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    GIA Member Spotlight

    Michelle Oster headshot

    Michelle Oster (she/her/hers)
    Associate Vice President and Managing Director
    Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association
    University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

    We caught up with Michelle Oster to discover more about her, what she’s up to, and what we can learn from her.

    Briefly describe your current role. 
    In my current role, I serve on the senior leadership team that provides strategic direction and executive leadership in planning and executing a comprehensive fundraising program. Through Wisconsin Medicine, our team is dedicated to ensuring that UW Health and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health will usher in a new era of medicine—one that builds on breakthroughs to save more lives and shape the future of health care.

    Briefly describe your career journey and what led you to institutional advancement in academic medicine. 
    I consider myself incredibly fortunate to serve in medical advancement. I’ve been immersed in this world from a young age. My journey began with simple tasks like selling raffle tickets at hospital events alongside my surgeon father and board-member mother. However, it wasn’t until later in life, when my family established a named fund in honor of my mother, that I truly grasped the profound impact of philanthropy.

    For me, philanthropy isn’t just about giving back; it’s a heartfelt expression of gratitude to those who have cared for us or our loved ones. It’s about empowering individuals during times of vulnerability, paving smoother paths for future patients and families, and ensuring innovation through research and education. Working in medical philanthropy isn’t just a profession; it’s a deeply personal mission rooted in gratitude, empowerment, and a desire to leave a lasting positive impact on the lives of others.

    What achievement in your current job are you proud of? 
    One of my most rewarding achievements in my current role is witnessing the growth and passion of my team members as they embark on their career journeys. Our work is deeply rooted in a mission to make a meaningful difference, and seeing others discover their own love for this mission-driven work is truly inspiring to me. Knowing that I’ve played a part in fostering their development and empowering them to make a positive impact fills me with immense pride. Seeing the ripple effect of their contributions reminds me of the profound impact we can have when we work together towards a common goal.

    What innovation or trend in the field inspires or motivates you? 
    While not an innovation or trend, I’m encouraged to see the growing emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in fundraising within academic medicine. Donors are increasingly recognizing the significance of supporting efforts aimed at addressing health disparities and promoting diversity in the healthcare workforce. In my capacity as Chair of a DEI subcommittee for the AAMC GIA, I play an active role in fostering alignment within the GIA and AAMC, ensuring that this critical work remains a priority. It’s not just about raising funds; it’s about using our influence to contribute to a more equitable healthcare landscape.

    What is the best career advice you were given and how have you used it?
    The best career advice I received was to join the AAMC GIA and actively engage with its community. Embracing this advice has profoundly impacted my professional journey. By becoming a member of the AAMC, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals who share my passion for advancing academic medicine. This community has fostered a spirit of collaboration and mutual support, where individuals come together with the shared goal of elevating the entire field. Through networking, sharing insights, and participating in collaborative initiatives, I’ve experienced firsthand the power of collective effort and the “all boats rise” mentality that defines the AAMC GIA community. It’s not just about advancing my own career; it’s about contributing to a greater cause and driving positive change in academic medicine.

    What advice do you have for other institutional advancement professionals in academic medicine? 
    Every milestone achieved, every goal surpassed, represents a tangible step forward in improving the human condition. Never underestimate the power of your role in this vast ecosystem of progress. Your dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment are the driving forces behind transformative change. Remember, even the smallest actions can have a monumental impact. So, continue to strive for excellence, remain steadfast in your purpose, and let your work be a testament to the positive difference you’re making in the world of academic medicine.


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