#60 Member profile - Associate Professor Eleanor Flynn

Associate Professor Eleanor Flynn with grandson, Theodore Joseph

7 March 2019

We are celebrating the achievements of our female members to mark International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. This year’s theme is ‘Better the balance, better the world’ and AMA Victoria strongly supports a more gender-balanced medical profession. In our International Women’s Day profile series, we’re introducing you to some of our dedicated current and future medical leaders.

1.  What is your current role in medicine?

Very recently retired as Associate Professor in Medical Education at the University of Melbourne, which I did half-time from 1999 to 2019. Clinically I also worked in palliative care at St Vincent’s Health and Melbourne Health, from 1999 finishing up in 2017.


2.  Why did you choose to study medicine?

I was interested in biology in year 12 and, being an extrovert, I love chatting to people so I thought I might combine these aspects of my life. And all the other young women in my biology class wanted to do medicine, which I hadn’t thought of until then, because all my family are teachers. Also, my father died suddenly of heart disease when I was 15 so I may have also been thinking of helping other people so they wouldn’t die too early.

3.  What was the best part about your work?

Clinically it was working in a team with patients and families helping them to cope with death, whether impending or more distant, and ensuring that as much as possible their symptoms and concerns were dealt with. Palliative care uses all the biopsychosocial and spiritual skills we learn as doctors and while distressing at times can be very fulfilling. Plus, working with trainees and students helping them to see the benefits of a palliative approach to people with chronic and life-threatening illness.

As an educator I loved working with students in small groups helping them to see different aspects of medicine, like the interactions with humanities, and how patients with the same disease will be very different because of their background and personal development as well as the manifestations of the disease.

I have also been an informal mentor to several trainees, a point of reference when things seem tricky, which is very rewarding when they become consultants and start mentoring themselves.

4.  Do you have any advice for others pursuing a career in medicine?

Do what you love. If that means quitting something and starting again, do that even though it will be difficult. Because we are really only of benefit to our patients when we are fully engaged in their care.

5.  What do you enjoy doing away from medicine?

Lots of things. I am currently transforming myself into a medieval historian, combining my passion for travel to Europe to look at galleries and churches with my love of illuminated manuscripts. I am co-teaching a course in second semester this year for the University of Divinity on how death has been seen through art since early Christian times. I also love music, cooking and gardening - though mostly suggesting plans to my gardener. And being a grandmother, a very new excitement!

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