Rachael A. Bacchus, JD
Assistant Director for Advancement
University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine
We caught up with Rachael Bacchus to discover more about her, what she’s up to, and what we can learn from her.
Briefly describe your current role.
My main role continues to be working closely with our Assistant Vice President for Advancement as we move forward with the implementation of our College’s Grateful Patient Program, as well as focusing on leading the MD Parent & Family Council, a philanthropy affinity group for College of Medicine parents and family members. As any member of a small Advancement team can relate, our job titles and descriptions don’t necessarily reflect our day to day. Being a part of a seven-person team at the College of Medicine, we all find ourselves accomplishing tasks that you won’t find in our job descriptions.
What is a challenge that you/your unit/your institution is facing and how are you addressing it?
I think I speak for all institutions when I say we are all facing the same budget restrictions for this upcoming year and moving forward. COVID and social distancing have required us to think so far out of the box, that the box isn’t even visible anymore, and we’ve had to come up with new and exciting ways to engage our constituents. (Ways that they haven’t already seen in the last six months.) We’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming how to elevate the average Zoom meeting, and I am proud to say that with the help of our students filming selfie videos to share with our scholarship donors, and virtual 3D tours of the medical campus, I think we’re slowly beginning to find our way in this brave new world.
What innovation or trend in the field inspires or motivates you?
At a time when return on investment is being debated more seriously than ever before, universities that clearly articulate (and deliver on) the value proposition of work readiness for graduates will stand out to both prospective students and to the employers hiring them on the other end. As an individual with an entirely different background than the one I work in, I’ve found having diversity of knowledge has only benefitted me, and it excites me that our graduates at the UCF College of Medicine are able to diversify their MD degree with various joint degree options, including an MS in Hospitality/Tourism or MBA. Giving students opportunities designed to educate the next generation of leaders for our health care systems—not just clinical experience—and equipping them with the analytical tools, latest business techniques, and effective problem-solving and decision-making skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive medical field is invaluable and allows them to witness and experience adoptable elements to effect a cultural change in the practice of medicine. My law degree and training in the legal field continues to be invaluable as we navigate the growth of new programs and initiatives, allowing me to view a problem from a critical and analytical thinking standpoint. We are educating the future of medicine, and it is our job to make sure we give our students the tools and opportunities to succeed in all aspects of the medical field.
What is the best career advice you were given and how have you used it?
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are from going to work with my dad (who also works in higher education). From early on, he taught me that integrity is what you do when nobody is watching and the importance of being thoughtful of others and always doing the right thing, even in difficult circumstances. I am lucky to work on a team where this is exemplified daily—our office is a place of trust, teamwork, and, most importantly, compassion.
What advice do you have for other institutional advancement professionals in academic medicine?
Listen to your students. Especially now with remote working and remote learning, it is easy to lose sight of the reason we come to work every day. It is critical for every advancement professional to understand the importance of staying connected with our students as we navigate these times, and always. At the onset of this crisis, members of our Advancement team were a part of College-wide student wellness checks, giving us the chance to connect one-on-one with students and understand their specific circumstances, which we found varied widely. For some students, the current situation was a mere inconvenience—they would rather be back on campus with their friends but had the cultural and economic capital necessary to adjust. For others, being displaced from campus at the end of an academic year meant they were struggling with housing or it exacerbated their food insecurity. This allowed us to tailor a campaign to assist those students and provide economic relief through a solicitation to our College Help Fund. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your students is critical, and simply listening goes a long way. After all, they are the very reason for our existence.
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