Meet Our New International Board of Directors Chair, Lisa Fishbone Wallack

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JDRF International Board of Directors Chair Lisa F. Wallack with her family

L-R: Neil, Perry, Sydney, Harris, and Lisa Wallack

Lisa Fishbone Wallack is the newly elected Chair of the JDRF International Board of Directors (IBOD). Her appointment holds distinction: she is the first Chair to have a parent previously serve in the role.

Lisa’s involvement with JDRF started in the early 1970s after her younger brother, Scott, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 1969 at the age of 18 months. Lisa’s parents, Marilyn and Dr. Gerald Fishbone, were among the founders of JDRF (then known as “JDF”) in the early 1970s, and her late father served as IBOD Chair from 1983 to 1986. Her passion for T1D advocacy was amplified when her son, Harris, was diagnosed in 2001 at the age of 5.

Lisa is a force at JDRF, having served in nearly every volunteer leadership role locally, nationally, and internationally. She was President of the Greater New England Chapter and has been a member of JDRF’s IBOD for nine years, helping with governance, strategy, and fundraising. Her leadership efforts were recognized in 2019 with the Jim Tyree Chairman’s Award, and Lisa and her husband, Neil Wallack, are being honored at the JDRF Greater New England Chapter 2024 Gala for their unwavering dedication to the T1D community.

JDRF sat down with Lisa to discuss carrying on her family’s legacy of volunteerism and her hopes for the organization’s future.

Your appointment as the new JDRF International Board of Directors Chair must feel like a full-circle moment since your father served in the role more than 30 years ago. How did your parents inspire you to be a leader, and what do you hope to carry on from them?

I grew up watching my parents devote countless hours to building this organization to engage other people impacted by T1D, create a community to support one another, and inspire and enable them to work together to raise awareness and funds to invest in cures.

My mom, who founded JDRF’s New Haven Chapter and remains an active champion today, has modeled for me how to be an authentic and successful fundraiser driven by our passion to cure our loved ones and the millions of others whose lives have been impacted by T1D. 

People say my father always made everyone feel like the most important person in the room. He has inspired me to be a strong but humble leader, to listen to others, and to work to bring out the best in them. 

You have extensive experience working with many non-profit boards. What unique perspectives do you hope to bring to the IBOD as a female leader?

Women bring to the table a willingness to listen and collaborate without letting their egos drive the agenda. I want to engage the diverse perspectives of our T1D community and work together to leverage our experiences, insights, and networks to grow JDRF’s reach and impact. 

What opportunities lie ahead for JDRF and the T1D community?

I see JDRF being more reflective of the diverse community of those impacted with T1D, engaging people of all ages and stages of life with T1D from different communities around the U.S. and worldwide.

Ninety percent of those living with T1D are adults. We need to show the adult T1D community that we are relevant to them, to demonstrate the role that JDRF has played in improving their lives, and to engage them in our quest to conquer the disease for good. We also need to look beyond the United States to strategically engage donors and governments to invest resources in JDRF and our mission to accelerate our progress.

You have served in nearly every volunteer role possible at JDRF. Do any roles stand out to you?
JDRF International Board of Directors Chair Lisa Wallack and her husband Neil, who together have raised over $1.4 million for T1D research
Lisa and her husband Neil, who together have raised over $1.4 million for T1D research

I really enjoy the work I have done at our local JDRF chapter, reaching out to newly diagnosed families and introducing them to the JDRF community and the progress that we are making.

I’m a passionate fundraiser, asking everyone we know to support JDRF each year. My husband Neil’s participation in marathons, JDRF Rides, and Ironman competitions inspired many others to support our cause. To date, we have raised over $1.4 million from our efforts!

I enjoyed my many roles on the JDRF International Board of Directors, from ensuring our governance structure is as effective and efficient as possible to working with our extraordinary professional leadership team to develop and implement the most impactful strategy to accelerate our mission.

How do you hope to inspire the JDRF volunteer community in your new role?

Volunteers are the key to JDRF’s success. We are the army that raises the funds needed to achieve our mission goals. We are a community that supports one another, sharing learnings and experiences to help others cope and engage them in our shared fight. 

Learning from my parents, I have always valued volunteerism as a way to have an impact and to find fulfillment. Leaning in as a volunteer at JDRF has given me a sense of empowerment and the strength, resilience, and hope to know that together we can conquer T1D. Being part of this amazing community and this impactful organization is deeply meaningful.

Being involved with JDRF for nearly 50 years gives you a unique perspective. How does living with T1D differ from the past to the present? What do you think it will look like in the future?
JDRF International Board of Directors Chair Lisa Wallack and her brother Scott Fishbone, who has lived with T1D for over 50 years
Lisa and her brother Scott, who has lived with T1D for more than 50 years

JDRF’s strategic leadership has led to the many advances that have made it safer and easier to live with T1D. When my brother was diagnosed in 1969, there was only urine testing and syringes and no blood sugar testing or insulin pump technology. Today, we have CGMs and closed-loop insulin delivery systems that have reduced the burden of living with T1D for Scott and Harris, as well as for Neil and me as caregivers. 

I look forward to the day that Scott, Harris, and everyone with T1D will not need to depend on technology to live. I feel that day is getting ever closer as we drive the development of new disease-modifying and cell therapies that will enable us to prevent and cure T1D.