Dr. Anna Penn Named Chief of Neonatology at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia

Nov 12, 2019

New York

Dr. Anna Penn

Dr. Anna Penn, a renowned neonatologist and developmental neuroscientist whose research is aimed at understanding the role of the placenta in preterm brain development and injury, has been named chief of neonatology at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she will also serve as associate professor of pediatrics.

She succeeds Dr. Richard Polin, who has led the neonatology division for more than 20 years and who will remain at Columbia as executive vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the William T. Speck Professor of Pediatrics.

Dr. Penn will join NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia on January 1, 2020.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Penn has decided to join NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia, and I look forward to the continued success of what I have come to know as the very best neonatology unit in the country,” said Dr. Jordan S. Orange, pediatrician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and the Reuben S. Carpentier Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Dr. Penn is a worthy successor to Dr. Polin, who has built an extraordinary legacy of leadership in the field of neonatology. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Polin for his profound contribution to the division.”

“We are extraordinarily pleased to welcome Dr. Penn to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital as the leader of our neonatology services, and we thank Dr. Polin for the incredible legacy he leaves behind,” said Dr. Craig Albanese, senior vice president and chief operating officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “Dr. Penn is a leading clinician and an innovative researcher. Her discoveries about how the placenta influences fetal brain development will be instrumental as we continue to provide advanced, compassionate care to the most fragile of our patients.”

“I’m looking forward to joining both of these premier institutions,” said Dr. Penn. “It is an honor to follow in Dr. Polin’s footsteps. He is the foremost educator in neonatology, and has worked to create a division that provides top-notch clinical care for babies in New York and top-notch education for physicians in training in pediatrics and neonatology. I’m tremendously excited to learn from him and to lead this outstanding program into the future.”

Dr. Penn joins NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia from Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C., where she currently holds appointments in the Fetal Medicine Institute, the Division of Neonatology and the Center for Neuroscience Research. She is also an associate professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine. At Children’s National, she directs the Board of Visitors Perinatal Neuroprotection Program and translational research for hospital-based services, both of which focus on increasing interactions between physicians and scientists and providing research training.

Dr. Penn’s translational research examines the influence of placental hormones on fetal brain development and injury—an area that she calls “neuroplacentology”—and looks for ways to intervene. In 2009, she was given the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award – the first neonatologist to receive this honor – for her work in developing genetic models to assess the impact of placental hormones in fetal brain development, with the goal of developing drugs to protect the brain in preterm newborns.

“We tend to focus on what happens to babies right after they are born, but there is so much to learn about the interplay between the placenta, the environment in which the fetus is developing and the signals being sent to the fetus, all while still in the womb,” said Dr. Penn. “I am hoping to conduct clinical trials to learn whether some of the natural hormones found in the placenta may be used to normalize the endocrine environment, either in the womb or in preterm infants, to improve their long-term outcomes,” said Dr. Penn.

Her lab, which will transition to Columbia in 2020, is supported by the NIH, as well as funds from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Dr. Penn is also committed to training the next generation of physician-scientists and will perform clinical training and mentorship to students, residents, fellows and junior faculty. “Fewer and fewer people are choosing to do both clinical work and research, and my mission is to improve retention rates for people who are pursuing physician-scientist careers so that we continue to develop and test new therapies for our patients,” said Dr. Penn.

Dr. Penn earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges. After spending a postgraduate year studying ‘philosophy of mind’ at Oxford University, U.K., she joined Stanford University’s Medical Scientist Training Program, where she received an M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience. She completed a pediatric residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and a neonatology fellowship at Stanford. She served on the neonatology faculty of pediatrics at Stanford University prior to moving to Washington D.C.

She served as the membership director for the Society for Pediatric Research for six years and participates in national committees and organizations, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) Task Force on Neonatal Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy and the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.


NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive, integrated academic healthcare systems, encompassing 10 hospital campuses across the Greater New York area, more than 200 primary and specialty care clinics and medical groups, and an array of telemedicine services. 

A leader in medical education, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is the only academic medical center in the nation affiliated with two world-class medical schools, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. This collaboration means patients have access to the country’s leading physicians, the full range of medical specialties, latest innovations in care, and research that is developing cures and saving lives.

Ranked the #5 hospital in the nation and #1 in New York in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” survey, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is also recognized as among the best in the nation in every pediatric specialty evaluated in the U.S. News “Best Children’s Hospitals” survey. Founded nearly 250 years ago, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has a long legacy of medical breakthroughs and innovation, from the invention of the Pap test to the first successful pediatric heart transplant, to pioneering the groundbreaking heart valve replacement procedure called TAVR.

NewYork-Presbyterian’s 47,000 employees and affiliated physicians are dedicated to providing the highest quality, most compassionate care to New Yorkers and patients from across the country and around the world. NewYork-Presbyterian hospitals are not for profit and provide more than $1 billion in benefits every year to the community, including medical care, school-based health clinics and support for more than 300 community programs and activities.

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Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Columbia University Irving Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Irving Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.

The Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University

The Department of Pediatrics of Columbia University is among the top-ranked pediatrics departments in the nation with more than $20 million per year in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, and it is the only department of pediatrics in New York ranked among the top 25 in the U.S. by US News & World Report. Located at the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital campus in Washington Heights, the department is home to more than 250 clinicians and researchers. Throughout the department’s long and distinguished history, faculty members have made seminal contributions to advances in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of pediatric diseases and disorders. Find out more at www.pediatrics.columbia.edu.

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