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Building a Legacy of Automotive Safety for Children

Marilyn J. Bull, M.D.

Marilyn J. Bull, M.D., is described as a giant in the field of automotive safety, recognized on a global level for her work in safe transportation for children. Her passion and vision have shaped Riley Children’s Health into a national expert on automotive safety.

“We have reduced the mortality rate for most causes of childhood death. However, motor vehicle crashes remain one of the most common unintentional causes of death and injury to children after the first year of life,” says Dr. Bull, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at Riley Children’s.

“Child safety seats and seat belts are known to significantly reduce the risk. Making certain that all children, including children with disabilities, are as safe as possible in the family car, school bus and ambulance has been a career long goal.”

That goal and dedication have saved the lives of children not only in Indiana, but across the country. Dr. Bull created the Automotive Safety Program and a center for safe transportation for children with specialized transportation needs in 1981. Initially, an infant car seat loan program, today the Automotive Safety Program is dedicated to child passenger safety outreach initiatives and saving children’s lives.

The program is housed at Riley and the Indiana University School of Medicine under the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Bull and a team of trained specialists have evolved the program into one of the most comprehensive child passenger safety programs in the nation, often cited as a national resource.

Backed by an exceptional Riley team of neurodevelopmental experts, this program serves thousands of families every year and has been especially impactful reaching children with special transportation needs and those who are underserved.

Dr. Bull, working alongside Joseph O’Neil, M.D., M.P.H., realized they needed to ensure this important work continued moving forward. So, they created the Marilyn J. Bull Automotive Safety Endowment at Riley Hospital for Children.

The Marilyn J. Bull Automotive Safety Endowment supports the Automotive Safety Program, allowing for continued growth for decades to come. The endowment supports the long-standing purpose of the program – providing support, information, resources, and education to Riley families, caregivers, community members, public health educators and first responders to increase use of proper restraint devices.

“There is a uniqueness to this endowment,” Dr. Bull says. “It advances the cause through research that isn’t easily or readily funded, and it also shows an investment in the future and longevity of the program. It is unlikely that the necessary improvements, and the lives those improvements saved, would happen without the Automotive Safety Program.”

She adds, “Many of us involved with the direct care of patients understand that our responsibility extends beyond just providing health care to ensuring that all facets of children’s lives are nurturing and safe. Creating the endowment and giving in this way was so important to our team. We know the need for this work isn’t going away and with this endowment, we can continue this work far into the future because that’s what children of the world are – our future.”

For more information on the Marilyn J. Bull Automotive Safety Endowment, please contact Cara Lathrop, Vice President of Community Giving, at 317.759.6906.