On April 27th, at the 2017 Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service (VFPMS) seminar on The Medical Evaluation of Child Abuse, Bob Birrell was honoured as a visionary and pioneer, whose work formed the basis of an important field of medicine. He was given a special award on behalf of the Royal Children’s Hospital, the VFPMS and the RCH Medical Alumni.
Fifty years ago, Bob Birrell and his police surgeon brother John, published two seminal papers describing the features of child physical abuse and advocated bringing the police into hospitals where cases of abuse were being treated.
At the time, they were not believed and there was strong opposition to police involvement from Bob’s seniors.
It is now abundantly clear that the Birrells were right and the deniers were wrong. A whole discipline of paediatrics has developed to deal with child abuse and neglect. This event was proper acknowledgement from the Royal Children’s Hospital, the forensic community and the RCH Alumni that Bob’s outstanding and important contributions should never be forgotten.
The award ceremony was watched by 30 Alumni and by the non-Alumni attendees at the seminar. A tribute to Bob Birrell was given by Dr Kevin Collins, president of the RCH Medical Alumni, and other tributes were given by A/Prof. Matt Sabin, Chief of Medicine, Dr Hugo Gold, the Alumni Vice President, and Dr Anne Smith, the Director of the Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service (VFPMS).
The award constituted a framed certificate and after the ceremony there followed a lunch, which was attended by 22 members of the Alumni and by Bob and Jan Birrell and their son Mr Peter Birrell.