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Leadership Team

Maria Sittmann

Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer

(858) 642-3070

Maria Sittmann serves as the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (ED/CEO) at the Veterans Medical Research Foundation (VMRF) in San Diego, CA. She joined VMRF in 2004. 

Ms. Sittmann has an accomplished career as a business leader, university faculty, board member, executive, and consultant at for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, academic and educational institutions, and also for the Department of Defense. 

She has developed and implemented strategic plans that improved operational efficiency and aligned the corporate vision and mission, policies and practices with organizational objectives and corporate culture. 

Ms. Sittmann has presented at several national conferences and events on many topics such as executive leadership and development, strategic planning, and corporate cultures that deliver successful results. 
Ms. Sittmann has a well-balanced and diverse executive business background and expertise. She possesses an M.B.A and a B.S. in Business Administration. 

Her dedicated commitment to veterans and research and all who devote their time and effort in collaboration to this noble cause is perfectly aligned to honor our nation’s veterans’ service with science. 


Adam Cassius

Chief Financial Officer

(858) 642-3069

Adam Cassius joined the Veterans Medical Research Foundation as the Accounting Director in 2015 with extensive experience involving corporate and foundation budgets, grants, financial studies, and related financial programs, as well as a variety of professional senior level accounting duties. In 2018, Adam was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.


Adam has over 20 years of experience as working as a CPA and most recently in the medical industry.  He is well versed in preparing and presenting a variety of technical financial reports to Executives and various levels of management, board members, and employees, as well as coordinating and preparing agencies’ annual budgets and external audits.

Adam graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. He shares a passion for the mission of serving Veterans and for research that affects their care and as well as the care of many others through the advancement of medical research. Adam also brings financial acumen, high degree of professionalism, decorum, a collaborative style, and a forward focus to problem recognition and solution, in addition to extensive knowledge and experience in financial accounting, forecasting, budget preparation, auditing and directing fiscal and financial functions.

Matthew (Matt) Dohner

Contracts and Grants Accounting Director

(858) 642-2854

Matthew (Matt) Dohner joined the Veterans Medical Research Foundation in 2015 as the Contracts and Grants Accounting Director. In that capacity, he was responsible for developing and leading the Contracts and Grants Accounting team which provides post-award support for VMRF Principle Investigators and ensures adherence to applicable industry, federal, state and local legislations.

In 2016, Matt was promoted to Financial Information Systems Director. In this capacity, he is responsible for developing informative comprehensive fiscal reports, enhancements to VMRF's accounting/financial software and leading the Information Technologies department.

Matthew comes to us with 15 years experience in the non-profit industry and has over 20 years in accounting and finance. His focus in on fiscal stewardship, compliance and process improvements.

Matthew earned his B.S Degree in Finance from San Diego State University.

Jean Freiser

Contracts and Grants Director (Pre-Award)

(858) 642-3012

Jean Freiser serves as Contracts and Grants Director at the Veterans Medical Research Foundation.  She joined Veterans Medical Research Foundation (VMRF) in July, 2016.  She also served in a consultancy role at VMRF previously.

In her capacity as Director, she provides management and direction for all pre-award grants and contracts activities, as well as clinical trial development.  Jean is an instrumental member of the Leadership Team. She is proficient in the development and successful submission of grants, contracts and industry sponsored research agreements.  In addition, she develops strategies to identify and obtain Federal funding for the VMRF research programs.  Jean identified a new VMRF Pilot Project Research Award Program that focuses on turning these pilot studies into successful Federal research grant submissions.

Jean is an accomplished research administrator with a broad knowledge of pre and post award grant and contract management for Federal, State and private foundations.  She has proven ability to identify and exploit funding opportunities and has a comprehensive knowledge of governmental and other research funding agencies. 

Jean is a Certified Research Administrator and is an active member of the Society for Research Administrators International, the Associated Independent Research Institutes, and the National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundation.

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