We are glad to introduce the EFCNI staff to you.

However, our daily work would not be possible without the tremendous support and help of many individuals and organisations. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all of them.

Board of Directors

Silke Mader - Chairwoman of the Executive Board

Chairwoman of the Directors Board

Silke Mader is the Chairwoman of the Executive Board and co-founder of EFCNI. Her professional background lies in elementary educational theory, mainly focusing on the linguistic support of migrant children and remedial educational theory.

In 1997, her twins were born in the 25th week of pregnancy, and were not given the appropriate care. Unfortunately, one of them died a few days after birth, leaving the parents and the sibling behind. During her time in hospital and afterwards, she was faced with the non-existence of support of any kind, the absence of public awareness and the lack of information and education for parents during pregnancy. She felt that no parents should ever undergo such an awful experience again. Therefore, in 1999, she decided to actively participate in the Munich-based local parent group, which she headed from 2001 on. Two years later, she became Chairwoman of the German umbrella organization “The preterm born child e. V.”. Together with experts, Silke developed declarations, guidelines and information material for parents with preterm children.

As the situation throughout Europe is distressingly similar and preterm children urgently need a voice not only within Europe but also worldwide, she decided to give up her job as a teacher and to take on the role of chair on the Executive Board of EFCNI.

In 2012 Silke Mader was awarded the “Prix Courage” by ZDF television programme “ML mona lisa” in cooperation with the cosmetics company Clarins. 2013 she received the Medal for Particular Services to Bavaria in a United Europe. Since 2014 she is Honorary Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In 2015, Silke Mader has been awarded as social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow. Since then, she has become a member of the organization’s global network.

At the ALL Ladies League (ALL) – Women Economic Forum 2016 in New Delhi, India, Silke Mader received the “Iconic Innovative Trailblazer of the Decade” award.

In October 2016, she was awarded with the Bavarian State Medal for Services concerning Health and Long-term Care by Melanie Huml, the Bavarian State Minister for Health and Long-term Care.

Vice Chair of the Directors Board

Nicole Thiele joined EFCNI in early 2010. She holds a diploma as European Secretary/ESA and has a university degree in Economics, Management and Business Administration and speaks German, English, French and Spanish.  She lived in Paris for several years and has gained extensive experience in different positions within multi-national companies.

With her family experiencing the consequences of an extremely preterm birth more than 40 years ago, she is personally committed to drive forward the prevention of prematurity and especially the philosophy of individualized, developmentally supportive care and parental empowerment, crucial contributors to give a baby the best start in life.

Nicole is author, (co-)author and (co-)editor of different information material, brochures, factsheets, articles and reports on topics within maternal and newborn health.

Director, Administration and Operations

Aurelia Abenstein joined EFCNI in April 2016.

Aurelia has a diploma as Foreign Language and Event Assistant and holds a university degree in Geography. She has substantial international experience living, studying and working abroad for several years and speaks English and Spanish. Before joining EFCNI, Aurelia worked as Head of Administration in an international environmental consultancy.

Due to her goal to live her life in a social and ecological sustainable way she wants to support EFCNI in its mission to improve the situation of mothers and newborn infants in Europe.

Senior Medical Director

Professor Luc J.I. Zimmermann joined EFCNI in October 1, 2019.

He is Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatology at the Faculty of Health, Medicine & Life Sciences at Maastricht University (the Netherlands) since 2003 and Program Leader of Reproductive and Perinatal Medicine in the Research Institute Oncology and Developmental Biology-GROW (since 2006).

As a Belgian, he studied medicine and did his paediatric training at the University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven, Belgium. After his fellowship in neonatology at the Hospital for Sick Children and the combined Perinatal fellowship program of the University of Toronto, Canada , he worked as a staff neonatologist and later Chief of the Division of Neonatology at the Sophia Children’s Hospital, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In 2003 he moved to Maastricht and worked as a staff neonatologist (2003-2019), Chief of the Division of Neonatology (2005-2017) and Chairman of the Department of Paediatrics (2006-2019) at Maastricht UMC+.

