Spotlight on Rebecca Saavedra, vice president for Strategic Management

Oct 19, 2016, 10:12 AM by KirstiAnn Clifford
Rebecca Saavedra
As Vice President for Strategic Management, Rebecca Saavedra, EdD, provides support to fellow members of the executive leadership team to develop, manage and execute UTMB’s strategic plan. In addition, she leads efforts to enhance accountability, assessment and performance improvement initiatives. She has served as co-chair of the Professionalism Committee since 2000.

Saavedra holds a doctorate in higher education from the University of Houston, and began her career at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston before joining the UTMB School of Allied Health Sciences in 1987. Since then, she has served UTMB in a number of roles, including director of Campus Life and as UTMB’s first Student Ombudsman. In 2001, she was appointed associate vice president for Student Services before she took the role of vice president for Strategic Management in February 2008.

She has been instrumental in implementation of the UTMB Honor Pledge, the Hector P. Garcia Cultural Competence Essay Competition and the UTMB Professionalism Summit.

What does Best Care mean to you and how do you contribute?
Improving Best Care is the prime directive this year in the “Road Ahead.” My contribution to the attainment of this goal is to support the executive leadership team in creating an environment for performance improvement and to ensure that the strategies and tactics we choose are consistent with what we know patients want and need.

What are the biggest challenges you face as VP for Strategic Management?
The world is changing fast all around us. The biggest challenge is the ability to adapt to a new generation of students, patients, faculty, markets and technological advances. UTMB has shown that it is resilient and willing to adapt to change; that will help us thrive in the future.

You serve as co-chair of the Professionalism Committee. How important is it to have a culture of professionalism at UTMB?
Promoting professionalism and ensuring ethical behavior is a critical piece of our commitment to the public, our students and our workforce. It is critical when you are engaged in education and health care. As a consumer, I want my health care providers and professors to be the best professionals—or else I will go somewhere else. A major value of any successful and vibrant institution is respect. Respect is the number one value; it is the foundation of all of our relationships.

What was your first job ever? And what was your first job at UTMB?
During the summer in high school, I worked as a Head Start teacher’s aide. Head Start was a program to help at-risk preschoolers get ready for school. I was paid $1.65 an hour!

My first job here at UTMB many, many years ago was as a student counselor in the Office of Student Affairs in the School of Health Professions (then the School of Allied Health Sciences). That position and my next as director of Campus Life, which I held for 10 years or so, were the most fun and inspiring in my career. I was there when students came up with great programs, such as the St. Vincent’s Student Clinic, Frontera de Salud, the Honor Pledge and Quest (the three-day student orientation). Lots of fun was had working with passionate and committed student leaders from all schools.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to go to the movies, concerts and the theater. My first concert ever was Jimi Hendrix, when I was in high school. I still see many concerts every year and I love to go to New York City to see musicals and plays. This year we are going to see Hamilton! I can’t wait.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Don’t even ask me to sing… But I can make tamales! My family and friends usually have a tamalera party around the holidays and make about 30 dozen of all kinds.

What’s something you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
Learn how to play the piano! But like I said, that is a dream!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
South America. Machu Picchu in Peru, Argentina and Chile. I have never been to South America—I would be forced to practice my Spanish!