“Making a difference”

The closing ceremonies of the 8th International Conference on FASD included inspiring messages of hope and action from the Adult Leadership Committee – 5 community leaders who are living with FASD. Their closing presentation included the bestowing of the Starfish Award, which this year went to two leading researchers for their immense contribution to the field of FASD. Congratulations Professors Elizabeth Elliott and Claire Coles!

Professors Claire Coles and Elizabeth Elliott

Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM has been involved in clinical services, research, advocacy and policy development regarding FASD in children, and alcohol use in pregnancy, for over 20 years. She is a vocal advocate for families living with FASD which includes media interviews, online videos and numerous publications in the field. She was a Deputy Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs Working Party on FASD; a Member of the NHMRC committee to develop Australian Alcohol guidelines (2009); Member of the group to develop World Health Organisation guidelines for identification and management of alcohol misuse during pregnancy (2014); and Member of the group to develop an International Charter for the Prevention of FASD. Professor Elliott also provides leadership and guidance as a Board Member of NOFASD Australia.

Professor Elliott established Australia’s first clinic for the diagnosis and assessment of FASD and is in demand for scientific and educational seminars on FASD nationally and internationally. She jointly led the Australian Government funded project to develop a Diagnostic tool for FASD in Australia and is developing a National Register for FASD cases in Australia.  In 2008 Professor Elliott was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to paediatrics and child health. In 2018 she received a Next Generation Fellowship from the Federal Government, the 2018 Excellence in Healthcare Award from the Australian Medical Association, and the James Cook Medal for her significant contributions to improving the health and quality of life of ill and disadvantaged children. Read her bio here.

Professor Claire Coles researches the impact of teratogens on behaviour and development throughout the life span. She has previously been involved with the MILE and the GoFAR Project, interventions for school aged children with FASD. Professor Coles is part of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD), an international collaboration to inform and develop effective interventions and treatment approaches for FASD. Claire Coles contributes to the prevention of FASD by providing community education and FASD training for professionals and public. Read Professor Coles’ bio here.

Professors Coles and Elliott contribute regularly to the advancement of FASD research, knowledge and practice through their contributions on committees around the world. This includes sitting on the Expert Advisory Committee of the 8th International Conference on FASD and the Scientific Advisory Committee of FASD Global.

Myles Himmelreich describing the award

The Starfish Award is presented each year in Vancouver, inspired by the Starfish Story told by Loren Eiseley:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.” Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”

― Loren Eiseley, quote taken from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/56782.Loren_Eiseley

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