After completing graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Maher joined MASS Design Group in early 2014, spending his first two years working at the firm’s office in Kigali, Rwanda. Now based in Chicago, Maher has led projects across the globe, including East Africa and South Asia. Additionally, he’s designing a line of behavioral health furniture and pursuing an MBA. In his spare time, he likes to play soccer or visit his favorite local ice cream shop.
What drew you to a career in healthcare design?
I actually sort of fell into it. When I joined MASS, the firm was just beginning the Munini District Hospital in Rwanda and creating design standards for the hospital, so I was placed on the project. After that, I worked on smaller clinics in Mali. I found healthcare design to be an incredible design challenge, and as the firm designed more healthcare spaces I decided to stay focused on the sector.
What lesson from that first project do you still carry with you today?
The spaces where people wait and the transition spaces are just as important to the healing process as the spaces where people are being treated.
What do you like best about working in healthcare design?
Coming up with creative solutions that impact access to care and delivery of care. I enjoy engaging with care providers and learning about how the spaces they work in can better serve them while prioritizing the patient experience.
In addition to your architecture work, you also design and make furniture?
I’ve always been a maker. I think what draws me is the almost instant gratification of using the furniture. I’m currently working on a behavioral health furniture line.
What patient needs would you like to see addressed through product design?
In behavioral health, I’d like to see products that allow patients to control their environment and their experience. Product design should enable healing experiences and not simply meet safety requirements.
Weekend activity Soccer and anything outside.
Guilty pleasure Ice cream. In Chicago, there’s a Jeni’s less than a block away from our house, and when I’m in New Jersey I try to get Thomas Sweet every day.
Band/musical artist J. Cole and Drake White.
Color Most people who know me would say gray, but it’s actually blue.
TV characters Ted Lasso and Ron Swanson.
Team Manchester United.
Book “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett.
Three healthcare projects you’ve worked on in the last year and your role
1 Redemption Hospital in Caldwell, Liberia, with the Ministry of Health of Liberia and the World Bank, project manager.
2 Yirimadio Health Center with Muso Health in Bamako, Mali, project manager.
3 Samajik Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, design advisory group for the project.
Dog or cat?
Definitely a dog person. Dogs seek your attention and are much more fun to play with. My parents’ dog is like having another sibling.
How did you make your first dollar?
Scoring a goal in a soccer game when I was little. My pop-pop would pay me a dollar a goal after every game through high school.
First album you ever bought
I think it was Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” when I was in 8th grade.
Cocktail of choice
Your hidden talent
I can fix pretty much anything. My dad is a contractor, so growing up we never called a handy man or mechanic and I was always right there learning.
You have an irrational fear of …
My wife packing the car incorrectly for long car rides.
If you weren’t an architect you’d be …
NFL kicker (dream job).