What’s in a name? When Arkansas Heart Hospital chose Encore for their new hospital in Saline County, it suggested a secondary campus to their primary Little Rock location. But that’s only partially correct. As an acute care hospital specializing in bariatric surgery, peripheral vascular disease (PAD) and intensive cardiac rehabilitation, it has a much broader, more intensely personal connotation for the patients it serves. Someone who has been obese their entire life, and now “lives” in a new body shedding not only weight but Type 2 diabetes. The heart patient who needs a combination of medical intervention and lifestyle coaching to avoid a repeat episode. The person with PAD who cannot walk more than a few steps, now daring to hope for mobility. For all—a new beginning, a second chance, a “do over.” An Encore.

Like most visionaries, Dr. Murphy had a dream. A big one. The new hospital would be unique—inside and out. “I’m strongly drawn to modern 21st century architecture with steel and glass and natural light. This was our chance to create a physical space to inspire healing. Our goal was to build a “destination” hospital renowned for expert care…to disrupt the whole process of traditional medicine and truly get to the root of patient’s issues helping them avoid environmentally induced diseases.”

Jacob Robinson is the Chief Administrative Officer of Encore Medical Center. “Our goal was to build a hospital that would become a benchmark for the nation. It would be intentionally non-institutional. More like a boutique hotel. Something that would inspire patients seeking to improve their lives and be a magnet for elite specialists to join our staff.” The hospital would offer an emergency room, state of the art imaging, weight loss surgery options, catheterization labs, general and vascular surgery and a facility for rehab and culinary arts supporting healthy lifestyle changes.

When WDD was hired, they quickly became a trusted advisor for both construction and interior design. Chad Young is the CEO. “Our firm is deeply committed to each client’s vision for their project. The leadership at AHH was remarkable in that they genuinely understood the impact architecture and design could have on their mission. Our directive was to articulate both high tech and high touch. The emphasis would be on nature, Asian inspired landscaping, abundance of natural light, where patients would feel at ease and could focus on healing.” Jay Clark is Vice President at WDD and worked closely with Chad on the direction of design as Project Architect. “We were a great choice for Encore because nothing we do is cookie cutter…and this project demanded fresh eyes and imagination. We also have solid relationships with engineers and experts for healthcare facilities.” Lauren Booth is an Associate at WDD and led the interior design team. Dr. Murphy and Jacob wanted “no compromise” when it came to function, performance and aesthetics. “I was tasked with making the hospital feel like an upscale hotel. Hospitality and healthcare are distinct design propositions, so it was imperative that we found a manufacturer and dealer partner that could satisfy those expectations.”

Lauren prioritized knowledge. “Steelcase had a broad base of research and insights in bariatrics and healthcare environments. We decided they brought the most value to our project.

ImageWorks is a certified Steelcase dealer with extensive experience in the healthcare market. Rhonda Bradley is the CEO. “We knew this would be a landmark project. It was important to immediately align our efforts with the objectives of AHH and WDD and the strong team we assembled reflected that.” The interior designer ImageWorks assigned to the project to work with Lauren was Tamara Campbell. “There was a tremendous amount of research involved in identifying products and options within products that would meet the overall functional and aesthetic requirements and address the bariatric factor with a “hospitality feel.” It was a puzzle.” ImageWorks used a tool called Marketplace to search, sort and document approved products from Steelcase and their partner companies.

“Scott Evans was our Project Manager. Between Scott and Desi, any problems that arose were taken off my shoulders. So many parts were moving, but all parties were working as one.”

Today, if you visit Encore Medical Center, there is a distinct “Zen” feel accomplished through furnishings with lush textiles and seating accommodating bariatric patients. “Here a patient feels safe. They “belong” and can focus on healing instead of working around an environment typically suited for people half their size,” says Jacob. Large television screens in the lobby were nixed by Dr. Murphy in favor of original art. The main lobby sculpture, named “Tranquility” was created by WDD’s Lauren Booth and has been featured in Interior Design magazine. Patient rooms have floor to ceiling windows, bringing the outdoors, in. Tubes, monitors, gas, and wires are concealed behind wooden doors.

Recently, the 4th floor with its rehab center and culinary facility opened, topping off Dr. Murphy’s ‘Taj Mahal.’ Murphy says the vibe you get when walking through the corridors, “gives you the feeling you can tackle even the most difficult cases with success.” Subliminal but powerful. The next big thing–a medical office building with a multi ethnicity restaurant on the first floor.

What excites Dr. Bruce Murphy the most? “Building a medical campus in a town with 20,000 people who didn’t have a hospital.” He believes it will become a regional bariatric surgery center, but also serve the general population. “We foresee we will be the centerpiece in the middle of this dynamic Bryant community offering all anyone can ask for.” And to this Encore performance we say, “Bravo.”