Medical and Health Sciences Education

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini has been at the forefront of designing medical education spaces for over 20 years, and our experience has given our team insights into evolving needs and trends.

Our work includes both allopathic and osteopathic pedagogies, with a distinct concentration in active-learning, problem-based curricula. Effective approaches include a blended experience for students that combine classroom and lab work geared towards clinical skills and patient care.

“It became clear during initial phone calls that DPS was current in the design and functionality needs of a College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) not only through their work with Burrell but the ongoing design for Idaho COM. It was also clear that D/P/S was well grounded in many other aspects of medical education. It was critical for CHSU to work with a firm that had extensive experience in health care education as the schedule for the delivery of a building was tight.” - Tom Mclaughlin, TKM Consulting, California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine Project Manager


Wide-ranging advances in technology have had tremendous impact on how medical education is delivered, progressing from physical, computerized mannequins to Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality that allow immersive experiences of anatomy and care. This is enhanced further by advances in telehealth, which can allow practitioners to reach patients in remote areas. The rise of virtual learning experiences brought about by the coronavirus will also have long-term impacts on how medical education will be provided with more planned online offerings.

Right photo credit: D/P/S. Right photo credit: HoloAnatomy


Most medical programs include a student-centered approach that includes clinical principles from the beginning. Typically we see variations on team-based learning (TBL) and problem-based learning (PBL) involving various levels of flipped-classroom approaches. Designing spaces that work well for these teaching methods requires flexible furniture strategies that provide the space for group-work, while also being tied to robust technology systems that allow for collaboration and group-display. Generous numbers of small group study rooms are key to any group-learning scenarios, particularly since the advent of COVID-19.

Anatomy Labs

For teaching anatomy there appears to be no wrong answer – although many institutions, faculty and clinical partners voice a preference for Cadaveric dissection training – we’ve seen a blended approach rise, in part due to the impacts of COVID-19. By combining cadaveric studies with Virtual Reality tools, students access technologies that can span their experience across multiple years and topics. This can also integrate diagnostic training with Ultrasound, CT and MRI through technologies that allow use of clinical handheld devices or smartphones.

California Health Sciences University and Case Western and have committed anatomical studies to a virtual approach, using HoloAnatomy. The California Health Sciences University project originally blended cadaveric dissection and virtual reality in two separate suites. During construction, the Anatomy Chair and leadership determined that they would move to entirely virtual employing HoloAnatomy. The spaces were reassigned with few changes to support the shift in teaching methodology. The services for cadaveric study remain intact should they choose to provide a blended Extended Reality (ER) environment. This approach supports California Health Sciences University’s goal to provide flexibility in the teaching environment.

Left photo credit: HoloAnatomy. Right photo credit: D/P/S

Interprofessional Education (IPE)

Developing an interprofessional program among medical, nursing, pharmacy and other programs requires a commitment of all of those programs as well as facilities that enable the required interaction and flexibility of use. When we began work with UNM’s Health Sciences Center back in 2001 for a simulation center, the goal was to not just provide space for their various disciplines, but to do so in a way that allowed interprofessional teamwork. Learning from and with other health professional students can occur in many environments, including large classes, small group tutorials, simulation and the clinical setting. An IPE program is designed to provide interaction occur through planned collaborative learning experiences, but it also occurs through the unplanned encounters where students are co-located in clinical placements.

Simulation Suites

We have designed many different simulation experiences for students, including OSCE suites, surgical simulations, pediatric spaces, nursing in-patient environments and multiple types of skills labs. As described above, simulation spaces need to be designed to not only allow scenarios to be run by multiple disciplines, but for scenarios that include multiple disciplines working together. As telehealth has become more prevalent, we have also seen the need for simulation spaces designed like a home with mannequins in bedrooms, bathrooms, and other domestic spaces.

Population Health

Educating the public on chronic disease is being addressed in medical education as a requirement in the curriculum. Our healthcare partners have focused on addressing the social determinants of health through education and providing food and services to people at risk. D/P/S has worked with Presbyterian Health Services on multiple projects that address this issue, through food pharmacies and teaching kitchens in freestanding locations and within community hospital settings.

California Health Sciences University COM addressed this curriculum requirement by including a teaching kitchen in the heart of the facility. Our team worked with the leadership to develop a kitchen accessible to students for nutrition training and locate it in a location where community members could access courses in disease management.


