Florey neuropathologist Professor Catriona McLean AO honoured

Professor Catriona McLean AO, Director of the Victorian Brain Bank at The Florey, has received this year’s Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation medal for her remarkable voluntary contribution to neuropathology.

During her decades-long career, Professor McLean, who is also Director of Anatomical Pathology at Alfred Health, examined close to a million microscope slides.

She provides diagnoses for Alzheimer’s disease, rare dementias including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), complex epilepsies, complex brain tumours, muscular dystrophies, diseases that cause nerves to stop functioning, and many more conditions.

Professor McLean also regularly collaborates with Australian and international researchers investigating malignancies, muscle disorders and neurodegeneration.

Accepting the medal, Professor McLean 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.”

Professor McLean conducts her neuropathology work voluntarily, because there is no funding in the State of Victoria for such diagnostic work.

Professor Catriona McLean AO holding her Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation medal.

“We simply can’t do without this service. It’s vitally important that we be able to diagnose brain diseases without having to send samples interstate,” Professor McLean said.

She was concerned that without funding, no pathologist would be willing to replace her, and diseases would go undiagnosed.

The Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation described Professor McLean’s “legendary dedication, determination and enduring commitment to the essential role of neuropathology”.

The Foundation cited Professor McLean’s work as having a profound influence on outcomes for patients and their families. She had pursued 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 more than 500 papers and her work is widely cited.

Professor McLean is also pathologist to the Victorian Melanoma Unit, director of the Victorian Neuromuscular Service, and honorary neuropathologist for the ANZCJD Registry, which is also housed at The Florey.