Faculty Expert Profile

Kathleen Sutcliffe

  • Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of medicine and business


  • School of Nursing
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Carey Business School
  • Business in Government (BIG) Initiative

Languages spoken

  • English

Sutcliffe is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of business and medicine. Her research centers on how organizations and their members cope with uncertainty and unexpected surprises, and how organizations can be designed to be more reliable and resilient. She is currently investigating these issues in healthcare as well as in wilderness firefighting, oil and gas exploration, and other dynamic high-risk industries.

For nearly two decades Sutcliffe worked at the University of Michigan studying and teaching business management and organizational theory. Sutcliffe is fascinated with "high reliability organizations," such as aviation or nuclear power companies, which regularly avoid catastrophes in complex, high-risk environments. These organizations have several behaviors in common, according to Sutcliffe: They build a context of trust and respect, help people understand the larger goals of the system, recognize the small factors that might lead to failure, and establish flexible decision-making structures.

In 2019, Sutcliffe published an ideas article in Time Magazine that called on the health care industry to be more honest about medical errors. And an article Sutcliffe co-authored for Harvard Business Review demonstrated how discrimination against female doctors hurts patients.

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