A Moment with Katy Milkman is part of our interview series featuring thought leaders in research and healthcare. Each interview includes 7 short and stimulating questions.

Katherine Milkman is a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a secondary appointment at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. For more from Dr. Milkman, follow her on Twitter and check out her website.

1. Tell us something we don’t know. (Anything!)

All of my degrees are in engineering and the only psychology class I ever took was a cross-listed course on human-machine interaction.

2. Which fiction book would you recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare, and why?

Middlesex. Fiction builds empathy. This book does a particularly beautiful job of explaining what it’s like when your body exerts control over your life.

3. What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

A 1.3 million person experiment testing dozens of different nudges for promoting flu vaccination.

4. Who’s doing something that you admire in healthcare today, and why is it so cool?

Kevin Volpp. I think the work he’s done to bring behaviorally-informed incentives into healthcare is incredibly important.

5. What’s the biggest barrier to getting things done in your line of work?

Red tape.

6. Imagine you win an award for impacting healthcare. What did you do?

I ran a massive experiment that successfully identified many new inexpensive and effective ways to help people make better decisions about their health.

7. What advice would you give innovators in healthcare?

Talk to people outside of healthcare. Find out about what’s new and exciting in personal finance, education, and energy conservation. Learn what’s happening in computer science, sociology and materials science. Think about whether any recent breakthroughs might be applicable to healthcare, too.


More about Katherine Milkman:

Katherine Milkman is a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a secondary appointment at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Her research explore ways that insights from economics and psychology can be harnessed to change consequential behaviors for good, such as savings, exercise, vaccination take-up and discrimination. In her TEDx talk, she describes some of her key findings on this topic.

Katherine has received numerous awards for her research including an early career award from the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. When under 30, Milkman was named one of the world’s top 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets and Quants and she was a finalist for the Thinkers 50 2017 Radar Thinker Award. Her dozens of published articles in leading social science journals such as Management Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and The Journal of Finance have reached a wide audience through regular coverage in major media outlets such as NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, and Harvard Business Review. She also frequently writes about topics related to behavioral science for The Washington Post and Scientific American. In 2018, she began hosting Charles Schwab’s popular podcast “Choiceology with Katy Milkman”, which explores key lessons from behavioral economics about decision making.

Katherine has been recognized with many accolades for her ability to communicate ideas to students. She is a repeated recipient of the excellence in teaching award for the Wharton undergraduate division, was voted Wharton’s “Iron Prof” by the school’s MBA students for a PechaKucha-style presentation of her research, and has repeatedly been one of ten finalists for the Anvil Award for Wharton’s most outstanding MBA teacher.

She is the president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, an APS Fellow, and an associate editor at Management Science, where she has handled manuscripts about behavioral economics since 2013. She has worked with numerous organizations on research and/or consulting, including Humana, Google, Wipro, Cummins Engines, the U.S. Department of Defense, 24 Hour Fitness and the American Red Cross. Katherine co-directs the Behavior Change for Good Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work is being chronicled by Freakonomics Radio.

She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University (summa cum laude) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s joint program in Computer Science and Business.

Written by: Aline Holzwarth