Research In Action

Research In Action

SAE 2023
The Inspiration of a Leader

Moderator's Note: CIRP's Co-Scientific Director and Director of Engineering Kristy Arbogast, PhD recently received the 2022 Arnold W. Siegel International Transportation Safety Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE). This award recognizes a leader who has made a significant safety impact related to transportation. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute recently published a Cornerstone blog post to share a conversation with Dr. Arbogast, reflecting back on her career journey and contributions to the field of occupant protection as well as the significance of this award to her. An excerpt is reposted below.

Congratulations on receiving the 2022 Arnold W. Siegel International Transportation Safety Award from SAE. What does this award represent to you?

To be recognized by an organization whose mission emphasizes solutions for something we all engage in every day — mobility — is meaningful because it says to me that I've been true to CIRP's research to action to impact approach. And while SAE is an organization that covers all transportation, to be honored with an award named for one of the leaders in child safety, Arnold Siegel, is particularly meaningful, as he was a pioneer in this field. He had a hand in the first infant and child crash test dummies and early child restraints and booster seats, as well as safety on school busses.

I'm the first woman honored with this award since it transitioned to being a single awardee instead of honoring an authorship team for a seminal paper. Over my career, I've been in many meetings where I'm the only woman, and I hope that my career has provided examples for other women in this field to show them that we have a place — and a leadership place — at this table of automotive engineering.

What led you to choose a research career centered on injury causation and the effectiveness of safety products for children with a major focus on improving safety of children and youth in motor vehicle crashes?

As an undergraduate student at Duke, I did research under the supervision of Barry Meyers, MD, PhD, MBA, who happens to be the 1997 recipient of this award, and that's where I first thought that injury biomechanics was my path. Then, while at the University of Pennsylvania for my PhD, I continued to develop that passion for using engineering and physics to understand the human body and how it's injured. When I was graduating from Penn, Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, was just starting CIRP and had received her first grant from State Farm Insurance, Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS). She needed an engineer to run the crash investigation component of that effort, so in 1997 I started my career at CHOP. Over the next 10 years, Flaura and I, along with Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE, were blessed with the opportunity to have the resources and, maybe more importantly, the data, through our partnership with State Farm and the PCPS study, to answer a multitude of questions of how to keep kids safe on our roads.

What effect did your work in the Partners for Child Passenger Safety Program, the nation's first large-scale, child-focused crash surveillance system, have on child safety?

We had information that needed to go to industry and government to improve the safety for kids. When I speak of the research we've done, that is what I'm most proud of. Yes, we published in high impact journals, but we helped guide child safety policy, and we educated consumers about best practices. Industry has used our data to influence designs. States use the data to pass laws, and the Federal Department of Transportation has publicly cited our data as key reasons for action and as the basis for determining future investment of federal resources and attention.

We shifted behavior to make children safe in cars. We put them in the back seat. We got them in child restraints. I can say as a parent, I influenced my own kids' lives. We changed lives in Pennsylvania. And that was, in large part, because of our data — in the hands of many stakeholders who could effect change.

What other research projects, key findings, and impact are you proud of?

One of the things I learned in interfacing with industry is that the crash test dummies are the primary tool they have to innovate and to advance design. Early in my career, the child-sized crash test dummies were literally size-scaled from adults. My clinical colleagues at CHOP knew that children were not just small adults; children are put together differently.

I started a body of work where we built a test device in a lab that mimicked bumper cars at amusement parks. This allowed us to study how kids move and how kids move differently from adults. This was the first time — and almost 20 years later is still the only time — where engineers in my field studied real children. And we could do it at CHOP because CHOP understood pediatric studies. I could have an intelligent conversation with colleagues here in the Research Institute and Institutional Review Board to understand how to do this safely. I don't think I could have done that at an engineering school. That work has advanced the child crash test dummies such that they are more child-like and not just size-scaled. It's led to a series of add-on projects that continue to define how children move.

We continue to push the envelope with another project: the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS), an industry and university cooperative research center where we have 10 to 20 industry members who support a body of research advancing the science of how to protect kids in cars. Similar to what we developed with State Farm and PCPS, we do the kind of science that is helping industry and government make changes. Since 2005, we've done more than 160 projects that are fostering the careers of early- and mid-career scientists who work on these projects. Again, it is a research to action to impact model of working with industry. And that's important.

Read the full blog post here.