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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
Since 1992, the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations has worked to support our members to become a source of excellence for VA Research and Development. Over the course of Fiscal Year 2017, NAVREF will be promoting 25 stories from our members, friends, and stakeholders recounting our unique heritage, culture, and spirit.  You can look forward to 2 recollections each month culminating on September 10th in Las Vegas where we will host our 25th Annual NAVREF Conference.  Thank you for your support of NAVREF’s vision of a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education.

Our Tenth Story: Looking back from Seattle

Eileen Lennon
Former Executive Director at Seattle Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research
Seattle, WA

My first introduction to VA research and the VA research and education nonprofits started when appointed as Executive Director to Seattle Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Research in July 1995.

I had NIH and pharmaceutical research experience, but little knowledge of the VA research world or, for that matter, the nonprofit world.  SIBCR was a relatively new Institute with much to be done and when I started the learning curve for me was very steep.  But like others have learned, there is aid to be had.  My first trips were to the NPCs at San Diego and San Francisco to get a clue on operations.  Very early I appreciated the fact that much of what we do at the nonprofits relates to the microenvironment at the associated VA and the relationship with the university affiliate.

And the other significant aid was a phone call away to NAVREF and Barbara West.  Surprisingly one of my first questions was why are the nonprofits listed by city?  Of course it was done that way, because that was how the VA did it and that was Barbara’s answer.

As you can imagine, I quickly moved on to more challenging questions.  I found it incredibly useful to be able to call NAVREF and Barbara could actually give me an answer or point me to another nonprofit that may have come up with a resolution.  And that was what I did throughout my almost 20 years as Executive Director.  Either I was calling someone to discuss a problem or someone was calling me.  It was the accepted practice among the nonprofits, one that NAVREF was responsible for fostering.

From the beginning I was very interested in best practices and the policies and procedures required to accomplish them.  Early on I talked on developing policies at a NAVREF annual meeting and the next thing I knew I was on the best practices committee!! The Best Practices Committee was a terrific idea – a review of all operations at your nonprofit by your colleagues who were only there to help.  I had a review in my early days at SIBCR and was very impressed by the whole process.

Between visiting nonprofits on the Best Practices Committee and then visiting many, many nonprofits when I served on the Board, I realized that despite the many differences we had by size, location, local environment, even types of research administered, the nonprofits all had the common purpose to support VA research and the very inspirational VA investigators.  That mission transcended everything the NPCs and NAVREF did.  

NAVREF is a wonderful umbrella organization that has fostered communication and collegiality among all the nonprofits.  It has worked to get timely and very useful information to its members over the years with the altruistic goal to assist the NPCs to be the very best they could be.  I remain a fan even in retirement.

A great 25 years and on to next 25!
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