Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with international award for work on drowning prevention
VICTORIA -- Queen Elizabeth presented a Nanaimo doctor with a Commonwealth award earlier this week for his work on drowning prevention and training across the globe.
Dr. Steve Beerman was awarded the King Edward VII Cup for his decades of work advocating for – and teaching – drowning prevention.
Recently, Beerman worked as a liaison with the World Health Organization to adopt the Resolution on Drowning Prevention, which acknowledges that drowning is one of the world's main causes of preventable death, according to the Lifesaving Society BC and Yukon Branch.
The society says that Beerman was a key advisor on the resolution, which also calls for education and legislation on how to prevent drownings.
Beerman told CTV News that the vast majority of drownings happen in middle-to-lower income countries, and that the new WHO resolution will help nations prevent drowning deaths.
"Ninety per cent of drownings on the planet occur in countries that are low social economic and income status, so most of the work that we do is to help them generate policies, legislation and training for their communities to prevent drownings from occurring," he said.
The Queen presented Beerman with the award during a video call with the Royal Life Saving Society, which works with 30 Commonwealth nations to reduce drowning deaths.
The organization is one that's close to the Queen's heart. Eighty years ago, in 1941, the Queen was the first person in the Commonwealth to win the Royal Life Saving Society's Junior Respiration Award.
"We had a conversation about how she was the first recipient of the respiration award when she was 14 years of age," Beerman said.
"She actually wore the badge on her bathing suit with pride," he said.
Beerman says he's humbled to win the King Edward VII Cup, which is only awarded once every two years.
Usually, the award is presented by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London. However, that was not possible this year due to the pandemic.
"I’m very delighted to be able to present you with this cup – a very large cup – which one day you might see if you come to London," the Queen told Beerman.
The retired doctor says he's indebted to the people who taught him during his medical career, as well as the many organizations and individuals who he collaborated with on the WHO resolution.
"You don't have the kind of experiences that I have without the help of a lot of people and a lot of these organizations across the world," he said.
In addition to his work with the World Health Organization, Beerman was a family doctor in Nanaimo for 34 years. He retired in 2021, but still acts as a co-chair for the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition, which he helped found in 2016, according to the lifesaving society. He also volunteers as a mentor at the UBC Faculty of Medicine.
The World Health Organization's first annual World Drowning Prevention Day is set to take place on July 25, 2021.