Haas In Silicon Valley: Student Profiles

Wolfgang Stehr, pediatric surgeon

Haas EMBA student Wolfgang Stehr talks with peers over lunch at startup Tacolicious in San Francisco - Ethan Baron photo

Haas EMBA student Wolfgang Stehr talks with peers over lunch at startup Tacolicious in San Francisco – Ethan Baron photo

For Haas EMBA student Wolfgang Stehr, the Silicon Valley immersion trek landed him in a profoundly foreign environment. Stehr, 46 is far more accustomed to a theater of surgery than the arena of entrepreneurship. The pediatric surgeon, however, has strong interest in applications of technology and science to health care. But until he went on the Haas Silicon Valley trek, his world had been more narrowly focused. “I had no knowledge about startups,” Stehr says. “I had heard the term but I had no idea what it meant. This week, that totally changed.

“It has moved from, ‘I have no idea how to do this,’ to, ‘I could be doing this and it’s basically only one step away.’”

Stehr didn’t come into the EMBA program with dreams of founding a company. He was largely motivated by a desire to equip himself for hospital administration, after finding himself taking on increasingly administrative duties in the past five years at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. “I felt I was missing some knowledge or leadership skills that I didn’t learn in medical school,” Stehr says.

Mid-way through the trek, Stehr had visited companies throughout greater Silicon Valley, meeting founders and CEOs, hearing presentations, participating in classes held at iconic tech firms. One class by Haas entrepreneurship and innovation professor (and former prof at the Harvard, Columbia, and University of Chicago Booth business schools) Toby Stuart gave Stehr a new way to look at entrepreneurship. “He called it the tug of existing resources versus the lure of the new opportunity,” Stehr says. “It really depends on what is valuable to you right now, what you have, and what is out there.”


The trek opened up new possibilities for the surgeon. As a doctor, Stehr touches only one patient at a time, he notes. “Working in technology or leveraging a technology, I could scale this to help thousands or millions of people,” he says. “It now opens this dilemma for me of, ‘Am I going to do it?’ I’m happy being a surgeon. I love being a surgeon.”

Stehr came away from the trek determined to apply startup mentality to his own hospital work. “Right now I’m leaning a little bit towards, ‘Let’s see how I can introduce this entrepreneurial spirit into my industry and my existing role and my job in the hospital,” he says. “In the hospital, oftentimes, you don’t step away to ask yourselves the question, ‘Why are we doing this the way we are, is there a different or better way to do it?'” And Stehr has taken a step toward the entrepreneurship arena, while remaining dedicated to surgery, reaching out to startups, including one seeking a medical director, where his knowledge and skills may be needed. “I’m not ready to jump off the cliff (into entrepreneurship),” Stehr says. “I feel like I’m adding too much value to where I’m currently at, but at the same time I’m exploring how I can add value to other companies or startups with what I’m doing and what I already have.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.