OWU grad uses economics to shape health care

Photo courtesy of the Harvard website.
William Hsiao ’59. Photo courtesy of the Harvard website.

Eleven countries and one city-state have health care systems shaped by an Ohio Wesleyan University graduate.

William Hsiao, class of 1959, returned to his alma mater this week to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his work in designing health care reforms and universal health insurance programs.

“Hsiao exemplifies the ideal of moral leadership in a global society,” President Rock Jones said.

Hsiao said “[he] was flabbergasted” when informed about the honorary degree. “To me, what I was doing [was]…what I found interesting and doing the best that I [could]. Many people do that.”

Hsiao, who received his doctorate in economics from Harvard University, shaped health system reforms and universal health insurance programs for China, Colombia, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Uganda, Vietnam and the United States.”

Robert Gitter, professor of economics at OWU, described him as a very humble person.

Hsiao, who graduated from OWU with degrees in mathematics and physics, said he “never thought [he] would be a teacher and a researcher.” He applied to be an actuary for the federal government.

Gitter explained that “[Hsiao] realized as an actuary he wasn’t really dealing with a lot of the big questions,” such as the impact specific economic decisions have on people and how they affect the economy overall.

Once Hsiao realized what he was missing, he went back to school. “It [seemed] like economists are the ones wrestling with those big issues,” Hsiao said.

He credited OWU with developing his interest in the larger picture. He discovered “how [ethics and moral principles] should guide our lives.” A liberal arts education “[opens] up your spirit, your mind and your interpersonal relations.”


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