Extensive research demonstrates conclusively that good communication between health professionals and patients leaves both parties more satisfied with treatment and produces better health outcomes. Patients are diagnosed more accurately, suffer less pain, recall important information more clearly, and comply more readily with treatment.
Despite this research-based evidence, 20% of all formal complaints about health practitioners are in the category of communication and diagnosis and this proportion continues to increase (data from NSW Health Care Complaints Commission). These statistics confirm anecdotal evidence available to all of us that something different needs to be done.
The Pam McLean Centre (PMC) is a not-for-profit group of clinicians and educators committed to excellence in clinical communication skills training. It is based at Sydney Medical School Northern at Royal North Shore Hospital. The family of Pam McLean made a donation to establish the Centre after her death from breast cancer in 1995 and it was officially launched in 2001 by HE Prof Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW. The PMC is the leading provider of evidence-based medical communication skills training in Australia, involving experiential simulation workshops and founded on coherent theory and rigorous research. We deliver over 160 workshops annually to postgraduate trainees and across all three stages of the Sydney Medical Program with a team of highly skilled scenario researchers and more than 40 professional actors. The Centre designs and presents workshops and training DVD’s on communication skills for medical students, medical specialists and other health professionals across Australia and internationally.
Our major focus is communication and professional engagement. Each workshop is built on extensive evidence-based research, psychological insights and clinical expertise.
Our individualized interactive scenarios allow participants to literally step inside challenging situations and explore these interactions in a safe, supportive and educational space.
The Centre prides itself on delivering the highest standard of communications training to the Health professions. Our foundation is a strong commitment in research and peer-reviewed publication that is recognised by seven major teaching awards. Most recently the PMC received the 2013 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching from the University of Sydney.
Professor Fran Boyle AM
Fran Boyle is a Medical Oncologist at North Sydney’s Mater Hospital, where she is Director of the Patricia Ritchie Centre for Cancer Care and Research, and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Sydney. Fran graduated from University of Queensland Medical School with Honours and a University Medal and undertook her initial physician training at the Mater in Brisbane before transferring to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney to complete her Medical Oncology training and a PhD in Pharmacology. Her clinical practice focuses on breast cancer and melanoma, in association with the Melanoma Institute Australia. Her current interests include clinical trials of new cancer treatments, psychosocial and supportive care and communication. She was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia in 2008 for services to cancer research, advocacy, policy development and professional education.
Dr Renee Lim
Director of Program Development
Renee Lim has worked for over 10 years as a Locum Registrar in Emergency, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. She is also a very experienced professional actor and these skills, combined with her medical expertise and educational knowledge and experience, have allowed her to expand her role in the devising of new scenarios and formats for PMC workshops. Renee has also developed high-level facilitator skills and contributed to strategic planning and product development to ensure the ongoing viability and growth of the Centre. Renee also plays a key role in training of facilitators and actors, development of online training modules including film, and expansion of our new topic areas in graduate and postgraduate settings.
Richie joined the PMC and the University of Sydney in December 2021. He has a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies with Distinction (Major in English Literature, Major in Journalism). Since 2013 he has worked in the medical sector and more recently the tertiary medical education sector, including 2.5 years in administration for the School of Nursing at the University of Wollongong. At PMC Richie oversees the smooth running of our many and varied projects & events, staff resources and all administrative & finance matters.
Joy has worked as a facilitator with the PMC for 8 years. A psychotherapist in private practice, Joy has also worked professionally in both the film and theatre industries. An award-winning playwright, her area of interest has always been the psychosocial dynamics that operate between people; whether in a clinical, organisational or dramatic arena. Joy uses her skills and knowledge as an instructional designer to support and develop the vital work of PMC.
Dr Scott Ashby
Scott is a Kiwi who has expatriated long enough ago to have lost nearly all traces of his accent. He works as an intensivist-in-training based mostly out of Royal North Shore Hospital or one of its many secondments. Scott has always found that communicating effectively in challenging situations is one of the most complex yet rewarding parts of working in medicine, and that these situations are also opportunities to most tangibly ‘make a difference’. This passion has led him to his work as a facilitator with PMC.
Margie is a registered nurse and midwife and holds a Graduate Diploma in Infectious Diseases. She has experience working in a variety of clinical settings over the past 35 years, some of those in Indigenous communities within Australia. Margie joined the International Humanitarian Organisation, Médicines Sans Frontiers in 2003 as a field worker in countries such as: South and Western Sudan, Nigeria, Haiti, Pakistan and Nepal. Since 2013 Margie has held the position of Women’s Health Medical Advisor to support Field Operations in the field of Sexual Reproductive Health. In this role she is responsible for facilitating workshops and trainings in many different and challenging contexts around difficult subject matter with the ultimate aim of improving quality care for populations. She also plays a key role in assisting field teams to negotiate difficult conversations with local authorities, leaders in the community, patients and their families. Margie joined the PMC in 1999 initially as a scenario actor and for the last 4 years as a facilitator.
Professor Stewart Dunn
Stewart Dunn is Professor of Psychological Medicine in Sydney Medical School Northern and Associate Dean for Admissions. He has extensive teaching commitments in the Sydney Medical Program and his clinical specialty is psychological care in cancer. Stewart completed Fellowship studies in the USA and UK, and conducted research at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for 17 years before his appointment at Royal North Shore Hospital in 1995. He has published widely in psychological aspects of medical illness and doctor-patient communication and he has received nine research travel awards and seven teaching awards. His other interests include multidisciplinary teams, medical error and open disclosure following an adverse event. As Director of the Pam McLean Centre he has facilitated workshops with students and health professionals in Australia and internationally for more than 20 years.