When Rachel Brackley, OD ‘09, FAAO, Resident ‘10, was a student at the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), she admits to being somewhat scared of the faculty. She was one of those students that did her work and didn’t question it.

Rachel BrackleyNow that’s she’s part of that same faculty, her perspective has changed. 

“When I was a student, I don’t think I expected a lot from the faculty, but I had no idea how much they were doing,” said Dr. Brackley, who joined Salus PCO for her first teaching position in July 2013.  “But now that I’m on the other side of it, we just have such a core group of faculty that truly care about our students, truly want what’s best for our students and want to provide an excellent optometric education.”

Dr. Brackley said one of the things she loves about being a faculty member is always having to stay on your toes and making sure you don’t fall behind. If a teacher falls behind, the students know it, she said, and then the teacher has to play catch-up.

Among her responsibilities at Salus PCO include teaching ophthalmic optics, systematic medicine and in the clinical skills laboratory. 

She also points out that while she was a student, she was not taught to be a teacher, she was taught to be a clinician, one of the main reasons why students choose Salus PCO.

Rachel Brackley“But I love to teach, and I really felt like I needed to learn how to be an educator,” said Dr. Brackley.

To that end, she pursued a certificate in Health Professions Education through the University of Connecticut that she completed in August 2019.

“It was three courses that just focused on educational topics. How do I become an educator and how can I get better at what I do,” she said. “It gave me a chance to understand educational philosophy much better. I think it’s really important for me to be on the cutting edge of education. For us to figure out what is the next thing, what do we need to do, how do we present information in a different way so that the students are getting something different and we’re not staying stagnant in old educational methods.”

Dr. Brackley credits former Salus provost Janice Scharre, OD, MA, FAAO, as a mentor who encouraged her to do more with her career.

“Dr. Scharre was very influential in the optometric profession and she took me to lunch one day and just explained it all to me,” said Dr. Brackley. “I hadn’t thought about it, but it lit this fire in my heart that I have to do more.”

Luke BrackleyWhen she’s not teaching Salus PCO students, Dr. Brackley likes to be with her family and is a busy mom to her active three-year-old son, Luke. 

The other thing she enjoys is to cook and feed people. Every August she prepares her specialty — making “a humongous pot” of tomato sauce from scratch, then freezing it and using it throughout the winter.

Dr. Brackley currently serves on the subcommittee for the College’s accreditation self-study. 

“It’s been very rewarding,” said Dr. Brackley of her return to Salus PCO as a faculty member. “A lot of my current colleagues were once faculty members of mine. So I’ve been able to see both sides of the coin and I’ve really been able to enjoy that and really understand how much the PCO faculty care about the students. And, I’m not sure I quite understood that as a student.”

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