In our continuing blog series, we talk to some of our longest-serving staffers, those in our "10-Plus Club" who have been part of the Foundation for 10 or more years. They share how their roles and the field have changed since they first joined MJFF.
In this third installment, Senior Vice President of Research Programs Mark Frasier, PhD, talks to Research Programs Coordinator Kathleen Vestuto.
KV: When did you start at the Foundation, and what were your first responsibilities?
MF: I started in March of 2006 as an associate director of research. My responsibilities were to manage the scientific portfolio and find new research to fund across many disciplines.
KV: How different are your responsibilities now from when you started?
MF: The core responsibilities are the same: to find and manage the best research. But my day-to-day has changed significantly because now I'm leading and supporting the team in those efforts. So while I still frequently speak with external researchers, I spend more time hearing from the internal team to ensure we have a clear research strategy and are executing it efficiently.
KV: What are some of the changes you've seen at the Foundation?
MF: I think certainly there is tangible growth. Just walking around here you can see that; the number of people in the office has increased from 30 to about 130. So I no longer know everyone's name.
But for me, I'd say more things stay the same. There's the same sense of urgency within the organization; the same open-mindedness to experiment with finding new ways to fund research; the same proactive approach. And there's the same camaraderie and sense that we're all in this together, with people chipping in on things that are outside their regular responsibilities.
KV: If you could choose one important change that has occurred since you started at the Foundation, what would it be?
MF: I'll give you two. First is that the reputation of MJFF, and the approach to funding research, has grown in leaps and bounds, so we are considered a major source of innovation in the nonprofit funding world. The second is that, with our growth, we have placed a larger emphasis on developing our people, which I think is critical to individual team members.
KV: What do you think is the biggest contribution of the Foundation to the field?
MF: It's hard to say. One of our biggest contributions is having the patient-centric, unbiased perspective on what is needed to develop new treatments. Another is our ability to stimulate the research agenda by funding, and our role as a neutral convener to bring stakeholders together.
KV: What has made you stay for the past 10+ years?
MF: The work and the people, both of which I adore.
KV: What has changed in your life since you started here?
MF: A lot! Marriage, two children, a house. Becoming domesticated.
KV: What's the most important advice anyone at the Foundation gave you?
MF: That's a good question. Michael once told me and others to work with "purity of motive." I think that's it. That's the best advice.
Interested in joining our team? Check the Careers page for open positions.