Margaret Dahl

Associate VP, Health Analytics and Informatics, Industry Collaboration
Atlanta, Georgia USA
Science, research and development
Geography (Hons), Sociology (Hons)

Definitely critical thinking skills and problem solving. While we had didactic lectures and exams, professors like Michele Peillon (Sociology), ​Proinnsias Breathnach (Geography) were willing to engage in continuous discussion-I never felt like they made it easy, quite the contrary. I was constantly challenged to consider many sources to inform the logic of my position. They listened so patiently, I cringe sometimes when I think of how I probably sounded, but I knew they were making me think. I had an amazing experience 30 years later when I brought my daughter with me to visit Maynooth and had the opportunity to see Dr. Peillon. He asked me if I ever saw the sociology publication part of my thesis was published in-when I said "no", he said "I must get you a copy, that was very good." I looked at him and turned to my daughter and said "I think I waited 30 years to hear that was good."

I co-started two companies (JVC video distribution, medical instrumentation) when I matriculated from Maynooth. I subsequently worked for an Irish biotechnology firm eventually acquired by J&J's, then two multinationals (Pharmacia and Organon Teknika) in technical sales across Europe. I moved to Seattle, Washington in 1987 and was in technology transfer (research commercialization) at the University of Washington. I subsequently moved to the University of Texas at Austin to manage the Austin Technology Incubator. From there I was recruited to the University of Georgia to build a biotechnology incubator and provide accelerator/venture resources. I am currently at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) overseeing their health analytics/informatics research capabilities in an industry collaborative context.  I also serve on the American Hospital Association's Leadership Development Committee and the Committee on Governance. 

I work with Georgia Tech domain experts in analytics including natural language processing, unstructured/structured data, interoperable resources to make electronic health record data more accessible and actionable. My role is to identify industry and government partners like the CDC that can bring resources together to solve problems in health analytics. Georgia Tech is know for "what's next" but that can mean we have to work with industry closely to ensure what we think is next is scalable and sustainable. I also work within the central administration to identify strategic and tactical issues that must be addressed in order to make structure and process work in a research intensive environment. This can mean working with faculty to understand what's needed, identifying best practices and working to implement better processes. 

Being in an environment of extremely smart people who have no specific incentive to follow a master plan! We have no real power over faculty so you have to learn to be "of influence" to get their buy-in in order to get anything done. This is always challenging but great fun too.

I was recruited by the Executive VP for Research and the VP for Innovation at Georgia Tech.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes; understand what you are being asked to do and then go for it; look for mentors (you can have several you pull different strands from-leadership, technical issues, networking). Learn how to write and communicate very well. Travel travel travel and be willing to travel for the job. Learn to stand outside yourself and be very aware of someone else-how they are reacting-meet them where they are and don't judge, just figure them out so you can figure out what to do.