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.

Research, Evidence and Policy

We’re the team that are responsible for ensuring that MRF’s resources about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia are underpinned by the latest research and evidence. We have the privilege of working closely with the leading experts in the field, who support us to provide expert medical advice and information to those affected by meningitis and septicaemia. We also contribute to important programmes of work associated with the WHO Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030, such as the Global Meningitis Genome Partnership (GMGP) and Meningitis Progress Tracker (MPT).

Liz Rodgers
Research, Evidence and Policy
Head of Research

I’ve worked within the Research, Evidence and Policy team in various roles since 2016, and since April 2022 I’ve been the Head of Research. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to contribute to some fantastic initiatives, which more recently has included the Global Meningitis Genome Partnership, which aims to increase the use of genomics for meningitis, particularly in areas of the world which experience a high burden of disease.

In my role I work closely with MRF’s scientific advisors to co-ordinate the Foundation’s international research programme. I also help develop information materials for the public, and with guidance from our medical advisors, provide information to those who contact our Support team with specific questions about meningitis.

To ensure the latest developments in the field are showcased, every other year, our team organises a medical scientific conference, bringing together over 300 leading meningitis experts from across the globe. The conference typically starts with a compelling patient story from one of our members and supporters; who are the driving force behind all of the work we do.

Claire Wright
Research, Evidence and Policy
Head of Evidence and Policy

Hi, I’m Claire and I have worked at MRF since 2010. Throughout my time at MRF I have had the privilege of working closely with expert clinicians to develop a range of resources for both the public and for health professionals. These include recovery information for patients and e-learning tools for health professionals on how to recognise, diagnose and treat of bacterial meningitis in young babies. 

I have developed a special interest in health economic analysis and published research on the lifelong costs of a severe case of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK, France and Spain, evidence which I am proud to say contributed to the introduction of the MenB vaccine in the UK. 

A focus of my responsibilities as Head of Evidence and Policy will be to lead on the development of the Meningitis Progress Tracker, which should arm civil societies across the globe with vital information to help them advocate for appropriate meningitis interventions in their own countries and regions, sparking a chain reaction to defeat meningitis wherever it exists.

Advocacy, Communications and Support

We’re the team that create compelling campaigns and content that informs, educates and advocates for why defeating meningitis and septicaemia matters. Every day we also support patients, survivors, their families and loved ones on our helpline (phone, email and online chat). From social media to PR, national and international advocacy, to support services, we make the connections from individual impact to global action, so no one is left behind.

Elaine Devine
Director of Advocacy, Communications and Support
Advocacy, Communications and Support

I’m Elaine and I joined MRF in January 2022. I previously worked for a global research publisher as Digital Communications Director, leading a team of specialists in campaigning, social media, multimedia, PR and digital content (all of which is very similar to what I am now doing at MRF).

I’ve worked in the worlds of research, education and charities for all of my career, experience which marries perfectly with my role at MRF. I’ve won national prizes for my campaign work, written for outlets from The Guardian to academic journals, created podcasts and white papers, ran researcher workshops and presented at more national and international conferences than I can remember. I’m very much looking forward to bringing all of this experience to MRF and seeing what we can achieve as we strive to defeat meningitis by 2030.

Cat Shehu
Advocacy, Communications and Support
Support and Membership Manager

My name is Cat, I manage the Support service and Membership here at MRF.

My professional background involves Complex mental health, Safeguarding and providing a safe and consistent Support service to anyone who needs to access it. I am immensely proud of the support that we have delivered to so many people over the last 30 years. I am very lucky to meet some amazing members, ambassadors and people who reach out to our expertise in this awful disease and my passion is to continue to make knowledgeable, inclusive support available to anyone who needs it. Outside of MRF I am a mum, and I love to travel and explore new countries. If you have any questions or need support please contact me.

Katherine Carter
Advocacy, Communications and Support
Support and Communications Officer
Having worked within the support services for over seven years, I have supported a number of individuals and families affected by meningitis and septicaemia. I feel humbled to have been a part of their journey, witnessing their courage and bravery at an incredibly vulnerable time.

As well as speaking to people via the helpline, I have had the pleasure of organising days such as our ‘Pushing the Boundaries – Life after Limb Loss’ day, along with various members days. It has been so lovely to see families come together, to share experiences and to draw strength from one another. Our befriending service has further enabled these links to be continued following an event.

Our team has also been able to give awareness talks to the general public and to health professionals, along with distributing symptoms information. With the help of our members and ambassadors, our reach has been able to stretch even further.

It has been a privilege to see this organisation grow and develop since joining in 2015, and to see the progress made in our fight against this devastating disease.

Having recently had a baby myself, I now only work on Fridays but do feel free to contact me at any point. If you need anything urgently throughout the week, do please call our helpline on 080 8800 3344 or email helpline@meningitis.org.

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

I’m Rosanna and I joined MRF in January 2018. I work as Meningitis Mentors Manager and also, temporarily, as the Community Engagement Officer whilst covering maternity leave.

I am currently leading on the development of Meningitis Mentors, which is a new, online platform where users can watch, upload and comment on videos focused on sharing tips, experiences and advice for those affected by meningitis and septicaemia.

These videos will cover a range of topics on living with the effects of these diseases, such as driving with amputations, coping with the death of a loved one or managing the invisible after effects. Meningitis Mentors will expand MRFs support services, offering an easily accessible form of support for those unable to reach us through our traditional services.

We want to ensure that this project is informed by our members, so we’re going to need your help in making this platform an engaging form of peer-to-peer support.

Meningitis Mentors will go live later in 2020, so look out for opportunities to get involved!

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90p/€1 produces a detailed ‘Your Guide’ information pack for parents when a child is recovering from meningitis

The MRF Membership and Support team are here for you for any questions you might have about meningitis and septicaemia and their effects on you or your family and friends.

We fund research into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and sepsis
A global vision for meningitis by 2030 and an action plan to get there.