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Advancing Her Passion into the Business World

Esteemed cancer researcher retooled skills for advocacy career

Lynn Matrisian
Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Chief Science Officer, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2013

As the founding chair of the Department Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Lynn Matrisian spent a quarter century leading a research laboratory dedicated to understanding cancer metastasis. She has published more than 220 original scientific articles and trained more than 30 young scientists have joined the fight against cancer. She is a member of the AACR Academy, which recognizes and honors distinguished scientists whose major scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer.

The work has been her calling and her passion. But she felt a growing sense that she needed to do more. “I’m very proud of the contributions I’ve made in cancer research,” Lynn says. “But I wanted to take it to the next level, so it has a broader impact on patients with cancer.”

After working with the National Cancer Institute, where she served as special assistant to the director in addition to her duties at Vanderbilt, Lynn concluded that realm of advocacy was where she could make the greatest difference. “There was the opportunity,” she explains, “to raise money that could be directed in ways that shape the way that cancer research is performed and what it can accomplish.”

So in 2012, she accepted a position in California with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (she remains an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt).

But Lynn also realized that her research background left her ill-prepared for this new phase of her career. “I had lived in this academic world for many years, and I simply did not understand the business world,” she says.

From her time at Vanderbilt, Lynn already knew about the Executive MBA program at Owen, which she believed would “broaden my horizons.” For two years, she commuted to Nashville every other weekend, studying on the plane and using Skype to meet with the members of her C-Team. After one semester, Lynn found that her rusty math skills were improving and, more important, she was gaining the skills she needed for business.

Now, as Chief Science Officer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and based in Washington, D.C., Lynn has put those skills to good work.  “The program altered the way I view the world around me,” she says. “It gave me exposure to the way the business world thinks and works. I knew I would need that if I was going to make the impact I wanted to make.”