Frankie Trull

In her first job out of graduate school, Francine (Frankie) Trull, AG80, worked for Dr. Jean Mayer, then the president of Tufts, and helped establish the only veterinary school in New England, now known as the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. That early experience involved successfully lobbying Congress for support for the school and proved influential in her future career. Trull now has more than 30 years of experience as a lobbyist.

A native of Massachusetts, Trull is a life-long horsewoman who has been involved in showing horses and raising thoroughbreds. She lives on a farm in Virginia, along with two house cats, a dog, six Angus cows, and five horses, including a miniature horse.

Trull’s professional work aligns with the Cummings School’s efforts to advance global health to benefit animals and humans. As founder and president of the National Association for Biomedical Research and the Foundation for Biomedical Research, she represents the biomedical research community, supporting its interests in laboratory animal research. In 1995, she also founded Policy Directions, through which she works on policy issues affecting biomedical research, medical education, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical companies.

Blueprint asked her to share her perspective on a life surrounded by animals.

Q: You were part of the team that successfully lobbied Congress as part of the establishment of the Cummings School. What do you think the government’s role in funding education and research should be?

A: Funding of education and research are excellent examples of public/private partnerships. The whole country benefits from an educated public and a dynamic research enterprise. Especially during these challenging fiscal times, federal and state support must be balanced with private support. The veterinary school would not exist without the essential initial federal support provided directly from Congress, but it’s been the largesse of private donors, like the Cummings and Foster families and others, that has enabled the Cummings School to provide outstanding professional training.

Q: You’ve been an advocate for biomedical laboratory research. How do you respond to criticism of animal research?

A: I’ve been an advocate for medical discovery to improve lives for people and animals. Laboratory animals continue to be an essential element in the discovery process, so it’s the responsibility of researchers, veterinarians, and animal caretakers to ensure that these animals are provided excellent care and stewardship. In a perfect world, there would be no need for animal models. Critics of this practice are often driven by sincere emotion and the belief there are non-animal methods, like computer models, that can glean the same information derived from laboratory animals. Alas, science isn’t there yet.

Q: As a life-long horsewoman and pet owner, how do you balance your life on a farm with your lobbying efforts in the corridors of Congress?

A: I’m a third-generation horseman and it was always my dream to have a horse farm. I’m lucky enough to be living that dream in the beautiful Virginia countryside. Back in DC, I enjoy the policy debates, the negotiations, the cajoling of lawmakers and regulators to accept proposals and support issues for the various interests I represent. But working with Congress can be very frustrating, so getting back home to my farm and my wonderful animals helps me keep my grip on sanity.

Q: What is most gratifying about your work with the Cummings Board of Advisors?

A: I feel an enormous sense of pride and appreciation for where the Cummings School started and where it is today. I owe so much to Tufts. Many of the people I met when I first started at Tufts proved to be some of the most influential people in my career, including President Mayer and Henry Foster. The Cummings board has allowed me to come back to Tufts all these years later and work with wonderful, smart people who are as committed to and excited about the school as we early pioneers were. It’s my privilege to be a part of this team of advisors and to give back to Tufts in some small way.

This interview first appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Blueprint. Read the full issue online here.