Wolfgang Huber ’91: Nonprofit health care
Wolfgang Huber, CEO and president of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul Health Care Systems in Vienna, enrolled at Columbia Business School after attending medical school in his native Austria and working in the emergency room. “At the end of medical school, everyone said we need doctors who can manage the health care system,” Huber explains. “So I said, ‘Hey, Wolfgang, that would be something for you.”
Huber had been interested in not-for-profit management since high school, when he read Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be, which, he explains, “basically says that maximizing profit does not bring you happiness.” He also wanted to study in the United States to learn about the U.S. health care system, known for “professional management, higher efficiency and better strategy.”
About his experience at Columbia Business School and in New York, Huber says he had “a wonderful two years — really challenging years, but great.”
Huber was hired by Sisters of Charity to restructure the hospital system. His efforts were so successful that Sisters of Charity is in the midst of takeover discussions with another hospital. Patient admissions increased by 30 percent, and all three hospitals are in the black for the first time in 20 years. As an authority on hospital management and health care economics, Huber serves frequently as an expert in legal cases and consults for the Austrian government.
When asked whether he misses working in the ER, Huber says no, but not because he found it too stressful or disturbing. “I use my medical education. I just use it somewhat differently than most other physicians,” he explains. Huber’s position in health care management is, he says, not so much a departure from the work of a physician as “a different way of providing good care for patients.”