When we founded the Semmelweis Foundation in 2012 out of a private commitment, who would have thought that it would one day become a recognized association, with partners and collaborations throughout the entire CEE region. Much has already happened since our foundation, but further efforts are still needed to achieve our ambitious goals in the future. On our journey to help to make the world a little better a milestone in our history has now been set: The Semmelweis Foundation is happy to welcome our new Secretary General: Johannes Culen – a real expert in terms of building up an association and representing interests to decision makers and stakeholders!
Culen is 41 years old, born in Vienna and brings to us a large international network and many years of experience in representing interests and association building. He studied business administration in Vienna and completed internships in New York and Sydney before starting his professional career with the trainee program of the Federation of Austrian Industries. During this time, he gained valuable experience in social and European policy in Brussels. After working as a business development manager in a well-known industrial company for several years, he was finally responsible for projects in both the Asian and US markets. In his last position as Managing Director, the 41-year-old was responsible for the successful development and establishment of the umbrella association of Austrian real estate project developers (VÖPE).
At the side of President Bernhard Küenburg, he will now put his expertise at the service of our association in order to lobby for our issues with decision-makers in politics and responsible institutions. Another goal of his is also to establish the Semmelweis Foundation as a competence center and knowledge platform in Austria as well as in the entire CEE region.
We asked Culen how he went from building an association for the interests of real estate to hand hygiene, and what his new job means to him:
Why did you decide to work at the Semmelweis Foundation?
Health and the issues associated with it have always played an important role in my life. There are many doctors in my family, my sister is a clinical psychologist for example and my mother has been highly involved in national and international health care for years.
For years I worked for internationally active business companies and in economy but since the COVID pandemic began, my priorities have changed. The health and safety of my own family took priority over material things, and that has remained the case for me. The sustainability of my own actions for our society has become a new motivator for my professional career, which is why I decided to put my expertise at the service of the Semmelweis Foundation.
What do you particularly like about your work?
One thing I have always enjoyed is developing cooperative strategies with different stakeholders, forging alliances, planning actions, being creative and convincing people around of the importance of our issues.
Thanks to my training in the trainee program of the Federation of Austrian Industries, my experience at an international interest group in Brussels and most recently as the managing director of an umbrella organization in Austria, I can bring all my previous experience to the table.
What are your goals for the Semmelweis Foundation?
My goal is to positively charge the topic of hygiene. I also see my task in the medium term as giving the Semmelweis Foundation a new profile in order to establish it as a competence center and knowledge platform. Not only for doctors or hygiene specialists, but also for start-ups in the hygiene sector. This is where people should be able to network with each other, and this is also where the gateway to the CEE region should be opened wide to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
One thing that is particularly close to my heart is that in the future it should be possible to address the topic of hygiene in the healthcare sector without taboos.
More so I want to increase transparency so that we can take a major step forward, especially in the prevention of infections. We see an urgent need to catch up here with Scandinavian countries, which are leaders in the field of prevention and monitoring of nosocomial infections and also hand hygiene compliance.