Tommy’s researcher honoured with prestigious award

Professor Jane Norman, who led our research centre in Edinburgh for over a decade, is the first woman to receive the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Eardley Holland Gold Medal.

Since 1960, RCOG's Eardley Holland Gold Medal has been awarded every 5 years to recognise people who’ve made a special contribution to the field – be it through scientific study, practical care, academic teaching, or all 3 in the case of its most recent recipient: Professor Jane Norman.

After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Prof Norman briefly worked in Glasgow before coming back to Edinburgh to launch our Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health there in 2008. She was instrumental in setting up our Metabolic Antenatal Clinic to help mothers with high BMIs have safer pregnancies, as well as our Preterm Birth Clinic (the first of its kind in Scotland), and over the next decade she led the Tommy’s team of specialist doctors and midwives to really pioneer care and support for mothers like Charley with complex pregnancy risks.

Prof Norman blazed an equally inspiring trail in the research world, leading multidisciplinary studies from basic scientific mechanisms to randomised clinical trials. One of her key interests is predicting and preventing premature birth, so as that’s a huge focus of our work she felt compelled to join Tommy’s. She also worked closely with Prof Heazell and our stillbirth team in Manchester on the #MovementsMatter campaign, raising awareness of fetal movements and encouraging mothers to seek help if they slow down, which is vital in our efforts to save babies at risk of being stillborn.

As well as driving research innovation, Prof Norman works hard to get findings put into practice, influencing national policies and processes to make pregnancy safer; she led the development of NICE guidelines on preterm birth, and has been very active in studying the impact of c-sections compared with natural deliveries to empower parents with evidence so they can make a birth plan that’s right for them. Her team helped establish a Scottish target to reduce premature birth rates, as well as national guidance on how best to support obese mothers during pregnancy.

In 2019 Prof Norman took up a new position at Bristol University, but left a lasting legacy on Team Tommy’s, where we’ll always be grateful to her for interrogating research evidence and encouraging new ways of thinking when other approaches have failed. For example, when scientists in other countries suggested using progesterone to avoid preterm birth in twin pregnancy, Jane’s work showed their findings weren’t true of the UK population – sparing countless mothers unnecessary medical treatment and making the best use of precious NHS resources. She also helped debunk myths about preventing premature birth with a pessary attached to the cervix, and played a key role in developing more accurate risk reduction methods like the fetal fibronectin testing used in our QUiPP app.

“We’re delighted by the news of this very well deserved award, and proud that Professor Norman spent 10 very productive years leading our research centre, where her efforts ensured Scotland had a big voice and played an important role in improving maternity care.” - Tommy’s CEO Jane Brewin

Professor Jane Norman said: “I entered this field because to me it felt really important, you have a real ability to make a big difference to people’s lives. As a clinical obstetrician, the thrill you feel being there at a birth never goes. It is really rewarding. With research, it’s so exciting discovering things that no one else has discovered before. We’re all putting tiny pieces of the jigsaw together but overall, it’s really meaningful and purposeful that can have a positive effect on people’s lives. I feel really proud and humbled to have been awarded the Eardley Holland Gold Medal and be in the same ‘club’ as the previous winners who are all people I really look up to.”

Dr Edward Morris, President of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "We are delighted to award this prestigious medal to Professor Jane Norman for her outstanding contribution to science. Professor Norman has dedicated much of her research work to reducing the risk of stillbirths and preterm births – work that has been incredibly important in building a picture of how we can improve the outcomes for many women worldwide. What also really impressed us about Professor Norman is the work she does sharing her knowledge with the future generation of trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists.”