NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NICHD’s Willinger, Champion of ‘Back to Sleep’ Campaign, Retires

Dr. Marian Willinger
Dr. Marian Willinger

Dr. Marian Willinger, who was instrumental in the launch of the Back to Sleep awareness campaign in 1994, retired on May 31 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Back to Sleep, now called Safe to Sleep, is widely credited with reducing the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)-related deaths in the United States by more than half. 

Willinger began her NIH career 30 years ago at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a program officer for AIDS research. In 1989, she joined NICHD, where her passion for maternal and child health led to an opportunity to expand NIH-funded research on SIDS, stillbirth and other causes of infant death. 

Willinger has served as a SIDS expert ever since, serving on numerous groups and committees dedicated to saving infant lives. She has received several awards during her career, including the NIH Director’s Award and the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service.  

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