Dr. Chanam Lee joined the Southwestern Medical District Best Practices Advisory Committee with the excitement of having the opportunity to contribute to something much larger than herself. Although she is consistently asked to be in projects due to her expertise in research for active living, Lee found that the Southwestern Medical District Streetscape Project not only aligned with her passion for creating healthy environments but is also a dream project that any community would like to have.
Born in Korea, Dr. Lee has always had fond memories of growing up and spending time in nature with her family. Since the country is surrounded by water, the blue and green landscape was always part of her childhood memory.
“Korean cities are known to have urban trees, so you rarely see a streetscape without trees,” said Dr. Lee. “It was almost a shock coming to Texas where there isn’t as much greenery and the landscape is so different.”
Finding inspiration from Roger Ulrich, a retired faculty member in her department that developed a landmark study about the relationship between hospital patients’ rate of healing and nature, Dr. Lee realized that there are multiple layers of health impacts from the environment that can help people have a better quality of life – not only beautification.
Dr. Lee’s passion is to design community environments to promote health with a focus on physical activity in its relation to urban design and planning.
“The Southwestern Medical District Streetscape Project is an exciting opportunity where researchers like us can get involved early on in the process, obtain baseline diagnostics, and see what the transformation does to the current condition of the community,” said Dr. Lee. “The location itself is going through a lot of population transitions and we want to ensure we are putting the park into the area without displacing people or having it be unequally available.”
Dr. Lee says that some of the most interesting projects that she has worked on have been large scale master planning projects of similar size, hospital healing garden designs, and community design projects in Nigeria and Japan.
Dr. Chanam Lee is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and founding director of Design Research for Active Living (DrAL), at Texas A&M University. Her research not only focuses on linking the built environment and public health outcomes but also bringing attention to high-risk populations and inequity in design. To learn more about her impact on North Texas and around the world, visit her research profile with Texas A&M University.