Meet the staff team

Vinny Smith
Chief Executive

Besides meeting my wife and having two wonderful kids, leading MRF is the greatest privilege of my life.

The team are amazing. Our supporters are unbelievably inspiring. The cause is unquestionably important for global health.

Since joining in 2015 I’ve helped develop and launch a new brand identity, new website and a new strategy. We’ve held governments to account on vaccine policy and called for and achieved a new World Health Organisation global task force for meningitis to 2030.

In previous lives I have been, amongst other things, an international consultant, Chief Operating Officer, and Head of Direct Marketing for organisations as diverse as Cancer Research UK and the African Center for Economic Transformation (Ghana).

I juggle the most important things in my life (see above) alongside being a guest lecturer at the University of the West of England on organisational development; being a Steering Committee member of the Global Meningococcal Initiative; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacturers; and a Trustee of Autistica.

For leisure I cycle; visit art galleries; fight the weeds at my allotment; and keep four small fish and two snails.

Diane McConnell
Regional Director

I have been working with Meningitis Research Foundation since 5 April 1995.

I love my job and get great satisfaction from working with members and supporters of the charity who are as committed to the cause as I am.

My role as Regional Director is interesting and diverse. There is never one day the same. I am responsible for all the activity of the regional offices (Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh). I also deputise for the Chief Executive in his absence.

I have four wonderful grown up children and four adorable grandchildren. I like family Sundays and walk, read, knit and sew when I get time. My greatest passion by far is my garden and when I go into the garden, time becomes irrelevant.

Research, Evidence and Policy
Linda Glennie
Research, Evidence and Policy
Director of Research, Evidence and Policy

 I'm Linda Glennie and I'm Director of Research, Evidence and Policy at MRF where I've worked since 1997.
I work with scientists and health professionals across a range of disciplines to develop information materials for the public and for health professionals, and I've co-authored several educational resources for nurses and trainee doctors. I also organise the scientific programme for the Foundation’s biennial international conferences.
I'm responsible for managing the administration, peer review and monitoring of the Foundation’s international research programme.

Natacha Blake
Research, Evidence and Policy
Evidence and Policy Officer (Diagnosis and Treatment)

Hi I’m Natacha and I have been working in the Research, Evidence and Policy department as Evidence & Policy Officer since the beginning of 2017.

My role, which has been developed recently to enable our UK and international capacity, involves working with both my colleagues here at MRF and other professionals to provide evidence-based understanding and awareness into the issues associated with the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia, both in the UK and internationally.

Liz Rodgers
Research, Evidence and Policy
Research Officer

Hi, I’m Liz and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation in October 2016 as Research Officer.

My role involves working with the Scientific Advisory Panel on the Foundation's research programme. It’s really exciting to see how our research programme evolves, from the initial selection of research applications, to working with our communications team to help publicise our research in novel ways.

In addition to this, I help organise smaller, more regular events throughout the year. I particularly enjoy planning our Research Discovery Days – which gives our members and the general public a chance to meet the scientists leading the research.

Claire Wright
Research, Evidence and Policy
Evidence and Policy Manager (Prevention)

My name is Claire and my role as Evidence and Policy Manager (Prevention) involves working on the educational materials that MRF distributes to health professionals and the public, making sure that it is up to date with findings from current research.

I also try to answer specific medical questions we receive about meningitis and septicaemia and promote the charity's work at conferences around the country.

It’s very rewarding to work on awareness literature which may go on to help save lives and support those who have been affected by this disease.

Rosanna Russell
Research, Evidence and Policy
Project Manager iConsent & Community Engagement Officer

My name is Rosanna and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation in January 2018 as the I-Consent Project Manager.

I-Consent is a research project funded by the European Union H2020, which aims to develop comprehensive guidelines on how to present Informed Consent to patients in a way that facilitates the patient’s autonomy when deciding whether or not to take part in clinical research. MRF are one of eight partner organisations involved in the project.

My role is to co-ordinate MRF’s activities as part of this project, including planning and delivering workshops with patient groups to ensure that the patient perspective is considered in the development of improved guidelines.

Advocacy, Communications and Support
Rob Dawson
Director of Advocacy, Communications and Support
Advocacy, Communications and Support

I joined in 2016 after seeing the great work the charity does to help people affected by meningitis and septicaemia.

I have worked in communications for a range of sectors and bring experience from industry, charities and government.

I am a comms geek and sit on several committees and working groups to help train, mentor and share best practise within the PR and communications industry.

My other passions are plants, theatre and flying trapeze.

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