SF State News {University Communications}

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Graduate student named Galinson Scholar

September 22, 2009 -- Graduate student Suzanne Pullen turned a personal crisis into an opportunity to help others cope with the tragedy of a stillborn child. For her public service, she has been selected by California State University as a Trustee Murray L. Galinson Scholar, distinguishing her among this year's 23 winners of the William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustee's scholarships.

A photo of Galinson Scholar Suzanne PullenGalinson Scholar Suzanne Pullen

In March 2005, Pullen suffered a devastating experience when her first son, Avery, was stillborn. "My life changed forever," Pullen said.

Unable to find the information and support she needed, Pullen began to investigate the issues surrounding stillbirth and was stunned to find little about the causes of stillbirth or ways to prevent the tragedy.

"One in every 150 births is a stillbirth," Pullen said. "But I found little research or medical protocol on how to detect, monitor and prevent things like umbilical cord accidents, nor any psychological or sociological research that could help bereaved parents."

Formerly a journalist, Pullen applied her professional passion and graduate work in communication studies to produce information on what was needed to help others who could suffer the same emotional devastation. She conducted a survey of 800 bereaved parents and their interaction with care providers to examine ways in which the health care community could better assist parents when a baby dies. She also lobbied Congress for legislation on stillbirths and volunteers for non-profit organizations in the field of stillbirths.

"I have always been impressed by Suzanne's scholarship and I am not surprised by her success," said Gerianne Merrigan, chair of the communications studies department. "I am certain that medical practitioners and parents will benefit from her work."

The CSU Trustees honored the Hearst scholars at a presentation in Long Beach on Sept. 22. The Galinson Scholar, established in honor of former Board of Trustees Chair Murray L. Galinson, recognizes CSU students who exemplify extraordinary public service to his or her home or university.

Pullen, who is a communication studies teaching associate, said the $6,000 scholarship will help offset school loan debt and, in turn, allow her to attend the Western States Communication Association Conference early next year to present more of her findings. After graduating in May 2010, she hopes to continue her work in a doctoral program and develop more avenues for promoting the psychological and sociological issues related to stillbirth and help develop ways in which healthcare providers can improve their interactions with bereaved parents.

-- Denize Springer


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