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Margaret Luciano: Pushing research into practice

Faculty Sketch

“Think first responders, members of the military, operating and emergency room personnel. They work in places where if something goes wrong, it can have catastrophic results.”

Margaret Luciano, an assistant professor of Management and Entrepreneurship is fascinated by the intensity of working in complex and high stakes environments. Her research focuses on these stressful places, and how they can be even more effective and nimble in responding to change. Margaret works extensively with health care organizations, like the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Institute for Cancer Care Innovation. That’s what Margaret feels most gratified by in her work — “My change implementation approach is being used by health care systems, and having an effect on patient care and outcomes. As a researcher, it is the most amazing experience to watch practitioners applying your science.” (You can read more about how Margaret’s research is influencing health care in this Harvard Business Review article.)

Margaret is grateful to be at W. P. Carey, her first job out of her PhD, and find a supportive environment to do the research that is important to her. She explains, “To be able to spend a lot of time in health care institutions, working with health care providers, as a field-based researcher getting to go live the science is critically important to me. I feel so supported by the school and department, too, that they allow me to go have a positive impact in a very real way.”

Margaret has also been lucky to find health care practitioners who are eager to learn alongside her. She explains that it is sometimes hard to be the only PhD in a room full of MDs, but that the statistics help her show her worth. “The fact is preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and issues with teamwork and communication often cause those errors. As a management professor, I know a lot about teamwork, communication, and implementing change,” she shares. “Plus, when they can see that you genuinely care and that you're not just trying to get data, or peddling product, or trying to make money. You are there because you care and you want to work together to find a solution, they tend to engage.”

Margaret also notes, “I can speak to change management, but I’m going to let the anesthesiologist be the expert on anesthesiology.” Adding, “when we don’t tell each other how to do our jobs, it becomes a lot easier to help each other be better at our jobs.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

I waited tables at a five-star French restaurant and it taught me a lot of things. Of course, a lot about food and wine. I also learned about leadership and teamwork. Watching interpersonal dynamics was really fascinating, both in terms of the kitchen and waitstaff dynamics but also with and between customers. At a high-end restaurant you serve a lot of couples, so I left with a list of things I did and did not want in a partner. Most of all, I learned I wanted to be an expert in whatever it was I decided to do professionally. That didn’t end up being French wine, but I learned the value of expertise through that job.

When did you decide you wanted to be a professor?

In Dr. Priscilla Elsass’ undergraduate organizational behavior class at Clark University. That was it. Like the sky opened up and I found everything that I wanted to be. I had always loved psychology, but did not want to do anything clinical — which is of course funny considering my research now — but I found organizational behavior as kind of an applied psychology.

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?

On days when I’m stressed out: a yoga instructor. On days I’m less stressed, a hospital C-suite position. With everything that's going on in the industry, it is a challenging time to be working in health care. I have a lot of respect for the challenges that they have to overcome on a daily basis.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Italy. I took a Roman art and architecture class in college and combined with four years of Latin, I have learned a lot about a lot of things I've never seen and would like to.

What do you like doing outside of work?

Because I do a lot of training as part of my work, I like to try new things to kind of keep that trainee perspective. Mostly, that’s new workout classes or exercise. I also like hiking and spending time with my husband and our dog, Boyd, a miniature American Eskimo.

What is something interesting about your home town?

I’m from Leicester, Massachusetts, and I think mostly what it’s known for is being mispronounced. It’s pronounced “Lester,” (rhymes with Chester).

Salty or sweet? Sweet

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Cat or dog? Dog

Board games or video games? Board games

Book or movie? Book

Mac or PC? PC

Morning person or night owl? Morning person

Hot or cold? Hot

On time or late? On time