitality practices into their operations, and also how we can design for health as well – in terms of what kinds of designs can decrease stress and promote healing.”

Andrews said the panel sessions were her favorite aspect of the symposium because they brought together people with different perspectives to talk about a single issue.

“We had a panel on healthcare, and there was someone from the Cancer Treatment Center of America and someone from Montefiore Hospital, and so you have a very private-pay oriented cancer treatment center and a very government-funded hospital,” Andrews said. “You have these super differences in opinions and perspectives, and so for them to debate how hospitality and design can be incorporated and in what ways and what different challenges they would face, I thought that was really interesting.”

The symposium was an even more impressive showcase given that the Institute for Healthy Futures is only a year old, according to Kelly.

“I feel like the institute is only going to continue to grow … We’re all in agreement that we all are interested in a healthy future whether it be hospitality, health or design,” she said. “So just making these connection now [is important] and then focusing on what’s next for the institute.”

The institute is one of the first organizations to put together the ideas of health and hospitality, and it is “gaining ground,” Andrews said.

“I think that we are the pioneers in trying to bring people together to talk about it and pay attention to it,” Andrews said.

She added that the event inspired her to research other aspects of healthcare in the future.

“The real beauty of something like this is the ability to meet other people and get their perspectives,” she said. “As a student, I really appreciated the informational sessions … I [also] think there’s incredible value in just the informal networking talking to people who have these different experiences.”