Professor Susan Prescott MD PhD is a paediatrician and an internationally acclaimed physician scientist, well known for her cutting-edge research into the early environmental determinants of health and disease – with a particular focus on immune health, early life nutrition and microbial exposures. She works at highest level of her profession internationally, with over 25 years of research experience. Her early work an immunologist and lead to a paradigm shift in understanding the importance of the early environment in immune programming for the risk of subsequent disease.
She is a passionate advocate for social change and adopting a holistic approach to life. In finding common ground, she maintains we can work together to address many global problems.
A practicing physician at Perth Children's Hospital and researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia is involved in a wide variety of activities promoting an idea of holism, in which inclusion is upheld, diversity is celebrated and the notion of all working together to solve our shared global challenges is encouraged.
AN HOLISTIC APPROACH TO LIFE
Susan’s endeavours – both in the clinic and out of it – focus on multiple systems, are multidisciplinary and celebrate the idea of having lifelong impact. As such, she maintains that science and the findings from it should not be separated from any other field, something her studies on early immune development has reaffirmed: “From a biological standpoint, the environment begins to affect our future from our conception and, even before that, with the health of our parents,”she says. “Adverse conditions during critical stages of our development can have a profound effect on our body structures, functions and even our developing behaviours.”
In addition to acknowledging the vital role prevention plays in long-term health from the first moments of life, Susan is keen to encourage the idea that the majority of global challenges the human race faces come from the same root cause – namely, the way we live. Though, this should be understood to include societal constructs and values, as much as our lifestyle. “There is no doubt that we need a more collaborative and holistic vision to restore a sense of community,” enthuses Susan. “By continuing to look at things separately, we reduce our perspective and capacity.”
OUT WITH THE OLD
Susan firmly believes that empowering both men and women to dismantle some of the traditional ‘paternalistic’ approaches to problem solving is critically important in realising an integrated, collaborative approach. “How can a new approach be undertaken using an old mode of thought?” she asks. “By their very definition, the global challenges we face affect us all and should therefore involve us all.” This necessitates widespread engagement, not just among scientists but across local, national and international communities, where politicians and scientists of all creeds and colours – and both sexes – join forces to provide solutions for present and future generations. “I believe a shift in the style of approach is necessary to overcome restrictive and often dictatorial traditions, in addition to individual issues of gender and representation,” Susan explains. “It is about ‘de-normalising’ territorial, competitive and adversarial behaviour. All of us, men and women alike, need to be advocates for positive philosophical change.”
MORE THAN THE SUM OF OUR PARTS
It is extremely difficult to not be influenced and affected by Susan’s palpable passion for a holistic approach to life – she was once told she was too passionate to work in science – a sentiment that exemplifies precisely what she is rallying against. For Susan, passion is what drives humanity’s quest for discovery and its desire for change. As she puts it:
“A sense of excitement and wonder can drive innovation. Compassion and contributing to something greater than ourselves can bring a greater personal sense of purpose for each of us. This can only be a good thing”.
The global challenges we now face affect us all, and the solutions must involve us all.”
“The microbiome revolution has shown us that everything is interconnected – our health, our environment, our planet. Microbes are the foundation of all life, the glue that holds it all together, and may yet provide solutions to many of our health and environmental challenges. This inspires us to find new possibilities, through new perspectives, and work together more symbiotically to overcome the challenges on our planet today”
A team for life
Susan works closely with her partner, internationally regarded naturopathic physician scientist Alan C. Logan. They met in Japan in 2003. The story of their relationship - parallel universes that converged - is nothing less than a book in itself. They are a team. Their career paths - research, writing, speaking, media - and their lives have been on the trajectory towards each other for many years. They function within expansive medical/scientific territory covering conventional and holistic outlooks; their differing educational backgrounds and experiences are of significant appeal here. Susan is internationally recognized for her work involving the microbiome, allergy and the immune system. Alan is internationally recognized for his work involving natural environments, nutrition and mental health. They are poised to bring a message of unity. The combination of an MD-ND team is a rarity in general, and certainly in this realm of discussion. They both enjoy promoting awareness of holistic health perspectives.
Medical and Scientific Career
Susan Prescott is a Professor of Paediatrics in the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at University of Western Australia. She is a Paediatrician and an Immunologist, specialising in Allergy at the Perth Children’s Hospital. Susan is a Founding Director of the ORIGINS Project at the Telethon KIDS Institute, a legacy project which will examine how the environment influences health throughout life.
Susan is founding President of the multidisciplinary ‘DOHaD’ Society in Australia and New Zealand (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease). She also founded and continues to chair the International Inflammation Network (‘in-FLAME’), an interdisciplinary research network with over 250 members from more than 50 partner institutions.
Her interests and expertise are focused around early life risk factors for inflammation as an antecedent (and preventive target) for a broad range of noncommunicable diseases (NCD), with a particular interest in early onset NCDs such as allergy, obesity and behavioural disorders. She works at the highest international level of her field, and is a former Director of the World Allergy Organisation. Susan cares deeply about the social determinants of health, and takes a holistic approach to life.
She has almost 300 scientific publications, and is also author of several books: The Allergy Epidemic – a Mystery of Modern Life (published for an international public audience), The Calling, and Origins - Early Life Solutions to the Modern Health Crisis, and most recently The Secret Life of Your Microbiome: Why Nature and Biodiversity are Essential to Health and Happiness.
Susan is a medical graduate of the University of Western Australia where she also went on to complete her PhD. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) and studied Immunology at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada. She has received numerous prizes, awards and fellowships including a Winston Churchill Fellowship. In 2009 she was awarded a prestigious Practitioner Fellowship (2009-2018) by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and in 2010 her work was recognised in the “10 of the best” in Australia.
Her inspiration to study medicine came from her grandmother, one of the few women to study medicine in the 1930s, and her love of research and academia was inspired by her grandfather Sir Stanley Prescott, former Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia.