Vale Professor Christine McMenamin

Professor Christine McMenamin BSc(Hons) PhD MBBS DCH FRACGP

Our hearts are heavy at Durrant Medical Clinic with the passing of our dear friend and colleague Professor Christine McMenamin. The following is the obituary that appeared in The Age and Western Australian and written by Christine's husband Paul McMenamin.

Christine McMenamin was a research scientist, doctor and academic administrator widely admired for her leadership of the medical teaching program at Monash University. She died on October 5, after a long, courageous battle with complications arising from nearly 40 years of Type I diabetes.

Christine was born on January 27, 1958 in Stirling, Scotland, in the shadow of the Bannockburn monument. The daughter of Edwin Fox, a bricklayer, and Cathy, an auxiliary nurse, she attended the local schools and went on to excel at Glasgow University, where she obtained her BSc in immunology (1981) and later her PhD (1986). She met Paul, her husband and partner for more than 39 years, while studying at the university.

Christine rose to great heights in mast cell and T-cell research with colleagues at the university's School of Veterinary Medicine and later in Perth, Western Australia. She published many seminal papers in immunology in prestigious journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Experimental Medicine and Science.

Christine and Paul moved from Glasgow to Perth for academic opportunities and a new life in Australia. Paul joined the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia (UWA) as a lecturer and Christine joined a research group at the Telethon Institute of Child Health as a post-doctoral fellow, where she did research on allergy. However, Christine had always harboured a desire to be a medical doctor and was successful in getting accepted into the six-year undergraduate medical course at UWA. While completing her degree she worked part-time as a scientist and was mother to two children.

Her determination and spirit has gone on to inspire many young female scientists to follow in her footsteps by going into medicine at a later age. Upon graduating from UWA she went on to be accepted into GP training, where her warm and empathetic nature and skills as a doctor were adored by many colleagues and grateful patients in Perth and various rural towns. She completed a Diploma in Child Health in 2002 and qualified as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 2003. Not content with these achievements, she chose to then become a senior lecturer in the Department of General Practice where she instituted new concepts in clinical skills training. Together with Paul, who was Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Medicine, she designed a series of six new teaching spaces for novel integrated anatomy-clinical skills teaching.

Christine's pedagogy, wide breadth of experience as a doctor and her broad understanding of the scientific underpinnings of medicine were recognised by Monash University when they appointed her Professor and Director of Curriculum in the MBBS/medical program, a stellar rise for someone who had only graduated in medicine 10 years previously. Her scientific training, her teaching experience and her experience as a doctor across many disciplines made her able to converse with the many academics and clinicians which make it possible to train more than 1500 medical students each year in many widely dispersed preclinical and clinical sites within Monash. She used these attributes to drive changes aimed to improve the medical teaching program.

While academic leadership in a large degree program such as medicine is normally a thankless task that wins few friends, Christine was admired by all who got to understand her drive and passion for training high-quality, academically able but empathetic and highly skilled clinicians equipped to handle medical practice in the future. She was awarded the Centenary Medal at UWA in 2013 for her mentorship of junior staff. In addition to these achievements, she maintained her clinical work as a GP at Durrant Medical Practice in Brighton, Melbourne and was highly involved in the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners training program and examinations. When her health deteriorated in 2014 she elected to retire from her full-time position at Monash University as she knew she was unable to continue to dedicate the energy the job requires. After settling into a pattern of renal dialysis three times per week she returned to clinical work and kept up her publications in the field of medical education, while she stoically and determinedly dealt with ongoing complications resulting from her diabetes that were slowly impacting on every body system and leading to her declining health. A heart attack in June 2016, accompanied by major surgery, followed by falls and broken limbs culminated recently in a series of strokes that robbed her of all mobility and prospects of returning to clinical work.

She ceased dialysis six days before passing away, a courageous choice she made to ensure a dignified end and as the ultimate selfless act for her family. She chose to face death on her terms, just what was to be expected from a woman who grew up in the shadow of the Wallace monument in Stirling. Christine confronted death with a bravery that left all her friends and family in awe. She will be missed by the many whom she taught, inspired and helped to become better people. She will also be missed as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt and friend by all who were fortunate enough to have her in their lives. She is survived by her husband Paul, daughter Kathleen and son Martin, father Edwin and sister Ann.

* Professor Paul McMenamin is Director of the Centre for Human Anatomy Education at Monash University.