Courtesy: Cal Athletics
Former Golden Bear swimmer Rachael Acker, the 2016 Pac-12 Woman of the Year who is now a second-year medical student at Harvard, is the recipient of a prestigious Walter Byers Scholarship, the NCAA announced Tuesday.
Established in 1988, two Walter Byers Scholarships are awarded each year, providing $24,000 grants to one male and one female recipient. Recipients chosen by the NCAA Walter Byers Scholarship Committee are recognized as combining the best elements of mind and body to achieve national distinction for their achievements and to be future leaders in their chosen field of career service. In addition to Acker, the other recipient is former Yale fencer Derek Soled, who is pursuing a medical degree and MBA at Harvard.
Before receiving the Byers Scholarship, Acker earned several athletic and academic accolades at Cal. In 2016, she was a Top 30 finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year, as well as a finalist for the University Medal, which is presented to the top UC Berkeley graduate. Acker won an NCAA championship in 2014 as a member of Cal’s 800-yard free relay, and she helped the Bears capture the team national title in 2015. At the Pac-12 Championships, she captured the 200 free crown as a freshman in 2013.
At Harvard, Acker hopes to pursue a surgical specialty such as obstetrics/gynecology or pediatric surgery. She noted in her application for the Byers Scholarship that she continually draws on her student-athlete experience as she works toward her future path in medicine.
“As student-athletes, we constantly work toward something bigger than ourselves, concurrently striving for personal and team excellence,” Acker wrote in her application essay. “In a medical context, resident and attending doctors, medical students, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists strive toward a common objective: optimizing patient care.”
After graduating from Cal with a 3.96 GPA in 2016, Acker was a Fulbright Scholar and completed a 10-month program at the University of Rennes in France. As an undergraduate, she was a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, was named 2016 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women’s swimming & diving and was a four-time CSCAA Scholar All-American. She was also a three-time recipient of the team’s Warren Hellman Scholastic Award.