VMRF 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, 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.


Ronald Larson
Chief Financial Officer
(858) 642-3069

Mr. Larson has had a successful career with the Department of Veterans Affairs serving at the San Diego VA as well as several other VA's for over 33 years. He has served in various senior-level executive financial positions, most recently as Chief, Financial Resources Management Service/CFO at the San Diego VA.

Mr. Larson's accomplishments include receiving the VA Chief Financial Officer Award for Financial Innovation, and other significant recognition throughout his career. He has also served as Chair of the VMRF Audit Committee of our Board of Directors for many years.

Mr. Larson possesses a B.S. in Business Administration/Finance from SDSU. 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. Ron also brings financial acumen, high degree of professionalism, decorum, a collaborative style, and a forward focus to problem recognition and solution.


Alma Munoz Canete
Contracts and Grants Director
(858) 642-3012

Alma Cañete leads the Contracts and Grants (Pre-Award) Department as Director, providing pre-award, clinical trial, and compliance support for Principal Investigators. Ms. Cañete provides expertise knowledge and oversight in pre-award, clinical, and compliance administration ensuring adherence to applicable federal, state, and local legislation, establishing and coordinating activities of Contracts and Grants administration with overall institution strategies, corporate culture, and management values.

Ms. Cañete joined VMRF in January of 2010. She has more than 18 years of experience in Research Administration and has worked in accounting and finance for over 27 years. Her background and focus have been in non-profit, service, and research organizations, with additional prior experience in banking, and public accounting.

Ms. Cañete holds a B.S. in Accountancy from San Diego State University and holds the professional designations of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Research Administrator (CRA). She is an active member and of several professional research and accounting societies, and also is an active leader in the Society of Research Administrators International (SRA).


Adam Cassius
Accounting Director
(858) 552-8585 x2801

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.

Adam has over 18 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 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 BS in Accounting.


Maria Clerico
Human Resources Director
(858) 642-3375

Maria Clerico joined the Veterans Medical Research Foundation Human Resources team in 2007. In the role of HR Director, she is responsible for leading all HR functions including Recruitment, Payroll, Benefits and Employee Relations ensuring compliance with federal and state labor legislations.

Ms. Clerico has over 13 years of experience working in Human Resources with broad experience in recruiting, training, performance management, employee relations, benefits, compensation, payroll and HR compliance. Ms. Clerico has developed, participated and implemented various HR projects and programs including HR compliance audits, handbook development, training, recruiting, and HRIS.

Her HR career has included service with local, multinational and global organizations in various industries including professional services and technology.


Matthew (Matt) Dohner
Financial Information Systems 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 Associate Director (Pre-Award)
(858) 552-8585 x2797

Jean Freiser joined the Veterans Medical Research Foundation as Associate Director of Contracts and Grants (Pre-Award) in 2016. Jean provides management and direction of all pre-award contracts and grants activities, clinical trial development and is instrumental in assisting with the Leadership of the Contracts and Grants Department. Jean is responsible for developing strategies to identify and obtain federal funding for the VMRF programs and works closely with Principal Investigators to assist in identifying new funding opportunities.

Jean has many years of experience managing major grants and awards at academic, educational, and non-profit research institutions. Jean is a Certified Research Administrator and is an active member of the Society for Research Administrators and National Council for University Research Administrators.


Cindy Matheson
Contracts and Grants Accounting Director (Post-Award)
(858) 552-8585 x7431

Cindy Matheson, CRA joined the Veterans Medical Research Foundation in 2016. As the Contracts and Grants Accounting Director (Post-Award). Cindy is responsible for the management and direction all post-award contracts and grants activities, compliance with regulatory requirements, implementation of process improvements within the Contracts and Grants Accounting department that incorporate sound internal controls, and supports the organization's strategic goals.

Ms. Matheson has more than a decade of research administration experience across well-known and dedicated research facilities, healthcare and academic environments. In a career that has included varied departmental and central experience in both pre- and post-award research administration she has gained a deep understanding of pre- and post-award matters that is invaluable to the success of any project. Her excellent understanding of basic science, allows her to understand generally what researchers are proposing from both a scientific and compliance perspective. Her ability to foster partnerships and develop creative compliant solutions has earned respect from constituencies across the research administration enterprise.

Ms. Matheson is a Certified Research Administrator and is an active member of the Society for Research Administrators and National Council for University Research Administrators.


Management Values


VMRF values participatory management while adhering to a hierarchical organization structure. The Management Team meets weekly to share information and to seek each other’s counsel. 

The team’s objectives include to:

• Maintain compliance while fostering innovative administrative flexibility

• Seek out opportunities to minimize investigators’ administrative burden

• Motivate creative and enthusiastic support services for investigators and their staff

• Invoke professional pride by providing high quality research administration services

• Build and protect effective collaborations between administrators and researchers across institutional boundaries

• Cultivate a professional environment of mutual respect