Anna Penn, M.D., Ph.D., is a clinical neonatologist and translational neuroscientist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC. She is an associate professor of pediatrics in the Fetal Medicine Institute, Neonatology and the Center for Neuroscience Research. In addition, she directs a new multidisciplinary perinatal neuroprotection program aimed at training the next generation of clinicians and scientists to prevent preterm brain injury.
Penn received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, did her pediatric residency training at University of California, San Francisco and then returned to Stanford for a neonatal-perinatal fellowship followed by a faculty position at Stanford University before being recruited to Children’s National Health System. Her laboratory studies the role of placental function in fetal brain damage, a cross-disciplinary research area she has dubbed ‘neuroplacentology.’ Her work provides new opportunities to understand the role of placental hormones in shaping fetal brain development in ways that may lead to neurobehavioral disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and suggests that early treatments based on placental hormone replacement might ameliorate the risks of ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders that arise after preterm birth or when the in utero environment is compromised.