This year’s Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation medal has been awarded to Professor Catriona McLean AO, for her remarkable contribution to neuropathology services over several decades despite the obstacles.
As Director of Anatomical Pathology, Alfred Health, since 2005, Professor McLean has a full-time hospital pathology load including in-house brain tumour and epilepsy biopsies and is also the pathologist to the Victorian Melanoma Unit, Director of the Victorian Brain Bank at the Florey, Director of the Victorian Neuromuscular Service, as well as honorary neuropathologist for the ANZ CJD registry, to name just a few. She works collaboratively with the Cancer Council Victoria, the Royal Children’s Hospital, Victorian and interstate universities, MHRI, WEHI, the Burnet Institute and many international institutions: too many to cite here.
But this is only part of Catriona’s story. Her legendary dedication and determination are most visible in her enduring commitment to the essential role of neuropathology that inexplicably, has remained unfunded in Victoria since the early 1990s. Understanding the profound importance of this type of diagnosis in influencing outcomes for patients and their families, Professor McLean refused to ignore her intellectual curiosity and continued to study and hone her now unique knowledge to offer the highest level of diagnostic rigour to her colleagues and patients as an extra but unpaid service.
In the top two per cent on international rankings, Professor McLean has published over 500 papers and is widely cited all over the world. Her countless awards from a vast range of organisations for her work in pathology and education include an Officer of Australia in 2019. Over her decades-long career, she has looked at close to a million slides, mainly for diagnostic purposes, but also for multiple research projects throughout Australia and internationally and is in constant demand to collaborate on research projects into malignancies, muscle disorders and neurodegeneration.
Accepting the medal from Professor Amy Brodtmann, Professor and Lead of the Cognitive Health Initiative at Monash University's Central Clinical School, on behalf of the Foundation, the multi-award-winning Professor thanked her many mentors and champions and said: ‘I hope more than anything that I have helped patients and their families and inspired other doctors and scientists to continue this important work and lobby for state support’.
Many of the medical research luminaries at the presentation, reinforced Professor McLean’s concerns over the absence of any formal pathways to ensure that her vast knowledge is not lost in the future.