Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Adding a patient-friendly touch to new neuroscience building

Nancy Stohn


I moved from Boston to San Carlos in 2011 to be closer to my three children here in the Bay Area. I knew few people here and wanted to establish myself in the community, so I became an usher at the Bing Concert Hall and began teaching art in an after-school program. I also signed up for an evening class on brain health offered by Stanford’s Continuing Studies program, not realizing then how much that class would impact my life.

After the class, I asked the instructor, a Stanford clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist, about my shaking left hand. He suggested I make an appointment with Helen Bronte-Stewart, MD, a professor of neurology who directs the Movement Disorders Center at Stanford Medicine. She immediately diagnosed my shaking as Parkinson’s syndrome and spent some time explaining what I might expect. I was shocked and upset.

I was invited to join a support group for women with the disease, fondly nicknamed the “Parkinson Princesses.” I appointed myself as “culture chairlady,” which translated into group visits to museums and architectural gems like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on the Stanford campus. I had attended the New York School of Interior Design and studied feng shui at Southwest University in Nanking, China, so I was particularly interested in the local architecture and art scene.

Through the Parkinson Princesses, I met a member of the Neuroscience Patient and Family Advisory Council. She introduced me to the committee helping to design a new neurology outpatient building at Stanford Medicine. The building, part of the Hoover Medical Campus on Quarry Road, is scheduled to open late this year.

I had been a residential and commercial interior designer in New York and Texas in the 1960s, and I published a book, Feng Shui Simplified, in 2005. Because of my professional background, being part of the planning committee for the building seemed right up my alley. I served as one of the patient representatives on the 30-member panel, which also included physicians, nurses and other staff.

I began working with the team in September 2014, helping to improve the experience for neuroscience patients, including those with Parkinson’s. The four-story, 92,000-square-foot building brings together all outpatient neurology services to create a one-stop destination for patients.

Our team focused on the design of a centralized check-in area to provide a seamless, efficient and harmonious service for patients entering the building for their appointments. We wanted the space to be flexible and welcoming while enhancing workflow and privacy. We made recommendations, such as minimizing walking distances for patients who might be physically challenged and including handrails for those who were unsteady on their feet.

The building includes other special accommodations for patients. For instance, a dark room will be easily accessible for migraine patients who need dim light and quiet to calm their symptoms. Interior colors will be subdued, and light fixtures will be dimmable to relieve acute light sensitivity in many patients. The building also will have on-site infusion stations for patients with multiple sclerosis, brain tumors or neuroendocrine disorders so they can visit their doctors and receive treatment in one location.

I am thrilled to participate in the neurology world at Stanford and to know that I have a future volunteering in areas where I can make a difference. My past experience as an interior designer has allowed me to participate in Stanford care and make a contribution. 

Nancy Stohn has been a feng shui consultant, interior designer, space planner and art consultant, and has designed interior spaces for businesses and residences across the country. She is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design.


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