The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on medical education, including the complete shutdown of some programs’ physical facilities. And while the current news is favorable in regard to a number of vaccines, their implementation timelines and true efficacy is still uncertain. Our recent collaboration with other clients has shown mixed desires to physically change how buildings are designed functionally because of the long-term uncertainty of the virus. In general, we have explored with them ideas about how to design in a way that accommodates this or other pandemics, without compromising the hope that our current lifestyle is not a permanent one. In other words, don’t design for this presumably temporary condition at the compromise of a facility’s long-term functionality.

Our team has produced a Workplace COVID-19 Action Plan to help institutions develop operational procedures for safety within their physical workplaces, called Right Things In, Right Things Out. With this tool and a close collaboration with our clients, we can help them create a framework for limiting risk in the work environment, while also providing levels of trust and willingness for staff for returning to work.

Within the context of medical education delivery, we have developed some specific ideas towards providing safety during this different time:

  • Development of cohorts within the student body that have little interaction with other cohorts.
  • Increased use of flipped classroom pedagogies for online classes – students being required to prepare ahead make them responsible for their learning, and can create a more interactive online experience
  • Increased numbers of small, student study rooms. Small rooms are easily scheduled, separate the study groups with glass and walls, and are easily cleaned/disinfected after each use.
  • Dual-purpose classrooms that easily provide for in-person teaching as well as broadcast for remote teaching. Essential to this is providing faculty with training on how to teach remotely and how to use the spaces.
  • Larger classrooms designed to accommodate teaching during distancing, with reduced front-to-back distances that allow instructor-student interaction when students are separated throughout the room
  • Dual use of Simulation Centers as Clinics. COVID has made more difficult how students and faculty work together in close groups and has also limited how healthcare facilities can provide access for students’ clinical experience. This creates a strong argument for considering simulation spaces that are also designed for actual clinical use. This was done at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Enclosed offices vs. Open workstations: We have seen an increase in recent years of the use of open workstations within faculty office areas. This trend has been seen to increase both inter-faculty interaction, but also student-faculty interaction. However, it is not conducive for social-distancing, and we expect the trend to move back towards enclosed offices using reconfigurable wall systems. This strategy would include non-scheduled small meeting spaces for both faculty-faculty discussions as well as student-faculty meetings.
  • Smaller open gathering spaces distributed throughout a facility in lieu of larger, more populated spaces
  • Food Service: Smaller tables with greater separation; distributed eating areas for use by specific cohorts
  • Single points of entry with space for temperature or health screening of visitors
  • Outdoor spaces designed for true outdoor teaching, including roof coverings, seating, a place for display, and screening from the wind
  • Easy access to handwashing throughout– including outdoor spaces; Posting of signs regarding good hygiene practices
  • Easily cleanable surfaces that can stand up to more frequent disinfecting
  • Door operators to avoid contact with high-touch surfaces
  • Increased airflow and ventilation and the inclusion of more robust air filtration systems

What We Create

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini is an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm that has served public and private clients for 60 years. Our staff includes architects, interior designers, planners, structural engineers, landscape architects, and experts in sustainable design in offices in Albuquerque, NM; Phoenix, AZ; Las Cruces, NM; and Amarillo, TX. As a regional leader in design excellence and sustainability, we have successfully completed thousands of projects by collaborating directly with owners and communities.


Our professionals are experienced in primary, secondary, and post-secondary facility design to provide specialty design services for a variety of educational facilities. This diverse pool of talent enables us to develop innovative design solutions that draw upon the best ideas and practices from throughout the Southwest. A well-designed building not only provides an aesthetically pleasing and functional environment for the people who work and learn in them, but also centers on a balanced response to changing ideas in teaching with recognition of our client’s reputation and traditions.


We are an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm that has served public and private clients  for more than 55 years. To better respond to our clients’ needs, we have concentrated our design and technical resources into “Practice Areas,” where our personnel specialize in building types such as housing, commercial, healthcare, government and education. Through the Practice Area concept, designers work on the projects they are passionate about, honing their skills specific to that type, keeping abreast of the latest trends, and training the next generation of designers.


