IN DEPTH WITH WELL LIVING LAB STAFF
Visionaries start and lead movements. It’s not a stretch to consider the work of the Well Living Lab as a movement, one focused on research-driven change for indoor environments. At the core of this movement are passionate people sharing a purpose – from Delos, Mayo Clinic and Alliance organizations. Interviews with leaders of the Well Living Lab reveal passion and commitment to this movement. In this first of a series of interviews with the Well Living Lab team members, we’ve asked Well Living Lab leaders about their work and vision for the Lab.
Brent Bauer, M.D., is the medical director of the Well Living Lab and the director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Bauer is board-certified in internal medicine, and a professor of medicine on staff at Mayo Clinic for 23 years. His main research interest has been the scientific evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, which patients and consumers are using with increasing frequency.
Barbara Spurrier serves as the administrative director of the Well Living Lab, and senior vice president of Ventures at Delos. From 2008-2016, Ms. Spurrier served as founding administrative director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI), responsible for building CFI from the ground up. Prior to 2008, she held professional appointments as vice chair of the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine, chief of ambulatory care at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) and senior administrator at HealthPartners. She has been helping to lead the Well Living Lab since its beginning.
What is your personal “why” for leading the efforts behind the Well Living Lab?
Dr. Bauer: As a physician I am drawn to helping people, but I see patients for only a fraction of time. In that small amount of time, I give them advice to help them reach their desired health goals, but realistically, I know the majority of the work rests on their shoulders. So much of our well-being is dependent on our environment and our own motivation, habits and lifestyle choices. What is really intriguing to me is to scientifically explore and validate what can we “bake” into the built environment, where we spend the majority of our time and how we can help prompt behaviors to help people thrive in their personal and professional lives.
Ms. Spurrier: For the past decade, I focused on building the Center for Innovation at Mayo Clinic with a mission to transform the experience and delivery of health and health care with a human-centered design thinking approach. There is so much work to do in transforming indoor spaces to make them healthy. I want to make an impact and help shift our nation’s health care or sick care system, a system that waits until we become ill before it kicks into action, to a system truly focused on health and well-being. Along my journey, I met leaders of this amazing company, Delos, committed to transforming homes, offices, schools and other indoor environments by placing the health and well-being of people at the center. I am so excited to channel my energy and passion to help Delos and Mayo Clinic transform human health and well-being in the spaces where we live, work, learn and play.
Why now? Is there something about today’s environment that is compelling and inspiring you in this kind of work?
Dr. Bauer: Right now is an amazing time for science. We have never before had such impressive technology, and old boundaries are now obsolete, with sensors, new communication technologies and monitoring devices, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence. It is ours to put together in a multitude of ways as we pose approaches to hopefully prove theories we have long held about human behavior. Technology today makes doing the research more interesting, but it also allows us to work faster and with many collaborators around the globe. We are in a space that is going to quickly become a movement – that of indoor health – and we want everyone to benefit from what we learn and bring it into their lives, too. If ever the motto, “from bench to bedside” fits, it is now with such scalable technologies.
Ms. Spurrier: Our behavior and lifestyle choices make us prone to illnesses that are chronic, complex, life altering and life shortening. The IoT revolution is unfolding across all geographic and technological borders, and what is thrilling is not about devices/things being linked together, but the promise this holds for the ‘connected person’ – a world of people connected ubiquitously across the indoor environment, in smart communities, smart offices, smart homes and smart schools. Sensors deployed in homes, as wearables or even embedded in our bodies can help people understand their health performance and actions for improvement. It is all about transforming an aged system of sick care to one that “powers up” individuals wherever they are to enhance their health and well-being. We have much work to do to separate the signal from the noise so technology and connection can be utilized in a simple, convenient, integrated and affordable way.
Looking back, since you opened the Well Living Lab’s doors in May 2016, what are you most proud of and what was one of the biggest lessons learned?
I am most proud of the team and the eco-system we are building into the lab — Ph.D.’s of disparate backgrounds, IT specialists, operations folks – everyone is coming together in a unified fashion that is allowing us to create great science and begin to answer the questions that will improve health in the indoor environment.
I would say that developing our own culture and an identity has been the toughest part for the Lab. We have so many directions and expectations that have all been good tests for us, and it really has been over this past year that we are realizing we are our own, unique team – we have collaborators and supporters surrounding us, but we are now finally becoming a bit more “emancipated” if you will, and finding our own value, purpose and focus as the Well Living Lab.