Increasing awareness about care for cancer and assisting women pursue careers in science have been the twin aims of a dedicated High Barnet campaigner who has been recognised in the New Year Honour's List.
Dr Shara Cohen, who founded Cancer Care Parcel – www.cancercareparcel.com – which provides care packages for cancer patients has been awarded the British Empire Medal.
The citation praised her voluntary service assisting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and for helping cancer patients and their families.
Dr Cohen, who has lived in High Barnet since 1997, has an office in the High Street where she prepares and packs parcels containing information and various products and resources which can be sent to cancer patients by relatives and friends.
Packages of assistance tailored to the type of treatment – perhaps chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery – are paid for by donations via the GoFundMe platform or can be purchased directly.
“When I had breast cancer myself ten years ago, I realised that people just didn’t know how to talk to me; they just didn’t know what to say,” said Dr Cohen
“So, it became my mission to assist people who have friends and relatives with cancer and advise them on how best they can help.
“Some people just think of giving chocolates or flowers to someone with cancer but there is real help that can be offered instead.”
Filling that gap led to Dr Cohen to establish Cancer Care Parcel of which she became chief executive.
She now collaborates with other cancer charities and holds free advice sessions on Zoom.
Becoming a cancer patient herself was a turning point in her career.
In 2000 she formed an international scientific conference company. This built on her voluntary work assisting women in science careers and it grew into a networking group called Mums in Science – voluntary work which was also honoured with the British Empire Medal.
Dr Cohen, who graduated in applied biology and was awarded a PhD in immunology in 1990, became an immunologist at the Royal Free Hospital and spent the next decade lecturing in London and Cambridge and conducting research in New York.
“The reason I went into science was because my elder brother was born disabled, and I wanted to do something about it.
“I went into human biology but when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I gave up research work and began looking into ways to bridge the gap between academia and industry and that led on to setting up Mums in Science, and now Cancer Care Parcel.
“I have always tried to do everything I can to empower women in science, technology and engineering and my aim now to enhance the well-being of those affected by cancer, the cancer patients and their families.”