Dr Susan Beal AM (Ross, 1952)

Alumnae Award: Social Welfare and Impact

Dr Susan Beal has investigated the circumstances surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for more than 20 years. Susan 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 1960s.

Dr Beal began working at the Adelaide Children's Hospital as 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. Since then Dr Beal has been involved in research and public awareness campaigns that have led to a dramatic decrease in deaths.

Between 1973 and 1990 she visited more than 500 families who had lost babies to cot death, and in 1986 was able to show that the rate of death was highest among babies who slept face-down. She is credited with being the first person anywhere to argue publicly against babies sleeping on their stomachs. In the countries that have heeded her advice, including Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the incidences of SIDS have almost halved. Today, the incidence of SIDS has reduced by more than 80%.

Dr Susan Beal was a finalist in Australian of the Year in 1993 and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen's Birthday honours list, 1997, for service to medicine, particularly in the fields of paediatrics and SIDS research. View the full record at Australian Women's Register – National Library of Australia.

Susan has been legally blind for 15 years but bush walks up to 70km with her guide dog Xenn.