Front and Center: Vishal BalajiPublished on Monday, June 19, 2023By: Ruth CumminsPhotos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC CommunicationsIf someone makes a donation to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Vishal Balaji is one of the people who ensures those dollars go just where the donor wants them.That might be the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Mississippi. It might be the School of Dentistry, or the University Transplant Guild, or one of dozens of philanthropic funds that help improve clinical care, advance research and enhance the educations of future health care providers.“Every time someone donates, I make sure it ends up in the right place and is organized,” said Balaji, who joined the Medical Center family in October after graduating from Millsaps Colleges with majors in mathematics and economics.During busy times for UMMC’s Office of Development, Balaji might handle data for hundreds of donations a day. “We have a saying in this office that every dollar counts, and that really shows when a lot of people donate,” he said.What he likes best about his job is “seeing the sheer number of people who donate every single day,” Balaji said. The average long-time donor “is usually older or has grandchildren, but it’s not limited to that. Alumni donate to their schools.“You have multiple small donations to multiple large donations. We do research to see who donates, and we give that information to a major gifts officer.”His job is “fascinating and motivating,” Balaji said. “Since day one, just getting to know what this office does has been really inspiring.”“Vishal started with us right out of school and had no problem of adapting to an office setting,” said Melanie Hataway, the Office of Development’s director of finance and administration.“He is eager to help make our office more efficient and is a great teacher when it comes to the technical parts of our processes,” she said.Balaji grew up in Coimbatore, a major metropolitan city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His brother came to the United States in 2016 and graduated from Millsaps.“We have no idea how he found Millsaps, but we’re glad he found it,” Balaji said. “He told me that if I came to the United States, Millsaps would be my only choice.”Balaji arrived in the United States in 2019, experiencing the entire pandemic in a new country. “It’s been a great experience, even through COVID,” he said.And even though most days he sits behind a computer to do his job, “I knew this was a place where I wanted to work,” Balaji said. “It’s my first full-time job right out of college.”In his spare time, the Belhaven resident is a student of photography and enjoys painting. “In the eighth grade, I got a diploma in animation and visual effects,” he said. “I like to dabble in that.”Balaji “has never been given a project or request where he doesn’t leave with a smile. He even brings treats to share from India when he gets them,” Hataway said.“We are lucky to have him as a part of the Office of Development.”Read more Front and Center stories online. Do you know a student, staff, volunteer or faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical Center whose story would make an interesting feature or deserves to be recognized? Think about someone with outstanding job commitment, fascinating hobby or amazing accomplishment.To nominate someone to be considered for a Front and Center feature, just complete and submit this short form. If that person is picked for a feature, a member of the Communications and Marketing staff will contact him or her to learn more about his or her personal story.