Our Co-Founders

The HMF was founded by Dr. Natalie Shenker and Gillian Weaver. Natalie is a doctor with a PhD in cancer and environmental epigenetics from Imperial College and is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow with Imperial College London. Gillian has specialised in the field of human milk banking and breastfeeding for 30 years and co-founded the UK Association for Milk Banking and European Milk Bank Association. Natalie and Gillian both won a Points of Light Award from the UK Prime Minister in 2019 recognising their contribution to supporting parents through the work of the Hearts Milk Bank and the HMF charity.

The HMF is proud of our 50:50 Board gender split with representation from the BAME and neurodiverse communities. 40% of our Board of Trustees and 70% of our team members have direct lived experience of the issues that we support families with. The charity also has an expert oversight board and a Prioritisation Panel, composed of advisors with a wide range of expertise e.g. microbiology, paediatrics, psychology which also includes community representatives (milk donors and recipients).

Meet the Team

Jo Watt

Director of Lactation Services

Sam Griffin

Research Midwife, Imperial College London

Gillian Weaver

Co-Founder

Gillian has specialised in the field of human milk banking and breastfeeding for 30 years and co-founded the UK Association for Milk Banking and European Milk Bank Association.

Dr Natalie Shenker

Co-Founder

Natalie is a doctor with a PhD in cancer and environmental epigenetics from Imperial College and is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow with Imperial College London.

Jo Watt

Director of Lactation Services

Jo is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who leads the charity’s support services and works closely with all of the families who receive donor milk. She joined the charity after leaving the NHS where she worked for many years as a midwife and Infant Feeding Lead.

Flic Webster

Director of Communications

Flic is a digital communications specialist with 16 years’ experience managing award-winning campaigns for charities and healthcare brands on a global level. With a psychology degree and having first started her career in the NHS, she has always wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. Flic initially became involved in the Hearts Milk Bank as a milk donor in 2017 and helped to launch the HMF charity in 2018. Her role includes managing all communications for the Hearts Milk Bank and Human Milk Foundation across all channels including the website, social media, press/tv/radio/print, and the creation of fundraising and outreach campaigns through video. Flic also works with Trusts and Foundations applying for grant funding, strategic planning and impact reporting and manages the relationships with our charity corporate partners. Flic is passionate about creating societal change in how we support new parents and changing perceptions of human milk.

Asmaa Shariff

Director of Operations

Asmaa is responsible for the day to day operations of the Milk Bank, as well as project and event management. After a varied career in industries as diverse as publishing, events and agricultural research, Asmaa now enjoys working with the team to ensure that the donors are supported and the milk bank is able to continue growing. In her spare time she enjoys reading and travelling.

Naomi Joffe

Director of Technical Services

Naomi Joffe has been with the Hearts Milk Bank since the beginning and now manages the lab team which processes, pasteurises and packs all the donated milk.She previously worked in hospital pharmacy, and is a breastfeeding counsellor and post-natal doula. She lives in London with her husband and three daughters.

Amanda Green

Director of Implementation

Amanda is responsible for the day to day running of the milk bank, including coordinating our donor milk hubs and the logistics of donor milk coming into the milk bank and being distributed to hospitals and recipients. She also takes a keen interest in the science behind milk banking, having studied biochemistry and worked in science. In her spare time Amanda enjoys the arts, running and travelling.

Mike Grimwade-Mann

Technical Specialist

Mike is a technical specialist in the lab team at the milk bank. As well as pouring, pasteurising and packing the milk he is responsible for checking the fat, calories and protein in the milk. Mike also liaises with the our suppliers and ensures that the lab equipment is working well and maintained.
After graduating for degrees at both Bangor University and Imperial College London, Mike worked at Rothamsted Research, studying the interactions between wheat and fungi in order to prevent disease in in the wheat and increase crop yield. He has taken his laboratory skills and transferred them over to the lab at the milk bank.
Mike enjoys playing disc golf – both competitively and casually – and has recently bought his first house with his partner Emma. He has been heavily involved in scouting since a young age, and enjoys volunteering running an explorer scout unit.

