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28 May 2024

2023-2024 King's Distinguished Alumni Award winners announced

Each year, members of our alumni community are nominated to receive a King’s Distinguished Alumni Award. This recognises their outstanding achievements since leaving our institution.

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This year, we received a record-breaking number of entries. Nominees ranged from unsung heroes serving their communities, to national leaders and campaigners striving to make the world a better place. The shortlisting process was a demanding one. Agreeing on who should receive which accolade was an even more difficult task. But we’re delighted to finally reveal our line-up of well-deserving winners.

Alongside this roll call of award winners, this year we honour the exceptional achievement of Dr Maisara Alrayyes.

You can read about our winners and Dr Alrayyes below.

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Alumna of the Year – Dr Lama Al Sulaiman (PhD Nutrition, 2004)

This award recognises King’s alumni who have achieved exceptional success in their field or demonstrated outstanding personal achievement.

Lama is an Executive Board Member of the International Chamber of Commerce and a pioneering advocate for gender equity in her native Saudi Arabia – as shown through her roles as the Vice Chair and a Board Member of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, and a Board Member of the Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid Lobbying Centre for Women.

For the past ten years, she has been involved in a wide range of non-profit organisations in Saudi Arabia and initiatives that open doors for women in the workplace. Highlights include her eight-year role as head of Saudi employer delegation at the International Labor Organization, and her work as a member of the Employment and Education Task Force.

Lama’s commitment to making the world a better place serves as an outstanding example to all alumni. She advises graduates following in her footsteps: ‘Dare to go to where you are afraid and uncomfortable if you want to unleash your potential.’

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Helen Hudson Award – Professor Stephen Challacombe (Guy’s, Dentistry, 1968)

This award recognises a member of the King's alumni community who has made an exemplary contribution to the university or alumni body.

Stephen is the Martin Rushton Professor of Oral Medicine at King’s and a former Consultant in Diagnostic Microbiology & Immunology to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. Over his 40-year career, he has taught more than 5,000 clinical students, many PhDs and trainees, and served on many King’s committees.

A world-leading researcher, Stephen is committed to delivering oral healthcare to those who need it most. Co-founder of King’s Global Health, his expertise has taken him overseas to Sierra Leone, where he investigated the oral health needs of local schoolchildren, and to India, where he currently investigates inequalities in responses to COVID.

Stephen is renowned for his dedication to equitable healthcare and his ongoing service to our King’s community. A past Chair of the King’s Alumni Association, Stephen is also a keen sports fan and one of the founders of King’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Stephen’s advice to graduates on making the world a better place: ‘You can! Every contribution to reducing social inequalities, however small and by whatever method, will help a greater number of people than you imagine.’

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King’s Future Alumna Award – Sabrina Shahid (Medicine, MBBS)

This award celebrates a current King’s student who has demonstrated exceptional potential through extracurricular activities.

Sabrina is an active member of King’s College London Students’ Union, where she’s taken on multiple roles and raised more than £60,000 for humanitarian appeals across the globe. Most recently, she led a winter appeal involving handing out bags of essential items to Londoners experiencing homelessness.

A passionate advocate for inclusive healthcare, Sabrina runs a Pathway to Healthcare programme, creating opportunities for aspiring healthcare students from under-represented backgrounds. She has also just started the BAME Women in Healthcare initiative as she is a passionate advocate for inclusive healthcare.

Offering advice to fellow students, Sabrina says: ‘The most important lesson I’ve learnt at King’s is to get involved in as many opportunities that interest you. They may not come again!’

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King’s In Service Award – Robert Hicks MBE (Medicine, 1989)

This award recognises alumni who have made a significant impact to society through charitable or voluntary work.

A Consultant Surgeon at Northampton General Hospital, Robert is using his leadership and surgical skills to help improve healthcare in rural Ghana. In 2011, his expertise took him to Carpenter in Northern Ghana, where he worked with Hernia International, performing hundreds of hernia operations. His work has had a huge impact on the livelihoods of his patients, many of whom are farmers and rely on being physically healthy to support their families.

In 2018, Robert and his wife, Jo, set up the charity, Hernia International Carpenter. The pair teamed up with Consultant Paediatrician Anne Smith and Anaesthetist Dr Karen Leyden to organise regular trips to the area to perform surgeries.

