Dr Penelope Lynn Burns

Steering Committee



Dr Penelope Burns is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of General Practice at the University of Western Sydney (UWS).  She is a General Practitioner (GP) with a range of experience in both national and international General Practice and primary care settings. She has a special interest in the role of GPs in disasters and has worked in disaster medicine at UWS since 2009. She is currently undertaking a PhD on the role of General Practitioners in disasters.

Reflecting her interest, Dr Burns has appointments as the Deputy Chair of the Disaster Management Special Interest Group of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP); the Disaster Response Representative for the NSW & ACT RACGP state faculty; a committee member of the Oceanic Chapter of the World Association of Disaster and Emergency Medicine; and as the GP member of the NSW Mental Health Disaster Advisory Committee. She is a member of the steering committee of the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma Loss and Grief Network at the Australian National University (ANU). She has undertaken Major Incident Medical Management Support training for Medical Command and as an Instructor.

Dr Burns has a wide range of teaching and research interests predominantly based around the role of primary care in disaster medicine; innovation in online blended learning and teaching in postgraduate education; human factors in tunnel evacuations (in collaboration with the Sydney Harbour Tunnel Company); the effect of animal ownership on human safety in disasters; evaluation of the first cohort of UWS graduates assessing their perceptions of the contribution of the UWS medical course to their current work and to their career choices; vertical integration of medical students, GP registrars and GPs in improving access of adolescents to GPs through school based programs; evaluation of Medicare Local and LHD partnership in health delivery; and in undergraduate medical student teaching. 

Dr Burns is particularly interested in the use of technology to improve processes and outcomes in teaching and learning. In her role as GP Fellow with the Disaster Response and Resilience Research Group at the University of Western Sydney, she has developed a unique teaching module using blended learning technology. She has coordinated the development of the Surveillance and Disaster Planning Unit in the Masters of Public Health since its inception in 2009.

Dr Burns graduated from the University of Newcastle in the second cohort in 1984 and undertook three years training in paediatrics at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, before deciding to enter general practice. She completed a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University, receiving the University Medal, in 2009. She has worked extensively in both urban and rural general practice in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. She has worked in hospital medicine in Columbia and the USA. In Australia she has worked with the Royal Flying Doctor Service based in Cairns; in Aboriginal Medical Services in Redfern and in Yarrabah Northern Queensland; and in Family Planning in Queensland and NSW. In PNG she has worked as a GP in private practice, in Port Moresby General Hospital and in remote district hospitals and clinics.


Raphael, B., & Burns, P. (2014). Children in disasters: the way forward. AJEM , 29 (1), 6-7.

Burns, P., Stevens, G., Sandy, K., Dix, A., Raphael, B., & Allen, B. (2013). Human Behaviour during an Evacuation Exercise in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. AJEM , 28 (1), 20-27.

Hazelton, K., Stevens, G., & Burns, P. (2011). Mental Health Response for World Youth Day: the Sydney Experience. AJEM , 26 (4), 48-53.

Burns, P., & Raphael, B. (2013). Information for General Practitioners involved with the NSW Bushfires 2013.

Burns, P. (2009). Guidelines for GPs. General Practitioner Guide for Management of Mental Health and Related Consequences in the Victorian Bushfires . ACATLGN, ANU, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Raphael, B., & Burns, P. (2009). The Carers Will Need Help Too. Australian Doctor.

Burns, P. (1993). Health: Medical Advice for Living in Port Moresby. In B. Williams, The Knowledge A Guide to Living In Port Moresby. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: IMPS Research.

Burns, P. (1993). Children and Education. Children's Health. In B. Williams, The Knowledge A Guide to Living in Port Moresby. Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea: IMPS Research.

Updated:  21 March 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director ACATLGN/Page Contact:  Director ACATLGN