Eileen Cotterill

Technical Specialist

Eileen works as a technical specialist in the milk bank lab team. Prior to joining us at the Hearts Milk Bank she worked as a midwife and neonatal nurse. Eileen says “I never dreamt I would work in a lab, but now I find immense satisfaction and enjoyment from pouring, pasteurising and packing up the donor milk for all those hungry babies. The HMF plays an essential role in today’s health care, and I feel very proud to be part of it.”

Jenny Marshall

Lactation Specialist

Jenny works as a lactation specialist in our support services team, helping to support our donor milk recipient families. Jenny says “My role involves supporting mothers and mothers to be, who for various complex reasons are unable to lactate or lactate fully. Their passion, strength and appreciation of being able to access donor milk is astounding. The reward in learning how their babies are thriving, and the peace of mind this has given them, is a privilege. I am overwhelmed at the generosity of women donating their breast milk. This milk is invaluable to those babies born prematurely. I feel so proud to be part of the charity, working with an amazing team, not forgetting our volunteers, who ensure milk is collected and delivered as efficiently as possible.”

Jenny Whelehan

Lactation Specialist

Jenny has been a practicing NHS midwife for over 30 years. With a background in supporting mothers, babies and families on their feeding journeys, she now brings her experience and passion to the Hearts Milk Bank as one of our dedicated lactation support team. Jenny says “I am very proud to be part of this strong, passionate force that makes up the Hearts Milk Bank working together with neonatal units and hand in hand with parents and mothers who are able to donate their milk.”

Monika Westgate

Milk Bank Administrator

Monika works in the Hearts Milk Bank team supporting with donor recruitment and administration. Monika says “I love working at the Hearts Milk Bank with such wonderful people. In my spare time I like to go for walks with my family and eat delicious food.”

Vikki Psaila

Milk Bank Administrator

Vikki had a varied career in retail, training and education before switching her focus and joining us to work in the office team at the milk bank, where she assists with donor recruitment and administration. She has four teenage children which means she’s perfectly suited to the busy, exciting pace of milk banking, and she loves knowing that every task makes a difference to the outcome of vulnerable babies. Her interests include the arts, reading and experimenting in the kitchen with exotic ingredients, as well as taking in the beautiful countryside around her home while walking her dog.

Sam Griffin

Research Midwife, Imperial College London

I qualified as a midwife in 2009 and worked in the NHS for 11 years in all maternity areas. I have always been interested in infant feeding and supporting families, but my passion into all things human milk really took off after the birth of my own son. I am now working as part of the human milk science group.

Board of Trustees

Graeme Allinson

Chair of Trustees

Graeme worked for Barclays PLC for over 30 years covering a variety of roles in Risk, Wealth Management and more recently in Corporate Banking where he was the National Head of Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics and Chair of the Industry Strategy Board. He retired in 2019, and oversaw the merger of the Hearts Milk Bank CIC, where he was a founding Director, into the HMF. He is married with two grown-up children.

Tina Crombie

Trustee

Tina Crombie was elected Trustee of the HMF in February 2020. Tina is co-founder and director of TCR UK Solutions, implementing scalable systems and processes for life science companies. She has 25 years’ life science business experience and is an experienced charity trustee. Tina joins the HMF to help navigate challenges and opportunities in growing the organisation to contribute to delivery of the best possible support for families.

Andy Hodge

Trustee, Treasurer

Andy Hodge FCA CTA was appointed Trustee and Treasurer of the HMF in February 2020. A Fellow of The Instititute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and a Chartered Tax Advisor, Andy spent his professional career with PwC, one of the largest professional services firms in the world. He retired from PwC in June 2018 after 37 years service. Andy specialised in international tax consulting in the pharmaceutical and health care sectors. He also advised clients in a range of other sectors including charities & non-profit making organisations.

Dr James Flanagan

Trustee

James is a Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London whose research focusses on epigenetics in breast and ovarian cancer risk. With over 20 years’ experience in academic research his role on the board of trustees is to support the research strategy of the HMF.

Gemma Partridge

Trustee

Gemma joined the HMF board as a Trustee in January 2021. She has lived experience of our work, having been a milk donor following the birth of her son, Wilf. Gemma is a Consultant Obstetrician with a special interest in maternal medicine at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, providing holistic care for women with diabetes and other medical conditions in pregnancy and beyond.  She brings with her an understanding of the complex landscape of health care in England and hopes to help the HMF achieve its ambition of equitable access to human milk.

