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.


Silke Mader - Chairwoman of the Executive Board

Chairwoman of the Executive 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.

Nicole Thiele - Vice Chair of the Executive Board

Vice Chair of the Executive 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.  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.

Corporate Management & Administration Department

Head of Administration

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.

Scientific Affairs Department

Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Philine Jaeger joined EFCNI in October 2017. 

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and finished her Master of Public Health at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 2015. After graduating, she moved to Calgary, Canada, where she worked at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute of the University of Calgary. In her two roles, as a Laboratory Coordinator and a Research Assistant, she gained experience in the fields of newborn, child and parental health and was involved in various pregnancy research studies. 

Her international work experience combined with her passion for public health make her a dedicated member of the EFCNI team. She strongly supports the foundation’s goal in working towards a best possible start in life for every newborn infant.

Verena Lindacher

Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health

Verena Lindacher joined EFCNI in November 2016.

Verena holds a doctoral degree in health sciences and has acquired specialised knowledge in prevention and health promotion research working as a research assistant and doctoral candidate at the Department of Medical Sociology at the University of Regensburg for several years. Thereby she was involved in varied projects on the empowerment of different target groups (e.g. parents) regarding the topics healthy nutrition and physical activity. She previously gained academic expertise in Communication Science (BSc) with a special focus on health communication and obtained a Master degree in Public Health from the LMU Munich. .

Due to her experience in moderating groups of different stakeholders and working with them on their health-related needs and requirements she wants to contribute pushing forward the mission of the foundation in advocating for infants and their families. Furthermore, with her research background she also has a strong focus on evidence-based public health measures and messages, so that she likes to support EFCNI’s objectives in her daily work in that manner.

Valerie Matthäus

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.

Johanna Walz EFCNI

Head of Scientific Affairs

Johanna Walz joined EFCNI in May 2017.

She finished her studies of Pharmacy in July 2012 at the University of Regensburg. As a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Regensburg she gained experiences in the field of anti-VEGF therapy of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) both clinical and preclinical. During this time 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.

Additionally 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 health care for newborn infants throughout Europe.  

Design Department

Diana Hofmann-Larina

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.

Laura Staudt

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

Judith Eckstein

Head of Communications

Judith Eckstein joined EFCNI in April 2015.

She holds a Master degree in Communication Science, Political Science and Spanish and studied in Mainz, Berlin, Valencia and Milan. She gained first practical experiences in political institutions, editorial departments, research institutions and multi-national companies throughout Europe. After her graduation, she worked for a public relations agency where she ran several campaigns for European cultural projects and worked for an international online portal. Later, she worked as a communications manager in a research cluster of the Ludwig-Maximilians University, the Technical University, and the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Munich, Germany. She dealt with scientific and health-related topics and collaborated with hospitals and cancer research centers.

With her passion for health issues and online communication, she strongly supports EFCNI’s mission to improve newborn health. 

Sarah Fügenschuh

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.

Ulf Schönberg

Senior Communications Manager

Ulf Schönberg joined EFCNI in October 2015.

He studied Applied Media Sciences in Ilmenau, Germany, and Metz, France, and holds a diploma degree. After his graduation, he finished a traineeship in a PR agency. Later, he worked for several NGOs and enterprises. Born preterm, Ulf knows the challenges for parents and has a strong interest in this field. Due to his personal background, he wants to inform the public about the topic of preterm infants and thereby support the EFCNI mission.

Working students

Phillip Heinrich

Phillip joined EFCNI in January 2017.

Phillip is currently studying health science at the Technical University of Munich. Since he spends most of his free time travelling, he is very interested in international and political issues.

Due to his personal background – being close to a family that experienced the consequences of extreme preterm birth – he is happy to be able to support EFCNI’s mission and help spread its message around the world.

Manuel Kreitmair

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.

Security & Feel Good Management


Junior Security & Feel Good Manager

Snoopy joined EFCNI in April 2016.

Snoopy neither holds any academic degree nor visited a secondary school. Due to his multiple talents he got the chance to become a valuable EFCNI team member.

Snoopy is strongly committed to family-centred care and takes care about everyone who enters or leaves the office. His friendly character and need for physical closeness are the best qualifications for his second area of responsibility: keeping the staff in good mood.