Passionate About Health Care

Jocelyn Ferguson is HMRI’s first chief development officer
By Luke Netzley

At a crucial time when personal health and well-being is paramount, Huntington Medical Research Institutes appointed Jocelyn Ferguson as its chief development officer. 

The newly established position will see Ferguson collaborate with the Pasadena-based biomedical research organization’s senior leadership team, board of directors, and staff to build out its development and communications programs in support of HMRI’s mission.

“Guided by our mission of ‘improving lives through patient-focused scientific research,’ one of the things I want to accomplish is to fully integrate our development, community engagement and communications to create meaningful connections with our community that foster pride in our mission and philanthropic support to accelerate our research,” Ferguson explains. 

“The three primary areas of research at HMRI are neurosciences, neurovascular and cardiovascular research. HMRI has been doing a brain aging study for the past 20 years, researching Alzheimer’s disease. I think so many of us have either family members or friends who are impacted by Alzheimer’s, so trying to better understand this progressive and irreversible disease and its risk factors can impact our community. For cardiovascular research, one aim is to reduce the size of heart attacks in an effort to increase a person’s chances of survival. The research in both of these areas is something I believe will directly benefit our community here in Pasadena.”

As a veteran philanthropy professional, Ferguson brings to HMRI almost 20 years of extensive fundraising experience in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on biomedical research, health care and higher education. Recently, she worked with City of Hope, a not-for-profit biomedical research and medical center in Duarte.

“We are delighted to welcome Jocelyn to our team as CDO,” says Dr. Julia E. Bradsher, president and CEO of HMRI. “Jocelyn’s leadership and proven track record in developing fundraising programs that advance biomedical research, patient care, community health programs, higher education and first-generation college student programs — combined with her passion for everything HMRI does and stands for — make her a perfect match for the role and an invaluable asset as we continue laying the strategic tracks for our future growth and impact.”

In addition to HMRI’s research, Ferguson was drawn to the organization because of its commitment toward educational programs. 

“Two of my passions are higher education and health care, and I believe that everyone deserves access to highly skilled health care, as well as excellent educational opportunities,” Ferguson says.

Ferguson is excited about HMRI’s summer educational programs, when the organization will host its undergraduate research fellowship program as well as its high school STEM program. The latter is open to students in the Pasadena Unified School District, while students in its postdoctoral fellowship program continue to advance their scientific research conducted throughout the year.

“It’s exciting that we are working to inspire the next generation of scientists and physicians,” Ferguson says.

Ferguson’s own higher educational background began with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from the University of Washington in Seattle before she attended a Ph.D. program in the same discipline at the University of California at Berkeley.

Though she has a strong love for the arts, Ferguson has been passionate about health care since she was a child visiting her father at work during his time as an oral surgeon, dentist and orthodontist in the U.S. Air Force.

“From the time I was a little girl, I visited my late father at his office at a hospital or in clinic,” Ferguson explains. 

“While in the Air Force, my father had an extensive service population spanning several countries, and he was also involved with the University of Washington School of Dentistry for many years. Those experiences, along with my health care philanthropy, shaped my life and make me feel very comfortable in a medical environment.” 

Outside of work, her love for art and art history drew her to the museums and galleries of Pasadena, particularly the Norton Simon Museum. She also serves on the board of the Junior League of Pasadena, whose goal is to promote and perpetuate social change by providing valuable leadership training and empowering women. 

“Before my father passed, he said, ‘I know your heart is in California, and you have my blessing if you want to return to California,’” Ferguson recalls. “He said, ‘You’re a terrific fundraiser. You should go and do what you love in the place where you love.’ And that’s how I landed here in Southern California.

“Several years ago, I was fundraising in the performing arts, and I made a very conscious decision to transition into higher education and health care philanthropy, which are very near and dear to my heart. I believe in the power of philanthropy to change lives. A $2 million philanthropic investment can accelerate our cardiovascular research leading to breakthrough discoveries impacting millions of people, while a $25,000 gift can fund four undergraduate students in our summer research fellowship program and help to launch the career of a future scientist. For me to be in this position now, I am living out one of my passions, which is to accelerate scientific discoveries via philanthropic investments and see how those innovations are made accessible to people and impact their lives.”

Looking to the future, Ferguson aspires to use her wealth of leadership, fundraising and donor relations expertise to support the mission of HMRI.

Huntington Medical Research Institutes

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