Dr. Janine Keever wanted Smoky Mountain Obstetrics & Gynecology’s new office in Sylva to be a place where all women would feel comfortable, and Western Carolina University students stepped forward to help.
During the last year, five students majoring in interior design worked with Keever, president and CEO of the practice, and the architect and builder of Smoky Mountain’s $2.7 million, 10,000-square foot medical facility, which opened in late April.
“We got to do design and see it happen on something that will bring the community closer,” said Sam Ruckman, a member of the student team from Mount Holly. “To open this new location was Dr. Keever’s dream, and it was nice to have a part in that – for her to trust us with her dream.”
Keever said when she graduated from WCU in 1996 that she knew she would be back someday. In 2006, she opened Smoky Mountain Obstetrics & Gynecology in a two-employee office with borrowed furniture. Today, the practice has an office staff and four doctors and four nurse midwifes who deliver about 600 babies every year and care for hundreds of women each month.
With Smoky Mountain’s plans underway for a new and larger building in Sylva, Keever contacted Marc Yops, associate professor of interior design, to explore the possibility of including WCU students in the project. Five students majoring in interior design and on track to graduate this spring volunteered.
With oversight from Yops and Erin Adams, assistant professor and coordinator of the interior design program, the student team met with Keever to learn more about her vision: a medical office that would feel welcoming to all women, from expectant mothers to women facing health challenges. To that end, the plans included a family-friendly waiting room with toys, cartoons and a changing table-equipped restroom as well as a waiting room with a fireplace, music and decor to promote relaxation.
Outside of regular classwork, the students researched and recommended features including finishes, lighting, flooring, wall coverings and tile. They considered factors such as how each material fit with the overall concept and researched affordability, durability and how easy the materials would be to clean.
“The whole project was really an ‘aha’ moment,” said Lucas Miskura, a project volunteer from Michigan. “When we do projects in class, we understand it could be a reality but never see it come to fruition.”
The student team discussed and selected materials ranging from a translucent panel that would protect privacy in a place where a window would be installed to a glass tile that incorporated the building’s brown, purple and green colors.
“You get a fresh feel for the space through that tile,” said Miskura. “It’s beautiful.”
Sam Tillett, a project volunteer from Kitty Hawk, said even the challenges and problems that arose were fun for the student team, and Caitlyn Crook, a project volunteer from Charlotte, said they enjoyed seeing how the building project unfolded.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to walk through the space while it was being built and then again when it was finished,” said Crook.
Adams said the community service project enabled students to gain practical, real-world experience while benefiting the community, and Keever said she is pleased with the results.
“From day one, the students were enthusiastic, informative, confident and helpful,” said Keever. “They brought fresh ideas and intelligent solutions to the table. They were given a vision, and they brought it to life with their choices of colors, textures and style. ”