Professor Guillermina Girardi
Professor of Women's Health
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
Since her graduation, in Rosario, Argentina, Professor Girardi has been working in animal models of human diseases, in particular inflammatory disorders. In 2000, she moved to the Unites States to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship that will advance her career. During this time at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, she developed several mouse models to understand pregnancy pathologies and to identify novel therapeutic interventions. In 2004, she received a career development award from the Lupus Foundation USA to study the cross-talk between inflammation and thrombosis in pregnancy loss in the antiphospholipid syndrome. She identified a previously unrecognized role for complement activation as an early effector in pregnancy loss associated with placental inflammation. Moreover, she found that tissue factor (TF), the initiator of the coagulation cascade, is a proinflammatory molecule not only in recurrent miscarriages induced by aPL but also in other models of immune-mediated miscarriages and preeclampsia. Following this line of studies she discovered that statins prevent pregnancy loss, intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia in different mouse models. Her studies were published in high impact journals such as Nature Medicine, Blood, the Journal of Clinical Investigations, The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Prof Girardi is a strong advocate for the health of women and their unborn children. Knowing that preterm birth is the most frequent cause of infant death she decided to expand her research to the field of premature delivery. She developed a mouse model of spontaneous preterm labour which resembles most clinical scenarios in that localized inflammation occurs without systemic maternal illness. In 2011 she was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award and moved to the United Kingdom. At the University of Edinburgh, her group has identified important mechanisms behind prematurity and discovered potential strategies for the prevention and treatment of this serious pregnancy complication. While in Edinburgh, Prof Girardi got interested in the abnormal foetal brain development associated with premature birth, antiphospholipid antibodies and preeclampsia. Using cutting edge non-invasive MRI and 1HMRS (spectroscopy), she characterized fetal brain metabolic abnormalities in their mouse model. Prof Girardi recently joined the Lupus Unit at King’s College London. She was happy to be able to continue her research in aPL, a subject that she was always passionate about. Her ultimate motivation is to improve the health of mothers and their babies. Her new position as Chair in women’s health will help her pursue this goal. At King’s College London, Prof Girardi will be able to fill in important gaps in understanding the aetiology of pregnancy complications and to identify therapeutic interventions.
Any details you wish to share about how being female has impacted upon your career (positively or negatively)
My earliest achievement was to challenge my family’s and society’s expectations. Being born in Argentina, I was able to study but predestined to put my diploma in a frame and stay home to raise my kids and be Mrs. (my husband’s last name). I got married at a quite young age. However, I never saw marriage as a career. Fortunately I was a rebel that did not accept existing traditional forms and always believed that there were other rewarding things in life besides being a mother and wife. I always thought that I could not make anybody happy if I wasn’t happy with myself. “You can’t give what you do not have” was always my motto. Thus, I kept my maiden name and emigrated to USA and then to the UK to expand my horizons in science.
I remember once at a parents-teacher conferences (did you know that in Argentina these meetings are called meetings for mothers? – yes just mothers) I asked another mother what kind of job she had and she replied that she did not need to work. Besides the money I earned - which was not that much as a young academic- I always wanted to have a job to accomplish things for myself and by myself.
It was not easy to raise a family while doing my PhD and post doc training, but the challenge made it even more rewarding. My field of research is deeply connected with maternity and children. I am an advocate for women’s health and my goal is to improve the health and clinical choices available to women and their babies.
Women's success is usually measured by labels, such as degrees and positions. I have those labels: I have a PhD, I am a Professor but for me the only label that means success is being happy with what I do. I am doing a job which I find satisfying, fulfilling and exciting. When I look back, I am surprised to see how I got here; so far from being a stay-at-home mother in South America. Thinking of the translational studies we are now doing that might find new treatments to save pregnancies, I smile and think it would have been really a pity for me to stay at home.