Fiona Stanley

Fiona Stanley

Professor Fiona Juliet Stanley, AC (born August 1, 1946) is an Australian epidemiologist noted for her public health work, and her research into child and maternal health, and birth disorders such as cerebral palsy.


Fiona Stanley was born in Sydney, New South Wales. As a child, she loved reading the life stories of people like Marie Curie and Albert Schweitzer.Giese (2003) p. 14] Her father was a medical researcher into diseases such as polio and through him she met Dr Jonas Salk. She has said of her childhood that "in my dreams I would sail out to all the undiscovered islands and inoculate the inhabitants in a whirlwind race to conquer disease and pestilence".cited by Giese (2003) p. 14]

In 1956 the Stanleys moved to Western Australia when her father took the Foundation Chair of Microbiology at the University of Western Australia. She went to St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls before studying Medicine at the University of Western Australia, graduating in 1970.

She married Geoffrey Shellam, who later occupied the same Chair of Microbiology that her father had occupied.Giese (2003) p. 15] They have two daughters.


Her first job in the early 1970s, was in a paediatrics clinic at Perth's Children's Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, where her patients included thin and sick Aboriginal children flown in from remote western settlements. She said of this work that "we would perform expensive 'miracles' ... and then dump them back into the environments that had caused their problems". Consequently, she says, she started travelling, with colleagues, to "every mission camp, reserve and fringe-dwelling group in Western Australia ... talking to the old people ... trying to get a handle on the health issues and the environmental issues". She began to understand the impact of life chances and living conditions on children. She also worked at the Aboriginal Clinic in East Perth.

This experience sparked an interest in epidemiology and public health. She spent six years in the United Kingdom, at the Social Medicine Unit at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the United States researching these areas before returning to Perth to establish research programs at the University and within the health department. She became "part of the next trend in medicine, the move from a preoccupation with curing disease to a focus on prevention and social causal pathways".

During her high profile career, Professor Stanley has focussed on the importance of using population data to provide significant health, social and economic benefits to the community. In 1977, her research group established the WA Maternal and Child Health Research Database. It is a unique collection of data on births from the entire state which has proved a valuable resource in predicting trends in maternal and child health and the effects of preventive programs. Professor Stanley’s research also includes strategies to enhance health and well-being in populations; the causes and prevention of birth defects and major neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy; the causes and lifelong consequences of low birth weight; and patterns of maternal and child health in Aboriginal and Caucasian populations. "Data collected enabled Stanley and her colleagues to explore, for instance, the connection between a lack of folic acid in diets and spina bifida, and markedly reduce it".

In 1990, she became the founding Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, in Subiaco, Western Australia. The Telethon Institute is a multi-disciplinary research facility that investigates the causes and prevention of major childhood diseases and disabilities. Since 1995 it has received major funding from an annual telethon. It also receives federal and state funding, and monies from research foundations, grants and commercial contracts.Giese (2003) p. 15-16]

In 2002, due largely to her lobbying, Prime Minister Howard launched the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) [] of which she is Chairperson. The Alliance has offices located in Canberra, Perth, and Melbourne, and aims to progress collaboration and evidence based action to improve the wellbeing of Youth Australians. In her 2003 Kenneth Myer Lecture at the National Library of Australia she talked about "modernity's paradox" in which increasing wealth and opportunity has also resulted in increased social differences and more problems for children and youth, including increases in asthma, obesity, diabetes, child abuse, binge-drinking, drug abuse and mental health problems.Giese (2003) p. 16] She argued for cross-disciplinary work and said the challenge is "to intervene earlier in the causal cycles".

She is a professor at the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at University of Western Australia.

Awards, honours and other recognition

*1996: Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), "for service to maternal and child health research, particularly in peri-natal and infant problems, and for her contributions to improving aboriginal and community health" in the Queen's Birthday Honours List [ [ It's an Honour] - Companion of the Order of Australia]
*2001: Centenary Medal [ [ It's an Honour] - Centenary Medal]
*2002: the subject of an Australian stamp in a series of six stamps showing eminent medical Australian scientists.
*2003: Australian of the Year
*2004: the National Trust's Australian Living Treasure.
*2008: runner in the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay, in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 24 April 2008 [ [ Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay Route and Torchbearer Locations] , ACT Government, 2008, accessed 24 April 2008] .

She is the UNICEF Australian Ambassador for Early Childhood Development.

"See also:" People on stamps

External links

* [ Interview with Fiona Stanley on ABC-TV "Enough Rope", 2003-10-06] Accessed: 2007-09-30



* [ Biography of Professor Fiona Stanley on University of Western Australia site]
* [ Bright Sparcs Biographical Entry (1997-2007) Stanley, Fiona Juliet] Accessed: 2007-09-30
*Giese, Diana (2003) "Changing the world" in "National Library of Australia News", XIV(2): 14-17
* [ Professor Fiona Stanley (AC)] Accessed: 2007-09-30

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