We provide specialty design services for a variety of commercial projects, including workplaces, mixed-use developments, retail, and restaurants. We have experience with commercial projects in markets throughout the Southwest, as well as major markets elsewhere in the United States. Our diverse pool of talent enables us to develop innovative design solutions that draw upon the best ideas and practices from throughout the nation. A well-designed building provides an “edge” to our clients, whether the task at hand is to reach out to customers or to recruit and retain tenants and employees.

Landscape Architecture

We provide landscape architecture services to all of the specialized design groups within our offices as well as to external clients. The Landscape Architecture team focuses on the planning and design of exterior places  – with a thorough understanding of real estate development and the interrelatedness of structures, land, and people. From project inception to the close of construction, our landscape team makes important contributions to a collaborative, multidisciplinary design process with their expertise in concept development, site planning & design, and landscape design.

MultiFamily Housing

Building a sense of home into housing.

Building housing means more than designing spaces—it means creating a place that feels like home. As our communities grow in size and diversity, technology advances and the very definition of “home” changes from family to family, how do we help our clients create housing that meets the eclectic needs of its residents while also meeting the objectives of the client?

We do our homework. We take into consideration a multitude of factors: rents, vacancy rates, demand and construction costs, to name a few. We also research the building’s future tenants. Who are they, what do they need and how can we create an optimal environment based on their unique circumstances? With our combined knowledge of project financing and the latest trends and metrics, we can provide our clients with flexible solutions while providing our communities with a stronger foundation from which to grow.


Master planned communities
Assisted care and independent living facilities
Multi family housing communities
Affordable housing
Student housing complexes
Luxury apartments
Building assessments
Tax credit packages
Environmental and human sustainability integration

DPS is recognized as one of the best multifamily architects in New Mexico.

Structural Engineering

The building must stand.

Buildings that can adapt to whatever tomorrow brings must first stand the test of time. Our structural engineers work interdependently with each of our disciplines to ensure every building is safe and resilient far into the future, while staying true to the objectives of each project. Together, we help create lasting structures that protect your vision, your investment, and most importantly, your people.


We provide specialty design and planning services for a variety of public clients. Our professionals have “hands on” experience with civic projects throughout the southwest, including personnel who have project experience while serving in the public sector. Their talent enables us to develop innovative planning and design solutions that draw upon “lessons learned” from the various public agencies served. 


As a leader in the field, we have over 20 years’ experience in the design of healthcare facilities. With more than 20 multi-disciplined personnel, our Healthcare Group has collectively worked on more than 250 healthcare projects. Our group has created master plans for medical centers, planned new hospitals and hospital additions, orchestrated major renovations to outdated hospitals and created spaces for highly specialized equipment.


What’s at stake?

Protecting the environments we live and work in has always been a priority for our company. Long before sustainability became a popular topic of conversation, we felt a deep responsibility to take every step possible in order to make the lightest footprint on our planet. Our energy efficient projects are designed for the unique climates they exist in. In the Southwest, we carefully consider siting, solar orientation, appropriate fenestration, building mass, appropriate mechanical systems and the use of building materials readily available in our region to create LEED Certified buildings.


We provide a wide range of planning and design services, from conceptual land use plans to design guidelines to municipal submittals and approvals. We excel at providing integrated design and planning solutions that are market-driven and sustainable. Projects range from large-scale master planned communities to small in-fill tracts. Our group utilizes the design expertise of the firm and a collaborative approach to maximize development opportunities for the client. With our integrated team of planners, landscape architects, and architects, we can generate initial design concepts and take projects through to construction documents.

Senior Living

Interior Design

Spaces that work harder.

We design buildings to do more for people, not the other way around. Without interior spaces that help accomplish the objectives of those who use the building, what’s the point? Our interior designers specialize in creating spaces that help recruit and retain, elevate learning, facilitate healing, enrich the consumer experience, and improve quality of life. Working closely with our clients and consultants, together we design places that extend the life of a building by enhancing the lives of those within it.


Custom interior design
Space planning
Finish selection/specification
Workplace performance evaluations
Space needs assessments
Corporate standards programs
ADA, ergonomics evaluation, and product recommendations
Post-occupancy evaluations
LEED consulting

In Progress

Our passion is to help our clients realize their dreams by partnering with them through a collaborative, multidisciplined process that recognizes new trends and utilizes technologies to create functional, comfortable, and stimulating places. Browse some of our newest projects that are currently in construction.