He is past president of the European Society of Paediatric Research (ESPR) and board member of several other societies. Since 2017, he was a member of the Trustee Board of EFCNI (till he started working for EFCNI).

From an early stage in his professional career he developed a distinct research interest on the development of the preterm lung, on which he did his PhD and continued his further research. His research topics have widened in the last several years.

As Department Chair of Paediatrics, he worked with his staff on a strategic plan for academic family integrated care. In the past, he has been involved with EFCNI in many ways, such as the common start of the Joined European Neonatal Societies (jENS) conferences, the launch of the white paper and action reports at the European Parliament, the standards of care project, the RSV position paper, and as a trustee member of EFCNI. He is very pleased to collaborate more and to start working for EFCNI as he believes in the mission and aim “to improve the situation of mothers and newborn infants in Europe across the full spectrum of care, promoting and protecting the right to the best start in life”.  An important element to achieve this goal will be the implementation of the European Standards of Care for Newborn Health.

Corporate Management & Administration Department

Management Assistant

Tanja Augsten joined EFCNI in June 2019.

Tanja has studied languages and holds a Degree in interpretation and translation.

She has a strong background in working as an Executive Assistant for international companies, including many years in the field of sustainability and social innovation.

After having had two preterm births herself it is a matter truly close to her heart to support the cause of EFCNI.

Scientific Affairs Department

Head of Scientific Affairs

Johanna Pfeil joined EFCNI in May 2017 as Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health. Since January 2018 she leads the research department of EFCNI as Head of Scientific Affairs.

Johanna holds a doctoral degree in natural sciences of the University of Regensburg where she also had studied Pharmacy until 2012. During her doctoral thesis she gained experiences in the field of anti-VEGF therapy of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) both clinical and preclinical. She was involved in the initiation and coordination of the clinical study CARE-ROP, as well as the promotion and data analysis of the ROP registry (both in cooperation with the Eye Center at the Medical Center of the University of Freiburg). Furthermore she investigated the influence of anti-VEGF substances on the miRNA profile of retinal cells and on the neurovascular interface.

Next to her doctoral thesis she worked part time as a junior medical advisor for the pharmaceutical company Novartis, where she obtained further experience in the management of phase III and IV clinical studies.

With her experience in the field of treatment of preterm infants she now joined the EFCNI team to help improve healthcare for newborn infants throughout Europe.  

Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Simone Cramer joined EFCNI in September 2018.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and finished her Master of Public Health at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 2012. After graduating, she worked as an Administrative Project Manager at a large EU-funded research project on Early Nutrition and for an eAcademy for Healthcare Professionals at the LMU Medical Centre. She also was Conference Secretary for two international conferences on early childhood programming. In her work she gained experience in the fields of newborn, child and parental health.

As a mother herself and with the experience of an extremely preterm birth in her extended family 20 years ago, she is very happy to support EFCNI in its work.

Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Valerie Matthäus joined EFCNI in April 2016.

She holds a Bachelor Degree in Health Economics and finished the Master of Public Health Programme in Munich in 2014. During her studies and within her master thesis she gained experience in scientific research as well as in the area of maternal and child health. After her graduation she worked as a research assistant in the public sector. Thereby she was involved in the project coordination and data analysis of a large cohort study among children and adolescents in Germany.

Due to her scientific background and strong interest in child-related health issues she wants to support EFCNI´s mission to improve prevention, treatment and best possible care for infants and their families.

Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Johanna Kostenzer joined EFCNI in April 2020.

As a social scientist Johanna focused her pre- and postdoc work on the intersection of reproductive health, ethics, and society, e.g. researching societal viewpoints on egg freezing and assisted reproductive technologies. She holds a PhD in Political Science and a master’s degree in International Health Care Management with a specialization in International Community Health.

Johanna is experienced in international and multi-site research projects and has been active in the public health and nonprofit sector. Together with her expertise in the field of reproductive health she joined EFCNI to support its mission to pave the way for the best start in life.

Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Aisling Walsh joined EFCNI in June 2020.

