College of Architecture, Art and Construction

School of Architecture Ph.D. student advances research on built environment’s impact on birth


Devi Soman looking at the camera and smiling. Recently awarded a prize for health design.

Devi Soman, a student in Clemson University’s Planning, Design and the Built Environment Ph.D. program, was recently awarded the Joseph G. Sprague New Investigator Award (NIA) by The Center for Health Design (CHD).

“The Joseph G. Sprague New Investigator Award from the Center for Health Design is a highly coveted award in the healthcare design field,” explained Anjali Joseph, director of the Center for Health Facilities Design and Testing in Clemson’s School of Architecture. “This award will bring national recognition and attention to Devi’s work and provide a platform for wider dissemination of her work.”

Soman’s research, “The Impact of Free-Standing Birth Center (FSBC) Physical Environments on Patient Experience and Maternal Health Outcomes for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Women,” explores the influence of free-standing birth center environments on the experiences and physiological birth rates of BIPOC women. Specifically focusing on designing culturally sensitive birthing environments for women from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds while addressing issues of disparity and equity.

Her study sheds light on how the design of the physical environment could contribute to supporting care that meets the needs of women from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities, specifically looking at how those designs can help reduce stress during birthing and improve outcomes for mothers and their communities. Soman’s study will include FSBCs from four different states within the U.S., allowing her to access a wider pool of data instead of being restricted to the limited number of FSBCs in South Carolina.

“For my research, this award was a blessing as it will help support most of the study’s travel and data collection costs,” shared Soman.

Soman will receive $10,000 in funding from CHD to support her research. In addition to supporting travel costs to study sites and incentives for participants, the award will give Soman access to national experts and mentors from CHD for one year.

“I feel like there are so many people whose support made it possible,” Soman said, “and that includes my adviser, Anjali Joseph, dissertation committee members and mentors, David Allison, Dr. Arelis Moore, Dr. Veronica Parker, my amazing friends at the Center for Health Facility Design and Testing at Clemson University and my very supportive family.”

Once Soman completes her studies, she will receive free registration to attend the Healthcare Design Conference + Expo hosted by CHD, where she will have the opportunity to present her findings to the conference body.

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