Clinical Associate Professor Penelope Burns

Clinical Associate Professor, ANU School of Medicine and Psychology
PhD Scholar ANU School of Medicine and Psychology
General Practitioner, Sydney NSW

Penny Burns is a General Practitioner working in a hospital based general practice and in a GP respiratory clinic in Sydney. Her clinical title with ANU Medical School is with the Academic Unit of General Practice.

She has been working, researching, and teaching in the field of disasters now for over a decade. She is passionate about the need to integrate general practice in disaster management systems. Reflecting her interest, Penny has many roles related to disasters at local, state, national and international levels.

Penny has further research interests in human behaviour in road tunnel evacuations; management of animals in disasters; infection protection control in frontline healthcare workers; and a digital approach to prevention and treatment of PTSD prevention.

Penny also works with the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions.


  • General Practice

Research interests

PhD at ANU: Contributions and Capabilities of General Practitioners in Disasters across the All Hazards All Agencies PPRR (Prevention Preparedness Response and Recovery) phases of disaster.

This PhD includes a comprehensive review of the health consequence of disasters from a primary healthcare perspective and a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 38 GPs and 33 disaster managers who had experienced disasters in a professional capacity in Australia or NZ between 2009 and 2016 to explore their range of experiences, challenges, and roles. Questions on barriers and facilitators to GP involvement in the disaster were asked. Transcripts were analysed thematically.

The final aim is to propose and refine GP inclusion in disaster healthcare systems based on the research findings in order to improve the health care delivery to the thousands of Australians that are affected each year by disaster and to improve the safety, support and resilience of frontline GPs and their teams during these events.

Research has been disseminated through peer-reviewed papers and conference presentations.