BY: Patricia Duignan

Dr. WHO?: The Science and Culture of Medical Wear Design


The multi-million-dollar medical uniform industry has not utilized advancements in garment and textile technology that could positively impact the protection of healthcare professionals and patients. In most cases the uniforms meet basic requirements – they clothe the professional in a recognizable way. Little innovation in design, function and performance, has been applied to these garments. This is particularly evident in the case of the stereotypical white lab coat worn by many physicians, despite evidence indicating that these lab coats may carry contamination and play a role in the spread of deadly bacteria. Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are among the most serious problems facing modern medical care, costing millions of lives and dollars annually worldwide. This research investigates the design and use of the physician’s lab coat – an immediately recognizable symbol of Western medicine. The research identifies the medical, functional, cultural and symbolic roles of the lab coat within the hospital environment and beyond, to the larger the global society. This thesis examines the extent to which the design of medical wear can impact the effect of hospital-acquired infections, support doctor/patient relationships and enhance the performance and behavior of the healthcare professional by envisioning a future lab coat which offers increased protection for physician and patient, aids in communication and enhances the performance of the doctor by utilizing digital technologies incorporated into the lab coat whereby the lab coat becomes the only tool necessary for the physician.

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