Tommy’s appoints new Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health at King’s College London

Leading premature birth specialist and long-standing Tommy’s researcher Professor Andrew Shennan OBE has been appointed as Tommy’s Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health at King’s College London.

Professor Shennan takes over from Professor Lucilla Poston CBE, who has held the role since it was created in 1995.

Professor Poston founded the Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Research Unit, an interdisciplinary research team investigating pre-eclampsia (a disorder which can cause dangerously high blood pressure in pregnancy), preterm labour and the ways in which fetal development can affect health in adulthood. In 2017 she was awarded a CBE for services to women’s health.

Professor Shennan, a world-renowned expert in the prevention of preterm birth, is Professor of Obstetrics at King’s College London and a consultant obstetrician at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital.

Announcing the appointment on World Prematurity Day (November 17), Tommy’s Chief Executive Kath Abrahams said: 

“We established the Tommy’s Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health at King’s College London to drive forward research into pregnancy complications and preterm birth, and ultimately to stop the devastation of baby loss.

“Professor Shennan’s achievements in this field are outstanding and inspiring, as is his commitment to reducing the global harm caused by babies being born too early and too small.

“We are delighted that he has agreed to take up the role of Tommy’s Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health, providing invaluable support as we work with our community towards improving maternity care and saving babies’ lives.

“We are immensely grateful to Professor Poston for her phenomenal contribution as Tommy’s Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health over almost three decades.

“She has led numerous groundbreaking projects, significantly improving understanding of the impact of maternal nutrition, obesity and gestational diabetes on pregnancy outcomes.”

Professor Shennan has run the Tommy’s Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital for more than 10 years, providing specialist care to women and birthing people at risk of preterm birth. In 2021, premature births among those attending the clinic fell by 23% year-on-year.

He has led on key tools to predict and prevent preterm birth, including the award-winning QUiPP app developed by Tommy’s researchers, which is now being rolled out within the Tommy’s Pathway clinical decision tool.

Devised in the Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic, the QUiPP app records some of the key measures that affect a woman’s risk of preterm birth, such as the length of the cervix and the levels of a specific protein present in the vagina. This allows healthcare professionals to plan appropriate treatment, as well as helping women understand their own level of risk.  

Professor Shennan also led work to develop a lifesaving abdominal stitch to help women and birthing people who have a previous history of second trimester baby loss and who’ve had failed treatment in the past. His clinical trial showed that, for women at high risk of late miscarriage and preterm birth, an abdominal stitch placed high up in the cervix (transabdominal cerclage or TAC) is more effective than a vaginal stitch in preventing birth before 32 weeks.

He was awarded the OBE in January 2018 for his work in maternity services.

Professor Josip Car, Head of King’s School of Life Course & Population Sciences, said: 

“We are thrilled that Professor Andrew Shennan, a champion for improving maternal outcomes worldwide and a prominent member of School of Life Course & Population Sciences, has been appointed as Tommy’s Chair of Maternal and Fetal Health at King’s College London.  

“Succeeding Professor Lucilla Poston, Professor Shennan brings a wealth of expertise and a nationally and internationally recognized leadership in maternal health.  

“His world-changing discoveries and eminent role in clinical obstetrics position him uniquely to spearhead advancements in maternity care research. At King’s, Professor Shennan is not just a valued colleague, but a visionary leader, mentor and friend dedicated to driving forward Tommy’s ambitious strategy to ensure pregnancy and birth are safe for every family, everywhere.”