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Rana Zadeh, PhD

Cornell University
Associate Professor
Design & Env Analysis



Academic Member

What I would like to offer as a collaborator…

I specialize in evidence-based and human-centered healthcare design. I have focused on two areas: the development of non-pharmacological interventions for improving quality of life and quality of care for patients, and the optimization of healthcare work environments for clinicians. My team is working on developing novel, educational, environmental, and technological solutions to manage symptoms and improve quality of life—particularly for patients in acute care, elderly care, and end-of-life care—by utilizing and combining available capacities in design, engineering, business, and medicine. Some outcomes include reduced length of stay, improved quality of life, decreased pain, and enhanced sleep for patients, as well as reduced fatigue, errors, and work burden for staff.

What I am looking for from a collaborator…

I am a recently tenured associate professor in the Department of Design + Environmental Analysis, a graduate field member of the Department of Systems Engineering, and for this semester housed at the Weill Cornell Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics.
As a healthcare design scholar, I aim to fuel innovation to expand access to equitable, high-quality, and affordable healthcare; reduce unnecessary suffering, and maximize palliation for those with advanced and life-limiting illness. My research work has focused on designing holistic care experiences through innovative, multidisciplinary approaches that can inform policy, practice, and products related to the unmet needs of these vulnerable populations. The multidisciplinary teams I have led (including experts in design, medicine, engineering, business, and other fields) have received multiple awards for innovation, entrepreneurship, and application of translational, technological, educational, and environmental solutions for healthcare.
As a teacher, I have developed and taught classes such as “Policy Meets Design” and “Innovations in Healthcare” to help students from all fields develop a multidisciplinary language promote social responsibility, encourage empathy, facilitate critical thinking, and empower future leaders to improve conditions for people with physical and cognitive limitations and their caregivers. Examples of projects students have contributed to in my classes include a partnership with local and regional organizations to improve health access and quality for marginalized populations in rural Upstate New York; a project to improve the experiences of very sick, fragile kids with life-limiting illnesses and their families in a pediatric intensive-care unit in New York City; a plan to improve patient encounters with emergency care services in a southern California community; and a project to empower cancer patients navigating a large and complex healthcare campus in Massachusetts.
At Cornell, I cofounded and have directed the Health Design Innovations Lab, a hub for connecting academics, practitioners, and community partners committed to developing cutting-edge applications for real-world challenges in healthcare environments. Affiliated with Cornell’s Institute for Healthy Futures since 2016, the lab provides a rich environment for undergraduate and graduate students for research and application. Through these classes and my lab, I have trained emerging scholars, engineers, doctors, designers, and leaders.
As a first-generation immigrant, I experience the world through an empathetic and resilient lens: My journey has taken me from very limited resources to being a female professor at a highly respected international institution. I seldom saw women in leadership positions when I was growing up, but now—thanks to my mentors and the supportive environment at my university—I am leading my students by example to grow to their maximum potential, to help others grow, and to become empathetic and inclusive leaders.
Furthermore, I have a personal passion for my work to help vulnerable patients and their families that stems from my own experiences navigating the healthcare system as a primary caregiver for a family member who survived cancer.