Many congratulations to Professor Sheila M. Bird OBE FRSE who has been elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
The news was announced on Monday 8th May with Sheila’s name listed along with 45 others, 10 from the University of Cambridge. All have been elected for their outstanding contribution to biomedical and health research, the generation of new knowledge in medical sciences and its translation into benefits to society. This year’s elected Fellows have expertise that span across women’s health, immunology, public health and infectious diseases among many other scientific fields.
Sheila’s election is a result of her pioneering work in the field of medical statistics. Sheila, who is now a Visiting Senior Fellow here at BSU and Visiting Professor at Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Strathclyde University, has spent over 36 years applying her exceptional statistical skills and knowledge to a range of clinical areas that have had direct impact on public health policies, in particular her research into Drugs-related Deaths (DRDs). Sheila’s research group at BSU was the first to quantify the high risk of DRDs in the first fortnight after prison-release (Seaman et al., 1998; Bird & Hutchinson, 2003; Merrall et al. 2010). More recently, they discovered that, for Scotland’s ever-injectors, the four weeks after hospital discharge are also a period of high DRD risk, roughly half the risk that applies in the four weeks after prison release. Naloxone, the opiate agonist, is used by paramedics to reverse heroin overdoses. In 2012, randomization began in the prison-based N-ALIVE pilot trial to find out if naloxone-on-release could reduce overdose deaths soon after release from prison. The N-ALIVE trial did not randomize in Scottish prisons because take-home naloxone was made a funded public health policy in Scotland from 2011. Sheila’s advice was accepted that the primary outcome for Scotland’s National Naloxone Policy should be before/after comparison of the proportion of opioid-related deaths that had a 4-week antecedent of prison-release. The proportion fell dramatically from 9.8% in 2006-2010 (193/1970) opioid-related deaths to 6.3% (76/1212) during 2011-2013. In light of these results from Scotland and the N-ALIVE’s own data, the N-ALIVE pilot trial ceased randomizing in 15 English prisons on the 8th December 2014 and offered naloxone-on-release to its already randomized, but not yet released, prisoners.
Sheila is thrilled to receive the honour of being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Sheila says: “I am delighted that two female biostatisticians represent statistical science among the Fellows elected in 2017 and pay tribute to the really important role that confidential record-linkage studies have played in the work that I have done at the interface of public health and criminal justice.”
Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said: “As we elect new Fellows each year, the Academy continues to grow as a unique and productive hub of the best minds in UK medical science. Our expanding and evolving Fellowship allows the Academy to play a vital role in tackling the major health challenges facing society today and in the future.”
To read more about Sheila’s outstanding work and achievements, and to find out about her early inspirations for becoming a biostatistician, go to the MRC Insight article ‘Working Life: Professor Sheila M. Bird‘, published in November 2015 to mark Sheila’s retirement from the MRC, following 35 years of remarkable service: http://www.insight.mrc.ac.uk/2015/11/30/working-life-professor-sheila-m-bird/
To see the full list of the new 2017 Fellows, go to: https://acmedsci.ac.uk/fellows/fellowship-news/new-fellows