Marian Knight

Every three years, the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) presents a series of awards to honour women who, throughout their careers, have made exceptional contributions to improving healthcare for women, mothers and their children. Oxford Population Health is delighted to announce that Professor Marian Knight today received the 2021 Recognition Award to Non-Obstetricians/Gynaecologists. The award was presented during the opening ceremony of the 23rd FIGO World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, which took place virtually. 

A Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at Oxford Population Health’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Professor Knight originally trained in obstetrics and neonatology, before becoming interested in epidemiology and population health. After training in public health, she became a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and a research lecturer in 2006 at the University of Oxford. 

Her research focuses on using national observational studies to address clinical questions concerning rare and severe complications of pregnancy and early life. She also leads the MBRRACE-UK national confidential enquiries into maternal morbidity and mortality, the findings from which have directly influenced decisions to increase funding for maternal medical and mental health care. 

During the earlier stages of the pandemic, Professor Knight led several rapid research studies to answer many of the urgent unknown issues surrounding COVID-19 and pregnant women. This work generated crucial evidence, including that women from BAME communities were disproportionately over represented among pregnant women hospitalised with COVID-19; the importance of maintaining wider maternal support services, including mental health care; and the real-world effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women. These timely findings were covered widely in the media, and have informed clinical guidelines for maternal care during the pandemic. 

Professor Knight said ‘I am absolutely delighted at this recognition of the international impact of our work. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted starkly once again the importance of including pregnant women in research and this award is testament to the efforts of many in generating the evidence we need to improve women’s care.’ 

Earlier this year, Professor Knight was also elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a position conferred to those who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of medical science. 

Besides leading a busy research life, Professor Knight is also highly active in encouraging a wider societal debate on scientific issues, having appeared on various major productions including Channel 4’s Dispatches and BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. This Saturday, she will be a panel speaker for the event ‘Why is getting it wrong good for science?’, part of the IF Oxford Festival. This will explore how the research community can improve trust in the scientific process, and why getting things wrong can be crucial to making progress. The event will take place at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, both in person and as a simultaneous digital live-stream, at 19:00 on Saturday 23 October. Tickets can be booked via Eventbrite. 

Marian will also take part in a free online expert panel discussion of UK maternity inequalities organised by The Independent on  Wednesday 17 November.