Hilary Frazer shares her experiences as a patient and Trustee of The Pituitary Foundation
Why am I a trustee?
Looking back to when I became a Non-Executive Director (NED) and Trustee of The Pituitary Foundation just over 6 years’ ago, it is definitely one of the best decisions I ever made. Having worked in internal auditing and then organisation development for large pharma and chemical companies, I’d been thinking about taking on a Board position for a while and believed that the voluntary sector would be the best place to start.
By luck and circumstance, the opportunity came during a conversation at The Pituitary Foundation’s Annual Conference. The Board had also been looking for a new Trustee, so the timing worked well for all. Within a couple of months, I’d put the application in, been interviewed and accepted by my peers, attended my first Trustees’ Meeting. After a well-informed and comprehensive onboarding, helping out at the National Support Office and visiting Local Support Groups, I have enjoyed each day as much as the first.
My Pituitary Journey
My own pituitary journey was insignificant compared to many. Diagnosis and treatment at a pituitary centre of excellence came relatively quickly and I’ve been at full capability for around 19 years. For me, volunteering as a trustee has been a way of supporting patients, who could have struggled for years with mis- or late-diagnosis, lack of experienced medical professionals, complex treatment programmes, as well as feeling lonely and isolated without access to others with the same rare condition.
My experience of serving as a Trustee has been worthwhile in many ways. As the work is unpaid, benefits are not financial, but highly rewarding none-the-less. Since I’m taking both personal and professional liability, I’ve invested time and effort to learn as much as possible about my role and responsibilities as a NED and Board member.
Being a Trustee
Since the Board of Trustees share responsibility for the strategic direction and governance of the charity, we need to have the skills and knowledge ready for our best work. Fortunately, I had been able to learn a lot from 10 years as a Chartered Internal Auditor, but still went the extra step by investing in training from the Institute of Directors, learnt about charity governance requirements from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and accessed resources available from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. Commitments include Board meetings at least 4 times a year, with support for the patients’ conference and volunteers’ weekends on top. Since I’m based between Switzerland and the UK, I attend in person as often as possible, bringing in my own business and HR expertise as needed. Regardless of location, I also set time aside to stay up-to date, review board papers, contribute to virtual discussions and decision making.
One big advantage of being a Trustee of a smaller charity is becoming involved with The Pituitary Foundation’s activities. It’s really motivating and rewarding to have been the charity’s representative at events like Global Pituitary Patients’ Advocacy Meeting, celebrated the Foundation’s 20th anniversary, congratulate friends and colleagues for winning Helpline Awards. I’m now looking forward to celebrating with friend and colleague Alison Milne, who has already been announced as Endocrine Nurse of the Year for 2019.
On the Board of Trustees, we’re part of a team enabling our CEO Menai Owen-Jones, hardworking colleagues and dedicated volunteers to provide important support services for patients and families, inform health care providers and raise awareness of rare conditions. As well as developing strategy and reviewing performance, highlights include: brainstorming solutions with the CEO; shifts on the patient helpline, visiting the National Support Office team in Bristol to pack Xmas cards and making well-earnt cups of tea! By volunteering for a small independent charity, I can also have positive impact at the heart of the organisation. It’s definitely one of the best decisions I ever made.