Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Board Spotlight: Samantha Shanken Baker

Samantha Shanken Baker, a longtime supporter of the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation, describes herself as the “luckiest girl in the world.”

And she just may be.

Shanken Baker, living with type 1 diabetes for nearly 30 years, recently received a successful kidney transplant remarkably from her husband, Michael Baker.

Odds of that are slim to none.

“I am the luckiest girl in the world to have found a match and it was my husband…every day I look at him and I want to melt,” said the still-recovering Shanken Baker, who credits the love of her family and friends as a successful support system. “Through the DRI I have met some great friends. I would not trade my friends at the DRI for anything. I feel so lucky.”

Shanken Baker, who serves on the Northeast Region Board of Directors, founded the annual DREAMS in the City event, which began in 2006 and has raised nearly $6 million for cure-focused research. During the first event, they presented an award to Lindsey Inserra-Hughes, who has type 1 diabetes, and now serves as the Young Professionals’ Chair of DREAMS in the City. Shanken Baker also created the poker-themed, All In for a Cure event that has been extremely successful in Manhattan. She encourages others to get involved with the DRI and notes everyone has something to offer.

“There is always a committee to join, an event to volunteer at and no one should ever sell themselves short, everyone has value to contribute,” said Shanken Baker, who received, along with her husband, a Query award in 2011 at the Empire Ball Cycle of Discovery reception. “We need young and exciting people who believe in a cure and who will work with the doctors, the Board and everyone else.”

One young person that contributed to the cause and made a thoughtful gift was her nephew, Jake Cohen, who donated all of his Bar Mitzvah money to the DRI in support of his beloved aunt. “That was really incredible,” she remarked.

Believing in the DRI’s mission of finding a biological cure is what gives Shanken Baker the fuel to continue her unwaning support.
“I do think if anyone is going to find a cure, it will be the Diabetes Research Institute and I believe that 100 percent with the dedication and what they are striving for,” Shanken Baker said. “Everything that the DRI does should have a component for that mission.”

Through the years, Shanken Baker has endured many health challenges and looked to the DRI doctors, researchers and staff members for medical and emotional support. Her latest chapter was unexpected and transformative.

“Having gone through a kidney transplant I wish more people would donate a kidney,” Shanken Baker said. “It was life changing. I was in heart failure and kidney failure for a long time. After the transplant my kidneys came to life and my heart is better.”

It has been a long road for Shanken Baker but she remains hopeful for the future.

“Living with diabetes affects your whole body, and you can be really optimistic that there are ways to live with it until the DRI helps find a cure,” Shanken Baker said. “If you look at it in a concrete way, it’s the research, it’s the doctors, the facility and it’s all so meaningful. You can even you look around the room at events and at the Board, people are so dedicated to finding a cure, but it is a tough road getting there.”

The DRI and Foundation are extremely grateful to Samantha Shanken Baker that her life’s road led to our organization and we welcome others to join us in the journey of discovering a biological cure to diabetes.

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