Leicester professor receives King’s honour for services to healthcare

Professor Elizabeth Draper

A University of Leicester professor who has devoted her life to research into the health and wellbeing of babies and children has been honoured by the King.

Emeritus Professor of Perinatal and Paediatric Epidemiology, Elizabeth Draper, was today (Saturday 15 June) recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours list with an MBE for services to healthcare.

A shocked Professor Draper said: “I am extremely delighted to receive this honour. This is in recognition (and on behalf) of the excellent work of The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies Research Group here at the University of Leicester in collaboration with many academic and clinical colleagues, in particular those at the University of Leeds and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tom Robinson, Head of the College of Life Sciences and Dean of Medicine at the University, added: “Recognition with a Royal honour is the pinnacle of national achievement.

“Liz has made a phenomenal contribution to advancing research into the wellbeing of babies and children. Not only does the award acknowledge the high esteem in which she is held by her colleagues and peers, but also reflects the positive impact that our Citizens of Change have upon the world. This is well deserved and I am delighted for Liz.”

Professor Draper’s expertise includes the use of population data to improve quality of life following admission to neonatal care, identifying best practice for paediatric intensive care, and improving pregnancy outcomes through perinatal surveillance.

Her pivotal involvement in national and international audits has changed the face of clinical care in the UK and saved lives by shining a light on improvements that are required in hospitals.

She led the successful planning and implementation of COVID rapid reporting data collection for paediatric intensive care units (PICU) in March 2020. Thanks to her leadership, information was deployed and available in units by the end of April. The speed of this was incredible – while the nation was getting to grips with lockdown, and Leicester was in lockdown longer than any other city, Professor Draper spearheaded this project while providing incredible emotional support and understanding to staff dealing with personal issues arising from the pandemic. Her inclusive and cohesive approach is what made it possible to deliver the national outcomes with such efficiency.

This led to the ability to model bed occupancy projections in PICU for winter surge planning later in the year, crucial to ensuring the NHS would not be overloaded.

Through this data, information was gathered on associated co-morbidities to inform the adaptation of shielding criteria for children and retrospective reviews of multi-system hyperinflammatory syndrome as this was emerging as associated with COVID-19 in children. 

This had a significant impact on the response within paediatric medicine ensuring vital beds were ring-fenced and any capacity released to adult care, supporting 85,000 children to be taken out of shielding and used by the Chief Medical Officer to inform the decision in relation to schools re-opening.

Professor Draper was an investigator on a number of audits to monitor and reduce stillbirth and neonatal death, improve outcomes for preterm babies and ensure the highest quality of care provision for babies and children in neonatal and paediatric intensive care.

Through these audits, which together have been running for more than 30 years, Professor Draper has helped to change the face of maternal and neo-natal health care in the UK, and beyond.

Quite simply, there are children and young people living today thanks to her. Yet she has sought no reward or gratitude for a lifetime of dedication and devotion. Her biggest passion is seeing care improved for babies, children and families. She is simply unrelenting in her aim to improve healthcare – never giving less than her absolute best.