Sara Robinson

As a certified healthcare architect, Sara Robinson is an expert in the many ways structural and interior design can work together in medical environments to improve the patient experience as well as the operational needs of healthcare providers. But when she became the lead architect for the Novant Health Agnes Binder Weisiger Breast Health Center in Charlotte — made possible through Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation philanthropy — she was inspired by the assignment’s intense focus on compassionate care, comfort, and creating a warm and soothing environment.

“We were challenged to think about every aspect of design and figure how it could empower patients,” she said. “Where can there be more finesse, more feeling? Whether it was the use of warm lighting, thoughtful placement of mirrors, or how hallways and waiting rooms could afford more privacy during an appointment, everything needed to work together as a means of giving peace and comfort to an experience that can cause a lot of anxiety.”

“When you face cancer, all you want is to get on the right path as fast as possible. That’s the whole purpose of this Center — to give women hope and confidence and a sense of peace. Everything they need is right here. I am fortunate to be able to help make this place possible. To me, philanthropy is about action. It isn’t important why a person gives. Those reasons are often complex and personal. Doing something that needs to be done is the point.”

–Agnes Binder Weisiger

Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation philanthropist

During the project, Sara confronted this anxiety firsthand. As the new breast center was moving from design to construction, she received a breast cancer diagnosis of her own. “Suddenly I was facing the very health system issues I’d been working on: How it feels when you arrive at your appointment, how you move through the various services you need, how does the space facilitate communication between you and your doctor?” Sara explained how her design team gave as much attention to what patients don’t see as what they do. “We reduced the amount of medical equipment and supplies a patient encounters in the flow of their experience. You might not even realize it, but the overall effect is to help you feel some control and confidence during a vulnerable time.” Research proves the right environment can improve patient outcomes. “It’s all about motions and emotions — blending a patient’s need to feel trust and calm with the staff’s need for things to move smoothly. When that balance is right, a patient is in a better state of mind to heal.” Sara likes to quote Maya Angelou, who famously remarked that what you say or do might be forgotten “But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Made possible by philanthropic giving through Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation, the Novant Health Agnes Binder Weisiger Breast Health Center is a visionary response to a critical healthcare need. On average, 1 in 8 individuals will develop breast cancer at some point during their lives. Bringing together a full suite of breast health services under one roof, including the most modern technology designed to detect cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages, this Center is a beacon of hope — delivering remarkable care and saving lives while giving patients and families peace of mind in a healing environment.

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“Philanthropy plays such a crucial role in healthcare. It’s a wonderful vehicle for donors who want to make life-changing impacts in the lives of patients and healthcare providers. As a foundation, we work closely with all donors to help realize their philanthropic goals through our mission of providing remarkable experiences for our patients.”

Portrait of Anne

–Ann Caulkins

president of Novant Health Foundation