Awarded an MBE in 2024, Robert offers the following advice for those who want to make the world a better place: ‘From small acorns grow great oaks. Often the best programmes start on a very small scale, so you’ll need to be resilient and persevere. There are no limits to what anyone can achieve.’

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King’s Changemaker Award – Her Excellency Toyin Ojora Saraki (LLM, 1987)

The award recognises alumni who use their knowledge to change the status quo for the better.

Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Her Excellency Toyin Ojora Saraki is a global advocate for women’s and children’s health and empowerment.

With more than two decades of advocacy, her work covers reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; ending gender-based discrimination and violence; and improving education, socio-economic empowerment and community livelihoods in her native Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. An acclaimed philanthropist, she also works with the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

Says Toyin: ‘Whether it’s through research, advocacy or direct programmatic interventions, I’ve strived to make a tangible difference in the lives of mothers and children, particularly in vulnerable communities.’

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King’s Local Communities Impact Award – Chris Raveney (Physical Geography, 2010)

This accolade recognises alumni who have made an outstanding impact in one of King’s home boroughs.

Chris is the Event Director at Burgess Parkrun, Southwark. Under his 10-year leadership, the event has grown from tens of people to almost 1,000 runners per week. In his capacity as Event Director, Chris has also worked with the local Ugandan community to introduce an annual Ugandan Independence Day celebration, which has played a major part in Parkrun potentially starting in Uganda.

Chris also won the 2022 Southwark Stands Together Award, which recognises people ‘who work over and above the call of duty to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.’

Chris has the following advice for those seeking success: ‘Firstly, identify your passion. There are so many ways you could make a difference, but it’s your inner drive and motivation that will truly help you help the world.’

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King’s Business & Entrepreneurial Award – Andreia Trigo (MSc Advanced Practice: Leadership, 2016)

The award recognises alumni who show exceptional business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit.

Andreia is a nurse and founder of the Enhanced Fertility home testing service. Using machine learning, Enhanced Fertility speeds up diagnosis, drastically shortening treatment waiting times. Andreia was delighted to receive the prestigious Purple Plaque from Innovate UK in 2022, which she gave to King’s to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurial nurses.

Talking about her work, Andreia says: ‘I take immense pride in the impact we’ve made at Enhanced Fertility. Witnessing the joy and fulfilment experienced by our patients as they achieve their dreams of parenthood is incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead meaningful work and contribute to the lives of others in such a profound way.’

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King’s International Impact Award – Sir Richard GR Evans KCMG OGW (Civil Engineering, 1967)

This award recognises King’s alumni who have made an outstanding impact globally or within an international community.

Richard is a pioneering engineer, business owner and rugby player. Two years after graduating, he was posted to Uganda where he built clean water systems funded by the United Nations. Two of his students were tragically killed under Idi Amin’s regime and Richard was evacuated back to the UK in 1971.

Undeterred, he returned to Africa. In Kenya, he created one of the largest horticulture companies in the world. He later established Hemingways hotel and travel group, making a positive impact on conservation in Watamu and the Masai Mara. In 1996, Richard was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior, which is one of Kenya’s highest honours.

In 2011, Richard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His response: he created his own website where he shares his experiences of the condition and reports on new treatments.

Richard received a KCMG in the 2024 New Year Honours in recognition of his exceptional service to Kenya and Cornwall, the county of his birth.

His advice for King’s graduates wanting to find success in business: ‘Be a jack of all trades, including engineering and finance.’

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King’s STEM Award – Dame Dawn Childs DBE (MA Defence & Government, 2008)

The award celebrates alumni who are driving transformation in the fields of science, technology, arts or mathematics.

Dawn is an acclaimed engineer, pilot and CEO at global data company, Pure. A former President of the Women’s Engineering Society, she is known for her dedication to addressing the gender imbalance within engineering.

Dawn made history as the RAF’s first female Senior Engineering Officer in numerous roles. After 23 years in the RAF, she moved to Gatwick Airport, continuing her groundbreaking streak as its first female Head of Engineering. Other accomplishments include her role as UK Change Director for National Grid, where she successfully led the transformation to meet efficiency expectations while delivering the pathway to net zero.

Named in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to engineering, Dawn has a lifelong commitment to challenging inequity and improving access to education.

