Dr Shenker, who is also an honorary research associate at Imperial College London, was shortlisted for the Hero Award, sponsored by Babcock International. The nomination was in recognition for her work to establish the Hearts Milk Bank, raise the profile of donor milk and for developing a research programme across the country for studies into breast milk and maternal health, especially breast cancer risk.
The WISE campaign summarised her impressive career path on their website:
Natalie is the definition of grit. A gifted medic and innovative researcher, she was on her way to being one of the foremost paediatric surgeons in the country when she was struck down by severe illness at the age of 30. She could no longer operate so started a Masters in developmental biology that led to a PhD in breast cancer risk.
She published a wealth of original research, had two babies and founded a thriving scientific editing business, before submitting a thesis that led to a job offer from the University of Cambridge. Meanwhile, at Imperial College London, Natalie had started collaborating with a hospital milk bank to understand how breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk in mothers.
She recognised that the southern NHS milk banking services were on the point of collapse so she rejected the job offer and started volunteering. In just six months, she established a social enterprise milk bank, raised £100,000 start-up funding and gained ethics approval to establish a biobank of breastmilk samples that will aid not only her former group’s research into breast cancer risk, but support the work of numerous other research groups across the UK.
Natalie is helping both mothers and babies enjoy better health by working in preventative medicine, supporting breastfeeding as well as saving money for the NHS.
The nominees for the award included Dorothy Gradden, Head of Programme Delivery Magnox at Sellafield and Hillary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, who was announced as the winner at a ceremony on the 27th of October.
Dr Shenker attended the ceremony, presented by the WISE royal patron, Princess Anne. ‘Technology is transforming the world of work,’ said HRH The Princess Royal at the awards. ‘If we want girls to have the best possible futures in these careers, we need to make sure they have the skills and qualifications required. More importantly, if we want the best possible future for our country, we need to be using the talents of the whole population’
The WISE Campaign was founded to encourage more women and girls to consider and pursue STEM subjects. ‘We are in the midst of the fourth revolution but girls are being left behind because too many drop maths and science at 16 – we must reverse this trend,’ said WISE chair and Microsoft managing director Trudy Norris-Grey, who was guest speaker at the. ‘Men are taking up these new jobs at a much greater rate than women. Don’t stand on the sidelines, join us so that we can move forward at scale and at pace and not let girls and women be left behind.’