AJ Thomas of Corgan: Face Time

AJ Thomas Corgan

AJ Thomas (head credit: Corgan)

AJ Thomas is a healthcare leader, principal at Corgan, (Phoenix).

In Sanitary designIn Face Time Q+A, Thomas shares what led him to a career in healthcare design, why it’s important to ask questions about projects, and what he considers his superpower trait.

What attracted you to a career in healthcare design?

There were very few companies hiring in 2002 (the year I graduated with my master’s degree in architecture from The University of Texas at Arlington) after 9/11, but I found a vacancy at HDR for project coordinator in healthcare architecture. So while I didn’t start my career focusing on healthcare design, my decision to stay in this sector for over 20 years has been very intentional. The ability to combine my passion for creativity with critical thinking skills was what first attracted me to the profession. Now, it is the ability to impact the communities we serve, improve outcomes through design, and elevate the healing environment.

What was your first healthcare project?

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center (now Baylor Scott & White Medical Center) in Waco, Texas, from 2004 to 2007. I was the designer of the women’s and children’s specialty hospital adjacent to the main hospital.

What lesson from that project do you still carry with you today?

Ask questions. This may seem overly simple, but it has helped me and the clients we serve. As leaders, we should not assume but constantly ask questions, from the macro (Why is the project necessary?) to the micro (What specific need will this project address?). I also try my best to participate and actively listen, which is key to truly understanding the problem. Better questions can lead to better team performance and create a foundation of trust, which leads to better team engagement, innovation, and results. Curiosity is my superpower.

Three healthcare design projects and their role

Prescott Cancer Center

Prescott Cancer Center (Photo credit: Corgan)

1 Arizona Oncology, Prescott, Arizona, director-in-charge.

2 Copper Sky Medical Campus, Maricopa City, Arizona, director in charge.

3 Medical City, Mental Health and Wellness, Fort Worth, Texas, acting director.

What do you like most about working in healthcare design?

It is not just a profession; It is a commitment to a higher purpose, where the impact of its designs extends far beyond physical structures.

What challenges in your job keep you up at night?

If I had to pick my top challenge, it would be “How can we drive change in an industry that is traditionally change-averse?” The health sector has been one of the slowest to adapt to change. I often say that in this age of artificial intelligence, we, as a healthcare industry, have collectively managed to keep the fax machine alive.

An unexpected item on your desk

The large volume of architecture magazines. My staff makes fun of me for being a borderline hoarder. This is an inheritance from my upbringing in Mumbai, India. Getting an architecture magazine was like finding gold, which is why now I have a hard time throwing them away or recycling them.

(Photo credit: AJ Thomas)

Outside the office, we’ll probably find him…

Involved in some activity involving two boys, ages 13 and 16, and my wife. These include kids’ basketball games, hiking in Arizona, church activities, or playing pickleball.

Dog or cat?


Coffee or tea?

Both. I start the day at home with a cup of “crumbled tea,” which involves pouring the tea from one cup to the other at least four times so that the air mixes with the liquid and creates a foam. (My wife makes the best one!) Once I get to the office, I drink black coffee and then relax to start the day with a cup of green tea in the afternoon. My Starbucks drink is a dirty Chai with a shot of espresso (which is, in fact, coffee and tea).

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl I think this is a holdover from study nights in architecture school.

Fashion trend you think should make a comeback

60s costume airport fashion.

How did you earn your first dollar?

Working for my father during summer vacations in high school at a printing and copier shop. The pay wasn’t much, but the lessons learned in business and customer retention were priceless.

Your hidden talent

Choose actions. I used to trade stocks when I was 16 and this talent did not go unnoticed by my architecture teachers. I successfully managed stock portfolios for my teachers and some of my classmates joked that that was the reason for my good grades.

If you weren’t an architect, you would be…

Day trader on Wall Street.

Favorite …

Appointment Forward and upward.”—My dad. I’m pretty sure my father wasn’t the author of this quote, but this was his life motto and it has resonated throughout my life. Life is too short to regret and we must move forward with the goal of continuous self-improvement.

movie character “James Bond”, played by various actors over the years. I love suspenseful plots with hints of heists, cool tech gadgets, and high-risk missions.

Show to enjoy compulsively “Breaking Bad.” The plot is brilliant and the characters are phenomenal! The show was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we lived there for 5 years during my wife’s residency and fellowship at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. I’m constantly trying to figure out if I know the filming locations for scenes.

weekend activity I travel a lot for work, so I plan to save weekends for my family.

Band/musical artist Mainly Christian bands and artists because I play piano in church and I’m always learning a thing or two about how music influences the worship service.

Guilty pleasure McDonald’s “Dollar Menu,” especially the McChicken, partly because it’s fried chicken and partly because of the portion sizes. I can finish the sandwich for a change.

Snack when you travel Salty banana chips. I love salty foods, much to the disdain of my cardiologist.

Sport This has evolved over the years, from cricket to football, basketball, and now pickleball. My kids make fun of me and say, “I’m officially old now,” because they consider pickleball to be a senior’s game.

Equipment I switch between the Dallas Cowboys (Dallas is where I first landed and the home of my extended family) and the Arizona Cardinals (I now live in Phoenix).

Book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. “WOO” (winning over others) is one of my strengths, and the principles covered in this 100-year-old book are something I practice every day.

city ​​to visit Dubai. This is an exaggerated and superlative laboratory for architects and designers. If you can imagine it, they will build it here.

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