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Wesley Wheeler ’78: Healthcare Logistics During COVID-19

DEPARTMENT(S): 
April 30, 2020

Wheeler is president of UPS Healthcare—a newly formed healthcare division of UPS. His division runs 128 healthcare facilities in 32 countries with a global team of 5,500. In April 2020, in the thick of the

COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been in the role about four months.

“I never would’ve thought in my first four months I would be doing this,” Wheeler says.

Wheeler and UPS Healthcare are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. UPS Health works with healthcare companies, payers, and providers across key sectors: lab and specimen logistics, implantable medical devices, clinical trials and precision medicine, home health and wellness, specialty pharmaceuticals, and healthcare logistics. And with billions of people around the world working remotely to help slow the spread of the virus, Wheeler says, logistics have reached a new level of importance.

“Patients don’t want to leave their home to get their medicine right now,” he says. “It’s important that we continue delivering drugs to people in their homes.”

Wheeler and UPS Healthcare are also part of the President Trump’s Task Force for Testing and the council for reopening the country, including Project Air Bridge, with several flights per day bringing personal protective equipment from Asia into the United States. UPS Healthcare is also involved in clinical trials for leading drugs for treating COVID-19 and is working with three companies developing vaccines.

“We’re doing our best to help however we can.”

Wheeler’s first job after graduating from WPI—and he says, one of he most valuable learning experiences—was as a field engineer for Exxon. Then he embarked on his decades-long career in the pharmaceutical industry. He began at Glaxo as director of engineering and became vice president of marketing at GlaxoWellcome. He has led or had leadership roles at GlaxoSmithkline, DSM Pharmaceutical Products, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Patheon, and most recently Marken, which is now a subsidiary of UPS Healthcare. He was CEO for three of his recent companies and is also board chairman of a Japanese manufacturing company.

His WPI education, Wheeler says, has been vital to his success throughout his career and in especially challenging times such as these. 

“I’m a big, big believer in what I went through at Worcester,” says Wheeler, who attended the university in the era of the ‘Competency Exam.’ He describes the exam as “one of the toughest things I ever went through in my life.” He credits his experience with giving him the confidence that comes with learning and doing, and with the trajectory of his career.

“The world needs more engineers,” he says. “I feel like I can break down a problem and develop a solution to a problem because that’s how I was trained.