Queen Elizabeth honours Nanaimo doctor for drowning prevention work

Queen Elizabeth honours Nanaimo doctor for drowning prevention work
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A retired Nanaimo doctor has recently been honoured with a prestigious award from Queen Elizabeth.

The ceremony happened virtually but the Queen gave him the King Edward VII cup for the doctors’ decades of research and work in his quest to reduce drowning worldwide.

Since Prince Phillip’s death, the Queen honoured a Vancouver Island resident with the King Edward VII Cup in her first public appearance.

“I’m really delighted to be able to present you with this cup. A very large cup that one day you might see if you come to London,” said her majesty.

While usually presented at Buckingham Palace the queen is presenting it virtually this year because of the pandemic. The cup is awarded every second year to just one recipient in the Commonwealth for their life-saving contributions and this year it’s going to Nanaimo’s Dr. Stephen Beerman.

“Your majesty, it’s a pleasure and a humbling honour to be with you. I accept this acknowledgement with thanks and reflection,” said Beerman.

For more than four decades, Beerman has travelled to more than 70 countries and his research has been published numerous times to reduce drowning worldwide.

“The global estimates put that number at 235,000 drowning deaths globally per year so it’s a very compelling and challenging issue but it does have significant inexpensive preventable interventions,” said Beerman.

Beerman says most drowning worldwide involves children under the age of 15 in lower and middle-income countries but there are often simple solutions.

“For example, barriers to stop very young children from getting access to water that might be dangerous for them might be capping a well, that might be putting a fence between a home and a body of water that might be adjacent to the home. Simple skills like survival swimming [and] teaching every child on the planet to have basic swim skills.”

Beerman, who has already received a medal from the palace says staying within arms reach and keeping a close eye on children in the water and wearing life jackets can also prevent the quick and deadly consequences of drowning.

Since 1986, Beerman has served the Canadian and Commonwealth Royal Life Saving Societies and the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) in many roles and offices including chair of their respective medical committees and president of the Lifesaving Society Canada and ILS.

Dr. Beerman’s citation for the award proactive liaison with the World Health Organization stimulated WHO’s focus on drowning as a major public health issue and led to the first comprehensive WHO report on drowning.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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