During the 17th Soria Moria Workshop on SIDS in Oslo, Norway, the ISPID Distinguished Researcher Award was given to Susan Beal from Australia. The diploma was handed over by ISPID Chairman Martin Schlaud, who summarized in his speech a few facts about the recipient of the prize.
The International Society for the Study and Prevention of Infant Death has a long tradition of honouring outstanding scientists for their lifetime achievement in the field of SIDS and infant death. It is my pleasure to announce that this year's Distinguished Researcher Award goes to Dr. Susan Beal.
Dr. Susan Beal has been investigating the circumstances surrounding SIDS for many, many years. Susan Beal, nee Ross, grew up in Sydney, New South Wales. She studied medicine at Sydney University and specialised in paediatrics. She married in 1959 and had five children between 1960 and 1970. The family moved to South Australia in the early 60s. Dr. Beal began working at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital as a research registrar in neurosurgery and then running the Cerebral Palsy Clinic.
In 1970 she was asked to investigate the incidence of SIDS in South Australia. Between 1973 and 1990 she visited more than 500 families who had lost babies to cot death, and soon she was able to show that the rate of death was highest among babies who slept face-down. Since then Dr. Beal has been involved in further research and public awareness campaigns that have led to a dramatic decrease in deaths. She is credited with being the first person anywhere to argue publicly against babies sleeping on their stomachs and in the countries that have heeded her advice, the incidence of SIDS has decreased dramatically.
In 1997, Dr. Susan Beal was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen's Birthday honours list, for service to medicine, particularly in the fields of paediatrics and SIDS research. In the same year, a book was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, entitled "Lifeworks: Heroes of Australian Health". Among others, it covers the story of Susan Beal and her involvement with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In 2005, Dr. Susan Beal was granted the inaugural SIDS and Kids Award.
I would like to end this brief description of many years of fruitful research by a statement of Peter Fleming, who once was asked which research event had had the most effect on his work. His answer was: "Susan Beal's suggestion in 1982 that prone sleeping increased the risk of SIDS. I spent 3 years trying to prove this notion was too simplistic to be true, and ended up convincing not just myself but everyone else that she was right!"
So, it is my pride and honour to grant the ISPID Distinguished Researcher Award 2007 to Dr. Susan Beal.