ACH Member Spotlight
The Academy of Communication in Healthcare's Member Spotlight feature allows members of the community to know each other beyond the CVs, publications and presentations. Each month a diverse member of ACH will be chosen to write their responses to questions they select to reveal more about themselves as people.  It is the Academy's hope that learning about an individual may spark connections that blossom via email, phone conversations or in-person meetings at conferences, courses and forums.  We welcome your feedback on this enterprise and nominations for future Spotlight Members. To view the archived member spotlights, click here!
Alexander Villafranca, B.E.S.S., MSc., PhD(c)

Alexander Villafranca, B.E.S.S., MSc., PhD(c)​
University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg
PhD Student and Researcher

Winnipeg, Canada

 Alexander is currently completing a PhD in Inter-disciplinary studies (Community Health Sciences & Bioethics) focusing on the role that authenticity should play in medical choices made by patients. He previously completed an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and a Master’s degree in medical rehabilitation. He holds research positions at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. Alexander’s research interests include medical ethics, health literacy, and professional ethics. He has received several national and international research awards, and his research has been profiled by CBC news, ABC news, and the LA Times.

What was your earliest ambition?
To be happy and fulfilled as a person. I think that every other potential ambition should be evaluated based on whether it facilitates that overarching goal.

Who is the person you would most like to thank and why?
All the people who have advised and mentored me throughout my life. They helped to shape my identity and the values I hold.

What book should every healthcare provider read?
Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham- seriously! Bioethicist Lachlan Farrow wrote a great article explaining the lessons that healthcare providers can get from this book (see “The green eggs and ham phenomena, The Hastings Center report, 1994, Vol.24(6), pp.S29-32). The most important lesson… Sam-I-Am offers the protagonist green eggs and ham a thousand different ways, but is turned down for one important reason- “I do not like that Sam-I-Am”! This emphasizes that a bad relationship between a clinician and a patient can completely derail an informed consent conversation before it even begins. 

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I actually have a hammock hanging in my house that I relax in after a hard day. I can say with unwavering confidence that house hammocks are underrated. However, it may be wise to put the hammock away before your boss or in-laws come over for dinner. 

How would you spend your favorite day?
Drop me in an interesting place with good company and we will fill in the details based on where the day takes us. If it is a quiet day at home, then a mix of record playing, meditating, and reading is always a good choice.

January - Michelle Harcha, DVM, MA

Michelle Harcha, DVM, MA
LeadYourShip LLC
Grove City, Ohio

Biography: Dr. Michelle Harcha is a veterinarian with over 30 years experience in the veterinary profession. Her unique combination of professional experiences includes 10 years in clinical practice, 12 years in a variety of roles at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and 10 years in academia leading the Professional Development curriculum for veterinary students at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her passion for communication training began when she worked in a veterinary emergency clinic. It was in this environment that she became certified in Everything DiSC® and saw how this assessment and communication skills made a huge impact working with and managing veterinary healthcare teams and improving the client experience. After completing several veterinary specific communication courses, the Institute for Healthcare Communication faculty training and the FRANK™ training, she led the development of a comprehensive applied communication curriculum at Ohio State. Dr. Harcha learned of the Academy of Communication in Healthcare and DocCom from her colleagues in the College of Medicine while teaching inter-professional education. Inter-professional students share many qualities and the importance of communication is evident in all healthcare professions. In 2017, she formed LeadYourShip LLC to bring her experience in communication, leadership skills, and emotional intelligence to the veterinary profession.

What was your earliest ambition?
Combining my love for animals and my passion for science, I decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine at the age of thirteen. My grandfather was a veterinarian and when I was a small child, he told my mom that one day I would choose this career.

What was the worst mistake in your career?
No mistakes. Everything I have done in my career has led me to this moment. I would not change a thing. I am grateful for the unique blend and balance of professional experiences including clinical private practice, industry, and academia. All of this has contributed to my passion and skill in teaching communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, and resiliency.

What was the best career move?
I have had multiple careers, each a stepping stone to the next. I would not say one is better than the other. Each career began as my dream job. As I have grown and developed, so have my career goals. Moving from one job to the next, gives someone else the opportunity to live their dream as well. It is now exciting to begin my own consulting company with a focus on teaching communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence in veterinary hospitals and practices.

Who is the person you would most like to thank and why?
Both of my parents. They always supported my decision to go to veterinary school. My mom and dad gave me a strong sense of serving others, making a difference in the world, and being a good communicator. They helped me believe I could do anything I set my mind to do.

What book should every healthcare provider read?
Any book that makes them a better communicator and a kinder person. For me, that is anything written by Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, Daniel Goleman, or Brene Brown.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I am a lifelong learner. I spend a lot of time, money, and energy on books, online courses, and continuing education. I have received insights from books and classes that have changed my life. Sharing what I learn with others is my passion.

Summarize your personality in three words.
Authentic, committed, and compassionate

How would you spend your favorite day?
Going to an Ohio State football game on a fall afternoon in Ohio Stadium. This would be preceded by attending the Ohio State Marching Band practice before the game at their “skull session” and then attending their post-game show after the Buckeye victory. I have been attending Ohio State football games with my family since I was a child and each game feels like a family reunion.

Where are you the happiest?
When I am learning and teaching others or spending time with my yellow Labrador Retriever, Colby.


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