By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 13, 2002 11:30 AM

Stepping out from the shadow of her longtime companion Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles carved out a high-profile role for herself this weekend, making a public speech for the first time, reports PEOPLE. Speaking Saturday at an international medical conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Parker Bowles, 54, described the painful death of her mother, Rosalind Shand, who lost a battle with the brittle bone disease osteoporosis eight years ago at the age of 72. Despite appearing to be nervous — she fidgeted with her speech, flicked her hair from her eyes and glanced warily at the press — Camilla’s low, clear voice was unwavering during her five-minute address, even managing a self-deprecating quip. She called Britain’s National Osteoporosis Society “brave” for taking her on as a patron in 1997. In her speech, she detailed her mother’s fight with the disease, Parker Bowles said: “We watched in horror as (my mother) quite literally shrunk in front of our eyes. She lost about eight inches in height and became so bent she was unable to digest her food properly.” The speech, reports PEOPLE, is being seen as another step in Parker Bowles’s ongoing bid for a greater public acceptance. She has taken on a growing charity role in the last few years, helping to raise her profile in the minds of the British public which so loved Diana, Princess of Wales. Parker Bowles took on the patronage of the National Osteoporosis Society in the summer before Diana died in 1997 and then, last year, became its president. In doing so, she realized she would have to take on a more public position.