Professor Michelle McLean details the steps in her career which led to her interest in medical education. She further explains the experiences training around the world, what brought her to begin working alongside AMEE, her contribution to AMEE initiatives, and her inclusion as an AMEE Fellow.


Professor Michelle McLean, B.Sc (Hons). M.Sc. PhD, M.Ed

I am a Biologist and a seed pathologist by degree but became interested in medical education when I started working in the Department of Physiology (Histology Division) in 1987 when I was appointed as a lecturer at a South African university. After completing my part-time PhD in 1994, I thought that I needed to become more involved in clinical research as I was working in a medical faculty. At about the same time, my then boss was very interested in problem-based learning (PBL) and had visited Maastricht and also one of the ‘progressive’ Australian universities which had implemented PBL. There was also considerable international groundswell in the mid-1990s to move from the traditional, content-heavy medical curriculum to a more integrated, small group one. After training by a team of Dutch educators who visited, the seed was sewn for a new curriculum. With difficulty finding where I might fit in clinical research and with a developing interest in learning (as opposed to teaching), I became part of the planning committee of this new curriculum which was finally implemented in January of 2001. Opportunity knocked in terms of researching our process and this led to several publications as well as my desire to professionalise my practice as an educator. There were no Masters in Medical or Health Professional Education in South Africa at that time so I registered for the first portfolio-based Masters of Tertiary Education. I never looked back. I found my passion for learner-centred education at a time of considerable resistance to change. Why change when the system is not broken, was what I was told many times. I went on to become a Full Professor, with my promotion to Associate and then Professor in the Educational Scholarship Track at my university.

Then, in April 2005, I received an email from the Associate Dean of Medical Education at the United Arab Emirates University (UAE) asking me whether I was interested in a position in Medical Education, mainly to reinvigorate PBL. Although I deliberated for several months, I ended up relocating in June 2006. It was in the position as Professor in the Department of Medical Education, that I truly became immersed in the breadth of activities across the six-year programme. This was a great time for professional development as there was a lot of activity and networking in the Middle East in terms of curriculum reform. I travelled extensively for work and for pleasure and met educators from all parts of the world who became friends. It was during this time in the UAE that my ‘work’ with AMEE really began. Through passionate individuals such as Trevor Gibbs, who has a knack for connecting the right people, ideas developed into themes at conferences or AMEE guides. It was a professionally productive time for me as my ‘teaching’ schedule was minimal. Most of my time was devoted to faculty development and medical education research, including with students. But, a time comes in one’s life when one needs more certainty about retirement and after five and half well-spent years in the UAE, the next stop was Australia where I now work in the Medical Programme at a small, not-for-profit, private university on the Gold Coast . At the end of this year (2018), I will have been here seven years, having become an Australian citizen about two years ago.

My AMEE ‘work’ AMEE keeps me busy – ESME tutor, AskAMEE contributor, new ASPIRE group member, Medical Teacher and MedEdPublish reviewer. Although I had thought about applying to be an AMEE Fellow as I had contributed to medical education scholarship for about 30 years, I did not get around to it as I was ‘too busy’. Last year, after several prods from Trevor, I finally applied and became a Fellow in October 2017. Thanks, Trevor, for being there to encourage folk on their professional journeys. I think my journey (and my AMEE association) really began when you invited me as a reviewer of the University of Cape Town new medical programme way back in the early 2000s. Our collaboration continues.

I think that the AMEE fellowship scheme is important for two reasons. First, it recognises individual excellence and sustained scholarship (Fellowship) but it also recognises budding and future educators (Associate Fellowship). Secondly, it creates a community of practice that promotes sharing, networking and mentoring and nurturing of the next generation of medical and health professional educators. I am privileged to be part of the community.

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