Obituary: Professor Fiona Denison
The CRH remembers with great fondness the many attributes and achievements of our colleague Professor Fiona Denison who very sadly died on Saturday 8th January 2022.
Fiona was a very special person. She was a dedicated obstetrician, educator and researcher who devoted her energy to trying to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for all.
Fiona graduated from the University of Edinburgh with First Class Honours in Bacteriology (1992) and in Medicine (with Honours) in 1994. As an undergraduate, she was very often top of her class and received numerous prizes, including the Dorothy Gilfillan Memorial Prize. She began training as a junior doctor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion in 1995: this was to become her passion and future career. The following year she secured a highly competitive Action Medical Research Training Fellowship to undertake an MD on the role of inflammatory mediators in pregnancy and parturition. Her MD was awarded in 2000 and led to many important first author publications. Having completed her obstetrics and gynaecology training in South East of Scotland, she was appointed as a Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Edinburgh in 2009. Shortly before this appointment, she led the successful bid to set up a third Tommy’s Centre in Edinburgh. Using this funding, she established a ground-breaking, specialist multidisciplinary clinic to address a range of complex health issues associated with excess weight in pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Fiona went on to gain several large grants, including from the MRC, NIHR and EPSRC to develop her research further, and in recognition of her achievements, she was promoted to a Personal Chair in Translational Obstetrics at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. The following year, she was recognised with an Honorary Professorship at Heriot Watt University and was appointed to the Directorship of the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre. In 2021, she was competitively appointed to Chair of NICE Medical Technology Advisory Committee (having been vice chair since 2017). In addition to being an outstanding and visionary researcher, Fiona gave of her time generously for teaching, training, research supervision and mentorship, co-directing the highly successful Edinburgh Clinical Research Methodology course and as secretary of the RCOG Blair Bell Research Committee. She was a remarkable role model.
Fiona’s research focussed on improving maternal and fetal health but she had a particular interest in the use of healthcare technologies to improve outcomes for mothers and their babies, working closely with colleagues in engineering at Heriot Watt University. She designed the Easily Adjustable Submersible Illuminated (EASI) birth mirror to help midwives and new mothers view the birthing process more easily: this received six national awards for innovation. She also had close collaborations with researchers and clinicians in Uganda, aiming to improve outcomes for maternal, fetal and pre-term neonatal health there and in other low- and middle-income countries. Funded by a University of Edinburgh’s Global Challenges Theme Development Fund Award, she successfully co-led a three-day workshop in Kampala in May 2019, with over 50 African delegates, resulting in three important maternal health projects in the region.
Outside of work, Fiona was an accomplished musician and, more recently, showed off her new found skills as an artist. Above all, Fiona was extremely kind and considerate, brought honesty and transparency to everything she did, and had a wonderfully dry sense of humour.
Fiona will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with her husband, children, family and friends.