When discussing how to make meaningful change, she says: ‘Your work doesn’t need to be dramatic. Most great things are based on a significant body of work over a long period of time. Each small contribution will lead to something great eventually. Just keep moving forward and trying to make progress and the great things will come.’

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Arts & Culture Award – Mark Hawes (Law, 1983)

The award celebrates alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievements within arts and culture.

In his voluntary role as Director of the Royal Theatrical Support Trust (RTST), Mark is opening doors for gifted directors from all backgrounds and supporting regional theatres across the country. He is the driving force behind the annual RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award, which he set up in 2016. This creates career-defining opportunities for directors, including those from under-represented backgrounds, to direct for their first time on some of the country’s main stages.

Since 2020, Mark has also been Chair of Trustees at Frantic Assembly theatre company – further reflecting his dedication to advancing diversity and social mobility in the arts.

When talking about key lessons he learnt at King’s, Mark says: ‘You don’t have to be defined by your socio-economic and school background. University is a great leveller; it’s an opportunity to re-set. Intellect, work-ethic, aspirations, personality and values are what really matter. Everybody has something to contribute.’

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King’s Global Health Award – Dr Victoria ‘Vickki’ Harmer (Nursing, 1997; Doctorate in Healthcare, 2015)

The award recognises alumni who have demonstrated outstanding impact in the healthcare sector.

Vickki is Consultant Nurse for breast screening and symptomatic services at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. She has received several awards, including Nursing Times Cancer Nurse of the Year.

A leading figure in the breast care world, Vickki has advised breast cancer storylines transmitted globally via film, radio and TV, and has decades of experience tirelessly promoting breast awareness across all arenas.

Vickki currently leads a team of nurse specialists, works clinically with people with breast cancer, is active in international clinical research trials and has published widely.

Her passion for improving breast care has taken her across the world. This includes volunteering in Kenya and rural India, delivering a keynote address in Australia, and teaching programmes throughout the Middle East, Europe and America.

In 2024, Vickki returned to her King’s roots when invited to give the Notable Alumni speech at the Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care graduation ceremony.

Says Vickki: ‘Working with people diagnosed with breast cancer is a huge privilege. If you can make a difference to that person and their family and caregivers, that is hugely rewarding.’

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King’s Emerging Leader Award – Heather Needham (Geography, 2021)

The accolade celebrates recent graduates who have exhibited exceptional success within their chosen profession.

Heather is an award-winning researcher and champion of biodiversity. She won the Wellington Medal in 2021 in recognition of her academic achievements and contribution to King’s Geography Society. She also gained national coverage for receiving a letter from Sir David Attenborough after sending him her dissertation.

Her current role involves implementing the University of Oxford’s biodiversity strategy and driving nature-positive practices throughout the organisation’s operations and supply chain. At the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, Heather presented her work measuring these impacts at Oxford. Other career highlights include coordinating biodiversity campaigns with Youth and Environment Europe.

When asked what advice she’d give to those wanting to make a difference in the world, Heather says: ‘Start small. Making a difference doesn’t always demand big actions. You could consider volunteering with local organisations, participating in community projects, setting up an initiative, and supporting ethical and sustainable businesses. Every small action counts and can pave the way for larger opportunities.’

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In honour of exceptional achievement – Dr Maisara Alrayyes (MSc Women and Children's Health, 2020)

The King’s Distinguished Alumni Awards were established to recognise current alumni’s ongoing professional achievement, civic leadership, or service to King’s and society. They are not awarded posthumously.

However, more than 200 people from the King’s community nominated Dr Alrayyes in celebration of his contribution to healthcare. In light of his achievements and the passion of our community, we want to honour his exceptional achievement.

Dr Alrayyes (MSc Women and Children’s Health, 2020) was a highly respected King’s alumnus and an accomplished doctor, dedicated to improving healthcare for women and children from low-income backgrounds and war-affected regions.

Joining King’s in 2019, he was as a recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. During his time at King’s, Dr Alrayyes’ work was published in several high-profile publications, including the Journal of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

On graduating from King’s, Dr Alrayyes returned to Gaza, where he worked for the international medical humanitarian aid organisation, Médecins du Monde-France.

On 5 November 2023, he was tragically killed. Colleagues and friends at King’s mourn his loss.

We honour Dr Maisara Alrayyes and his life-long passion for providing healthcare to those who need it most.

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