With more than 10 years experience in EU and international project management, Aisling has lived and worked in several countries. She started her career working for the University of Valenciennes in northern France before briefly joining the European Commission in Brussels, then moving to Finland to focus on cross border cooperation projects. Before joining EFCNI, Aisling was an independent consultant for several EU programmes and projects. Over the years, she has worked with a diverse range of health-related projects including those dealing with neonatal issues.

Aisling holds a BA in European Studies and French from Queen’s University in Belfast (Northern Ireland) and an MA in European Politics and Policy from the Institute of Political Studies in Strasbourg (France). An English native speaker, she also speaks fluent French and intermediate German. As a mother of a young daughter, Aisling is proud to be part of EFCNI and its work in advancing healthcare and support for newborns and their families worldwide.

Design Department

Head of Design, Art Director 

Diana Hofmann-Larina joined EFCNI in March 2016.

She studied architecture in Ukraine and holds a Master degree. After moving to Germany, she accomplished another Master in Advanced Design. She worked for Hubert Burda Media in the design department, where she enhanced her broad range of experience by working with renowned international clients.

Since she always wanted to contribute her skills and her passion in design to an international organisation for a good cause, she´s proud of being a part of EFCNI today, helping to create a better world for preterm born infants and their parents.

Graphic Designer

Laura joined EFCNI in January 2018.

She completed an apprenticeship as a media designer and specialised in Graphic Design in an advertising agency based in Munich, Germany. Throughout her time at this agency, Laura already knew EFCNI and completed several graphic projects for the foundation.

After 13 years of working in advertising, where she most recently held the position as creative director, she followed her heart to work as a freelance Graphic Designer in Cape Verde. Now she has jumped at the opportunity to take her work with EFCNI to the next level by joining the Design Department.

As a young mother, Laura can identify with the foundation’s goals and is glad to support the EFCNI mission.

Corporate Communications

Head of Communications

Ursula Liliana Buczek joined EFCNI in September 2019.

She holds a Master degree in Journalism and History and studied in Mainz, Gießen and Milwaukee. She is a professional in Communications and Public Relations with focus on online and print communications and social media. Ursula Liliana worked as team lead and spokesperson in international environments on agency side and in companies. During her studies she worked as Human Resources Manager and recruited qualified employees. She loves travelling and being in different cultures therefore she spent some time abroad in India and Tunisia.

As daughter of a midwife and a gynaecologist with a gynaecologist sister, she strongly believes in the importance of better and worldwide equal standards for the care of newborn health.

Senior Communications Manager

Sarah Fügenschuh joined EFCNI in May 2017.

She studied International Relations, Law and English Literary Studies in Munich and Copenhagen and holds a Magister Degree in Political Science from the LMU Munich. Having completed a traineeship at a PR agency she continued her studies abroad and gained a Master of Science Degree in Welfare Policies and Management from Lund University. She then acquired practical experience in public relations agencies and worked as a freelance journalist as well as a Social Media and PR Manager.

With her study background and her work experience within both the private and the public sector, she wants to dedicate her work at EFCNI to promoting the needs and interests of newborn infants and their families and enable these parties to participate in the political and public discourse.

Communications Manager

Veronika Mehl joined EFCNI in November 2019.

After studying German Linguistics, Middle High German and English Literature in Würzburg and Warwick, Veronika completed a traineeship at a PR agency in Munich.  She worked as a PR consultant and communications manager for research organisations and technology companies, registered associations and foundations.  Veronika has set her focus on digital channels and is passionate about improving websites and managing social media channels.

Veronika is looking forward to supporting EFCNI with her enthusiasm and her knowledge, and help raise awareness for the needs of preterm babies and their families.

Working student

Manuel Kreitmair joined EFCNI in March 2017.

Manuel is currently studying geography at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich. He spends his time with cross country travelling and has a healthy online affinity, hence is interested in foreign issues.

As a working student he is proud of contributing to a foundation with such international impact and wants to help spreading the message of EFCNI across the world.