Emma Pickett

Trustee

Emma joined the HMF Trustee Board in 2022. After spending 9 years as a primary school teacher and Deputy Head in inner London, Emma became a mother and realised how desperately breastfeeding support was needed by so many. She qualified as a Breastfeeding Counsellor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers in 2007 and started volunteering on the Department of Health’s National Breastfeeding Helpline when it first opened, alongside offering support for families at home and at drop-in groups.

Emma became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2011 and re-certified in 2016 and 2021. She works as a private lactation consultant and also continues to offer voluntary support at groups across West Haringey and on the National Breastfeeding Helpline and ABM national helpline. 

In 2022, Emma received the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain award for outstanding contribution to breastfeeding.

Expert Advisors

Dr Jim Gray

Microbiology and Donor Screening

Dr Jim Gray has been a Consultant Microbiologist at Birmingham Children’s and Women’s Hospitals since 1995. He has research and clinical interests in the prevention and management of obstetric and neonatal infections, and has worked on several programmes with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). His introduction to working with NICE was as a member of the ‘Donor milk banks: service operation Guideline Development Group’. Jim is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hospital Infection (the official journal of the Healthcare Infection Society) and has editorial responsibilities with a number of other academic journals.

Wendy Jones

Pharmacology

Wendy Jones was a community pharmacist and also worked in GP surgeries supporting cost effective, evidence-based prescribing. She qualified as a pharmacist prescriber. Wendy left work in 2011 to work on writing her book Breastfeeding and Medication (Routledge 2013), developing information and training material on drugs in breast milk. She also recently published Breastfeeding for Dads and Grandmas (Praeclarus Press) and Why Mothers Medication Matters (Pinter and Martin). Wendy runs a helpline service on the use of medication in breastfeeding mothers for a UK charity, responding to healthcare professionals and mothers. She has been a breastfeeding supporter for 30 years. Wendy is passionate that breastfeeding should be valued by all and that medication should not be a barrier.

Dr Merran Thomson

Neonatology

Dr Merran Thomson is a neonatologist who for many years worked as a Consultant Neonatologist, Chief of Service for Paediatrics and Neonatology, and Clinical Lead for the North West London Perinatal Network. She now works on a range of related issues, including advising on new drugs and therapeutic discoveries working with several charities to improve the education and training of doctors and nurses in Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet countries, and continuing neonatal work.

Mark Goodson

Social Enterprise and Governance

Mark Goodson has been a business advisor with Cambridge Social Ventures (part of the University of Cambridge) since its inception in 2014. During that time, he has worked with over 100 social ventures, supporting their growth and helping them make a positive impact in the world. Prior to this he spent over 30 years in technology, co-founding venture capital funded start-ups, taking on senior positions at companies such as Cambridge Silicon Radio and acting as a consultant to technology companies. He has founded a number of ventures, both commercial and social, and is also a post-graduate qualified coach and mentor.

Prioritisation Panel

Our panel of volunteer experts meet yearly to review the operations of the charity and agree guidelines on how access to donor milk should be prioritised. The panel is formed of neonatologists, paediatricians, parents (donors and recipients), lactation specialists, milk bank team members and psychiatrists/psychologists. Read more >

Volunteers

We also have a wonderful team of volunteers who contribute their time, skills and knowledge to the charity in a variety of ways.

Find out more about volunteering for the HMF >

Volunteer Drivers

Jane

Volunteer Fundraiser

Kathy

Volunteer Driver

David

Volunteer Driver

Gavin

Volunteer Driver

Jane

Volunteer Fundraiser

My volunteering role with the HMF began in 2020. I was sitting at home undergoing treatment for breast cancer and thought it would be an opportunity to do something positive and keep my mind busy! So far I have enjoyed assisting at events, seeking out donations of prizes for raffles and coming up with ideas for fundraising, such as a virtual balloon race. It is exciting to be a part of this growing charity, the team always make me feel appreciated and valued, which I can say, hand on heart made a huge difference to my mental state during my treatment.

What could you do?

HMF is an exciting place to volunteer and we are always looking for people to give a helping hand in the work of our charity. We place great value on the involvement of volunteers, who help with a range of different activities and tasks from collecting and delivering donor milk, helping out at fundraising events, designing / coding, office administration and finance to decision and policy making in committees.