We were all surprised to hear the recent news that JDRF had decided to swap out its top executive, trading out Jeffrey Brewer as president and CEO for another D-Dad and industry leader, Derek Rapp. The news came down a couple of weeks ago in July 2014, and at the time, we posted some details beyond the initial press announcement about what this all means.

We were assured by the org’s chairman and others that nothing would change as far as the nonprofit’s focus and mission — and that this new CEO would help strengthen and even expand programs that are already in place.

What hasn’t been widely discussed, though, is that there’s really no timeframe attached to Derek’s role, and it seems he may not be the permanent CEO who leads JDRF into the future. Here’s what JDRF Board Chair John Brady tells us:

Derek is committed to serve as CEO of JDRF for no less than one year. During that time, Derek will assess his interest in continuing… and the JDRF board will develop a profile of the CEO who best fits our long-term needs. It may well be that Derek continues in his role, or it may be we decide a search is in the best interests of the organization. Derek and the JDRF Board are fully committed to a deliberate, methodical and transparent process to determine JDRF’s long-term needs and ensure we have the right person for the job. Derek is making a significant personal and professional sacrifice to lead us during this time, and fully supports the process we are undertaking.

So, there’s a possibility that more is change coming…

Regardless of how long he may serve as CEO, we’re honored today to share the first of our two-part interview with Derek, who becomes the fifth person to hold that position in the past decade. He has an important job, serving as the top exec for a $206 million international organization with 100 chapters globally, nearly 1,000 staffers and 300,000 volunteers worldwide — helping it stand out as the leading research body for type 1 diabetes.

In Part 1 of our email interview, we talk with Derek about his background, what he brings to the JDRF and how he plans to build upon what Jeffrey Brewer and others have accomplished at the JDRF in recent years.

DM) What’s your personal connection to diabetes?

DR) My wife Emily and I are proud parents to our son Turner, who is now 20 years old. He was diagnosed with T1D in 2004. Five other relatives of Emily’s also have the disease. JDRF was created and will still be led by people with a personal connection to type 1 diabetes.

With your background in biotech, what do you bring to the table and how will that help guide you?

My background is in finance and management with a concentration in strategic planning. I have worked in the life sciences field, especially on the research strategy and deal making side. For more than 20 years I led organizations across a wide range of business deals. I have played an instrumental part in shaping and implementing the research strategy, through my work on the (JDRF International) Board, as Chair of the Research Committee, and as a member of our Strategic Advisory Committee which has overseen the various pharmaceutical, biotech, and nonprofit partnerships we’ve forged to translate research into therapies and treatments getting in the hands of patients.

JDRF is a unique organization specifically focused on type 1 diabetes research, and we have an impressive research department with experts and leaders in the field who will continue to lead these efforts. In a broad sense, however, I have an understanding of the resources, time and money that are needed to support successful scientific research and set organizational strategies and priorities. I also understand the importance of collaboration with others who share our goals, and I am confident that my pool of knowledge will help usher JDRF into the next phase of achieving its mission.

You’ve likely seen some of the talk about your role at Monsanto… how would you address that for people in the D-Community who might have questions or concerns?

What people think about Monsanto as a company is irrelevant in this context. I hope the T1D Community will focus on who I am and on my commitment to this mission. I expect to be, and I should be, judged based on whether I am helping to move JDRF closer to our ultimate goal of creating a world without T1D.

As mentioned, I have one son with T1D, another with two T1D antibodies, and five members of my wife’s immediate family also with T1D. I have seen up close and personal ways the disease can challenge a person and a family. My heart goes out to all who are dealing with the disease and its many complications — both the physical complications and the quality of life concerns. T1D is an insidious disease, and my commitment to our community is complete and unequivocal. My only compass is what route takes us toward better treatments and a cure most directly. I hope people focus on this metric above all others.

Your background, personal and professional as it relates to diabetes and JDRF involvement, seems to mirror Jeffrey Brewer’s in many ways. Do you agree, and what do you think that means for your leadership at JDRF?

We do have some similarities in our backgrounds, especially our strong ties to T1D and JDRF. I think this is important as it sends a strong and positive message to our community that the CEO of JDRF has the same stake in curing this disease as they do.

Why did the Board decide it was time for a leadership change?

As John Brady said, all organizations evolve and go through leadership transitions and it was time for such a transition at JDRF. When Jeffrey joined JDRF as CEO in 2010, he was charged with resetting the organizational research strategy, fundraising strategy, and the management and governance systems. Thanks not only to Jeffrey’s leadership but also the vision and passion of our Board, our amazing staff, and our army of volunteers, we are more driven than ever to create a world without T1D.

What do you think Jeffrey’s legacy will be as JDRF’s CEO?

Jeffrey did a fantastic job. I think his greatest legacy may be that he has reinvigorated genuine hope among the T1D community that life-changing treatments and a cure are not beyond our control.

Like many nonprofits watching costs, JDRF has had the longstanding challenge of recruiting and retaining strong leadership. Can you comment on JDRF salary caps or levels these days?

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this. We do not share any employee’s compensation externally until it becomes public knowledge through the 990 reports. I will say that we work to attract and retain talented individuals throughout the organization. Obviously, that comes with significant cost. However, an organization like JDRF can only be as strong as its people, so we are willing to spend in this area and work to find savings in areas where we can.

{Editor’s Note: Going back through IRS tax documents at this non-profit database, it looks like Jeffrey Brewer didn’t take any salary during his 3+ years at the helm, and we know that his predecessor Alan Lewis chose to not accept a salary (they both were independently wealthy.) Back in 2008, then JDRF CEO Arnold Donald received a grand total of $613,178 in salary and compensation.}

We’ve heard you were a key voice in shaping the vision and focus of JDRF behind the scenes since 2010, although Jeffrey was really the face of what was being done…

I have been involved with JDRF at every level from my years of volunteer leadership. There are hundreds of dedicated parents, grandparents, friends, and those living with T1D driving our actions and passion and personally being involved since 2010. I am committed to our fundraising and accelerating progress toward our goals.

I have served on the International Board of Directors of JDRF since 2010, and just began a two-year term as Vice Chair of the IBOD. In addition, I have served as Research Chair and as a member of the Research Committee, and played a major role in shaping our research strategy. The larger organizational vision and plan that earned your support will remain in place.

Many of us adults with type 1 have felt more included by JDRF in recent years, thanks in large part to Jeffrey’s approach… what would you say to us?

I understand how central it is to our DNA that the CEO and our entire team feel engaged, connected, supported, and appreciated. Keeping the volunteer spirit will be a central part of my management style. Over the months ahead I expect to travel around the world meeting with our chapters, our volunteers, and our donors, being available to them, hearing them, and responding to them.

{Editor’s Note: This doesn’t really answer the question posed re: engaging adults with T1D along with children and families.}

Are there any specific plans you have in mind immediately?

I plan to stay the course. We have the right plan, the right people, the right strategy, and the right partnerships. My top priority is helping our volunteers and staff raise the resources we need to move even more quickly down the path we’re on.

Do you plan any changes to how the JDRF works with other organizations, such as the ADA and IDF?

No, collaboration and partnership is a key to curing T1D.

What do see as JDRF’s biggest challenges overall?

For the first time in our history, we have more promising science to fund than we have resources to spend. So our biggest challenge is to raise the resources we need to fill the funding gap so we can accelerate progress across our priority areas.

You can read Part 2 of this Q&A with Derek Rapp, published on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. We delve further into where he sees JDRF headed while he’s in charge. We appreciate the time Derek has taken with us in his early days on the job as JDRF’s new leader! See also: additional questions posed to Derek by our fellow D-Advocates .