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Professor Tony McLean

Critical care pioneer leaves lasting legacy

05 May 2022


For more than 35 years, Professor Anthony McLean, has devoted himself to providing exceptional service to Nepean Hospital, intensive care and our community.

Commencing his retirement last month, the former Nepean Hospital Director of Intensive Care Medicine - known for his signature bow tie - leaves a lasting legacy of critical care innovation, education and research that has seen Nepean Hospital become the leader in intensive care medicine that it is today.

First appointed as the Director of Nepean Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in 1986 and later, as the Head of the Critical Care Division, Professor McLean took the helm at a time when the ICU contained just two beds.

Undoubtedly, his decades of tireless advocacy and tenacious efforts significantly guided the growth of Nepean Hospital’s critical care services. Now, with a 24-bed ICU and eight staff specialists, Professor McLean says he considers the growth of intensive care at Nepean Hospital to be his greatest achievement.

The growth of Nepean Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, from a 2-bed unit to a 24-bed unit with 8 staff specialists, is Professor McLean's greatest achievement.

“When I first came here, the intensive care unit was an intensive care unit in name only. Anyone who was really sick and who required life-support treatment was shipped out very quickly. So that’s the one thing that really stands out for me; I’m delighted to have been involved with a team of really good people who took the Nepean Intensive Care Unit from a non-entity to a modern unit that can cover a wide range of critical illnesses and has an enormous life-support capacity,” Professor McLean says.    

As a pioneer of critical care echocardiography, Professor McLean’s work has brought international acclaim for intensive care medicine at Nepean Hospital.

“In Nepean Hospital ICU in the late 1980’s we had very few resources. For example, there was no CT scan, there was no advanced radiology, pathology was basic, and there was no nuclear medicine. So we developed echocardiography because that was a non-invasive way of assessing a person’s haemodynamic status and looking at their heart. As a result, we developed echocardiography in the critically ill and we were one of the earliest units in the world to do that,” Professor McLean explains.

“The result of that has been that Nepean critical care echocardiography has an international reputation. Our staff get asked to attend conferences or teach in Europe, the States, in Asia, around Australia and New Zealand.”

“The development of a critical care echocardiographic service is really what’s given Nepean a very special reputation and that’s something I’m very proud of,” Professor McLean says.


Professor Tony McLean


The research generated by the intensive care team under the leadership of Professor McLean, has also helped to establish Nepean Hospital on the world stage.

“Intensive care has been a dynamo in the research activities of this hospital. We’ve probably produced more scientific papers than any other group. We run very sophisticated multi-centre trials and we have a very strong record of cardiovascular and echocardiographic research with an international reputation,” Professor McLean says.

“Of late, we’ve also been very active with genomics research into infection and sepsis, which has brought Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District its first patent.”

The patent, for a groundbreaking influenza blood test, was developed by the Translational Genomic Research Unit established by Professor McLean for Nepean Hospital’s Department of Intensive Care Medicine and the Nepean Clinical School.

A groundbreaking influenza blood test, developed by the Translational Genomic Research Unit established by Professor McLean, delivered our Local Health District its first patent.

Professor McLean’s passion for intensive care education and training has seen him train thousands of critical care specialists throughout Australia and around the globe.

As well as starting the earliest structured critical care echocardiography training course in Australia, he also established an institution at Nepean Hospital specifically for training and education. Known as ICET, the Intensive Care Education and Training Centre comprises of two lecture theatres and a simulation lab which has helped to further Nepean Hospital’s reputation as an outstanding teaching hospital.

Chief Executive of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Kay Hyman says, “The contributions Professor McLean has made to Nepean Hospital and to critical care practice globally are tremendous. His tenacity and prodigious work have truly left their mark at Nepean Hospital and it is not an understatement to say that our Intensive Care Unit would not be what it is today without the influence of Professor McLean.”

“While his presence will be missed at Nepean Hospital, he has left a remarkable legacy that has placed our critical care services at the forefront of intensive care medicine worldwide.”

"He has left a remarkable legacy that has placed our critical care services at the forefront of intensive care medicine worldwide."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Kay Hyman, Chief Executive NBMLHD

Professor McLean says his passion and commitment have been driven and supported by those around him over the decades.

“I’ve worked with really good people, and I look around at all this development and the doctors, nurses and administrators and people from all walks around the hospital who have tried really hard to make Nepean Hospital a better hospital.”

“I’ve had a very rewarding time. Nepean has been very good to me and I’m grateful for what it’s given me. In return, I’d like to think that I’ve played some small role in it getting to where it is, because the people in this area deserve it,” Professor McLean says.