Professor David Edwards receives James Spence Medal

Last updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2023

Children's models

Huge congratulations to Professor David Edwards who has won the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) highest honour, the James Spence Medal, for 2023.

This highly prestigious medal is awarded by the College for outstanding contribution to the advancement of knowledge and understanding in paediatrics and child health. David’s work has helped countless babies and mothers and his clinical and academic leadership has been and continues to be an inspiration.

Professor Edwards is a Consultant Neonatologist at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital and Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine at King’s College London. Over his 40-year career he has made an enormous impact not just on the survival of babies, but on the quality of life of some of the sickest newborns cared for in neonatal units around the UK and internationally.

Professor Edwards was a driving force behind the discovery and implementation of the first, and still the only, effective treatment for oxygen starvation in newborn infants: therapeutic hypothermia. He spent over 20 years working tirelessly to mitigate the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation at birth. He and his colleagues found that what worked best was reducing the temperature of the brain. This intervention is now used globally and doubles the chance of normal survival while dramatically decreasing health care costs.

More recently in the ground-breaking Developing Human Connectome Project Professor Edwards and his team have completed the largest-ever study looking at how connections form in the brain during the months and weeks around birth. The data from this project is being used to make new discoveries by researchers across the world which are providing a greater understanding of how the brain develops and of conditions like autism and cerebral palsy.

Professor David Edwards FMedSci said of his award: “I am extremely proud to have been awarded the Royal College’s highest honour, the James Spence Medal. In truth, the credit is all due to my colleagues at the Centre for the Developing Brain, and I’m also grateful to my mentor, the late Professor Osmund Reynolds for showing me how to go about addressing difficult medical problems.”

“Congratulations to Professor Edwards on this wonderful achievement, he has pioneered treatments for brain damage and the use of MRI scanning to image the smallest of babies. His work has led to improved diagnosis, prognosis and outcomes for vulnerable newborn babies.” - Professor Sebastien Ourselin FREng FMedSci, Head of School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences

The James Spence award is made on the recommendation of RCPCH Council on the advice of the Nominations Committee.

Read more about Professor David Edwards and Evelina London’s pioneering neonatal specialist unit.

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