Associate Professor Wilma Beswick AM

Citation for the Award of the Brownless Medal

Associate Professor Wilma Beswick’s contribution to the education and training of doctors has transformed the Melbourne Medical School’s teaching and learning program and greatly enhanced the School’s reputation for excellence in clinical teaching.

Her talent evident early in her career, Wilma Beswick was approached by David Penington AC, a year before completing her specialist physician training, to join the University Department of Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital as a lecturer. She was a full-time, and later part-time, lecturer in the Department for more than 25 years.

Instead of aspiring to what might have been the expected academic path for someone so capable, Wilma Beswick was clear that her interests and commitment lay in teaching and in clinical medicine. She formed a strong association with the then Dean of the Clinical School at St Vincent’s Hospital, Greg Whelan, and was tasked with organising the Department’s teaching programs. Surprised to find no written curriculum for clinical teaching, she rectified this, organising a curriculum for St Vincent’s students, based on her instinctive expert understanding of what the students needed.

Appointed Dean of the Clinical School at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1989 she held the post for over 20 years, reorganising undergraduate and postgraduate teaching at the hospital and laying the foundations for unparalleled and unmatched success in students’ results. She demonstrated a keen interest in student welfare and a profound commitment to medicine and teaching and, by her personal example and passion for the role of teachers, inspired senior medical staff to be active in the mentoring and support of early career doctors. She has sponsored the development of a culture strongly supportive of students, teaching and learning which is deeply embedded throughout the hospital and has been hugely influential on the teaching and learning culture throughout the Melbourne Medical School.

The physician training program at St Vincent’s Hospital developed under Wilma Beswick’s leadership has yielded outstanding results in the RACP examinations over the past 20 years. The hospital’s reputation for excellence in physician training has contributed significantly to the reputation of the Melbourne Medical School.

Wilma Beswick’s reputation with and influence on medical students as an inspirational role model is demonstrated by Dr Kim Yeoh’s description of her in the 2013 Melbourne Medical School publication Strength of Mind: 125 Years of Women in Medicine: ‘She is an archetype for the “art of medicine” [whose] care of patients expresses humility, passionate advocacy and a holistic understanding of an individual’s emotional and physical needs.’

The award of the Brownless Medal to Wilma Beswick is proposed in recognition of her distinguished contributions to the education of medical students and junior doctors which have transformed the quality of clinical teaching at the Melbourne Medical School, her eminent contributions to the reputation of the Melbourne Medical School for teaching excellence, and her inspiration of generations of junior doctors in the delivery of patient-centred care wherever they practice throughout the world.