Rheumatologist recognised in Australia Day Honours

By Siobhan Calafiore

25 Jan 2024

For four decades, Clinical Associate Professor Kathleen Tymms has provided rheumatology care to adults and children in her adopted home of Canberra and surrounding NSW, particularly along the southeast coast.

With so few paediatric rheumatologists, the regular regional visits have helped to fill a workforce gap.

Her dedication to her patients and her involvement in medical training and the profession more broadly have earned her a spot on the Australia Day Honours list.

“I was really surprised. I just have been so lucky to have a job I love. I don’t really consider it a service because I really love my work,” she tells the limbic.

Associate Professor Tymms attended boarding school in Tasmania, which, she says, enabled her a good education and an opportunity to pursue medicine. She completed a Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery degree at the University of Tasmania.

Seeking change, she moved to Canberra to undertake physician training in 1977 where she was inspired by rheumatologist Dr Andrew Brook during one of her rotations.

He became a mentor. His first piece of advice was to find a job and fall in love with the job – something she was able to do with rheumatology because of her love of the clinical work and patients.

Throughout her career, Associate Professor Tymms has held various positions in the rheumatology department at Canberra Hospital, including as director and acting director, and made contributions to the field of rheumatology through her participation in clinical research and involvement in professional associations.

These include as an ACT representative for the Australian Rheumatology Association and an executive member of the Australian Scleroderma Interest Group, as well as roles with Arthritis Australia and other special interest groups.

Associate Professor Tymms also has a long history with the Australian National University’s medical school, where she still dedicates time to teaching students.

“Initially, the first medical school in Canberra was linked with the University of Sydney. And then we were able to get our own medical school in the early 2000s.

“So helping with the medical curriculum has been important. And I still go over to the medical school to give lectures. And of course, when students come as part of their clinical work, they’re in the rheumatology department of Canberra hospital.”

Her advice to the future generations of rheumatologists?

“I really think it’s important knowing not only the best treatment for their rheumatic condition, but knowing what’s going on in their lives because that factors into how they are going to respond and take up your suggestions and so forth,” she says.

“I also think staying cheerful is important and staying well yourself.”

Associate Professor Tymms has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to rheumatology and to professional associations.

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