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Today's birthday, August 1

AAP logoAAP 31/07/2016

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Today's birthday, August 1: Australian epidemiologist Fiona Stanley (1946-).

Fiona Stanley is an Australian epidemiologist noted for her public health work, namely child and maternal health, and research on birth disorders such as cerebral palsy.

Fiona Juliet Stanley was born in Sydney, on August 1, 1946.

As a child, her father accepted a microbiology position at the University of Western Australia and the family relocated to Perth.

Stanley went to St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls before studying medicine at the University of Western Australia, graduating in 1970.

Her first job was in a pediatric clinic at Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.

Her patients included Aboriginal children flown in from remote settlements, and this sparked her interest in public health and epidemiology.

She relocated to the UK and then the US to study public health. She returned to Perth to establish research programs in the WA health department.

In 1977, her research group established the WA Maternal and Child Health Research Database; a collection of data on births from the entire state, which proved a valuable resource in predicting trends in maternal and child health.

Stanley's research has been instrumental in identifying the causes of birth defects and major neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy and the consequences of low birth weight.

She became the founding director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in WA in 1990. The research facility investigates the causes and prevention of major childhood diseases and disabilities.

During her career, Stanley was a professor at the school of pediatrics and child health at the University of Western Australia, and the UNICEF Australian ambassador for early childhood development.

She was named Australian of the Year in 2003, a title that allowed her to further the awareness of childhood illness in remote communities.

Fiona Stanley Hospital, named in her honour, opened in Perth in 2013, further cementing her name as a pioneer for medical research.

She is married to Professor Geoffrey Shellam, with whom she has two daughters.

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