Portrait of Penelope Briscoe

FPM DEAN FROM 2008 – 2010

D.OBST, RCOG, 1977
FFARACS, 1982 MASH, 1990


Penelope Anne Briscoe was born in Queensland in 1952. Following her father’s death in 1958, her mother relocated to Adelaide to be closer to family. Penny completed her secondary schooling in Adelaide, at Woodlands Church of England Grammar School and attended the University of Adelaide, graduating MBBS in 1976. In 1982 she achieved Fellowship of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FFARACS). Her career in pain medicine began in 1984 and she was a Foundation Fellow of the Faculty of Pain Medicine (FPM) of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (FFPMANZCA). In 2008 she became the first woman elected Dean of FPM.

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Penny’s parents Charles and Betty had recently relocated from Borneo to Queensland, when she was born in 1952. Her father had been both the District Officer, in Sandakan, and Private Secretary to the Governor of Borneo, Sir Edward Twining from 1947 to 1951. Following her father’s death in 1958, the family relocated to Adelaide to be closer to her mother’s family. Here, Penny completed her formal schooling, matriculating in 1969 as Head Girl.

She studied medicine at the Adelaide University, graduating MBBS in 1976. Initially doing general practice training, she completed her Diploma of Obstetrics RCOG in 1977 before commencing anaesthetic training in 1978.

In 1980 she completed her Visa Qualification Exam, enabling her to work in the United States while her husband completed a Paediatric Orthopaedic Fellowship. Penny worked as an Anaesthetic Resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for the next 12 months.  When she returned to Australia in 1981, she was able to re-enter the anaesthetic training program and successfully gained Fellowship in 1982. As there initially were no public hospital jobs, she set up in private practice in Adelaide with a focus on obstetric and vascular anaesthetics.  Later she was offered sessions as a visiting anaesthetist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

After the birth of her first child, Anna, in 1984, Penny started her career in pain medicine, with a position at the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s pain unit. She combined this with a continuing career in anaesthesia, both public and private.

In 1990, now with two children, five year old Anna and four year old Lily, Penny relocated with her family to London, Ontario where her husband undertook a six month paediatric orthopaedic sabbatical.

On return to Australia, Penny continued to work in pain medicine and anaesthesia, but also involved herself at the children’s school and held many roles.

She was on the Seymour College’s Council of Governors from 1991, and was appointed as the first female Chairman of the Seymour College Council from 2000-2004.

In 1992 she was encouraged to apply to become an examiner with the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). This marked the beginning of a strong involvement with ANZCA and the yet to be established Faculty of Pain Medicine.

The Faculty of Pain Medicine (FPM) was established in 1998, and in 1999, 37 people were awarded Foundation Fellowship with Penny among that number. Her experience as an ANZCA examiner made her an ideal candidate to collaborate with Prof Michael Cousins. The first FPM examination, was formulated and was held in November of that year. Penny was first elected to the FPM Board in 2000, was Chair of the FPM examination from 2000 until 2008 and was then the first woman elected Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine in 2008, where she served the usual two year term.

In 2011 Penny took over as director of the Pain Management Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and oversaw the transition of the service to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which was finally realised in 2018. The new clinic has enabled the unit to maintain its multidisciplinary approach, and continue to work together as a team.

Penny has a particular interest in invasive cancer pain management, and harm minimisation from drug misuse. She has spoken nationally and internationally on these topics, including the need to wean patients off opioids. Since 2009, she has also been a strong advocate for the rescheduling of codeine to become a prescription only medication. Rescheduling was achieved in 2018.

Penny continues in her role as Director of the Pain Management Unit.



The information in these biographies has been researched via the ANZCA Archives with the assistance of the individual Fellows.


  1. Penelope Anne Briscoe portrait (photograph), c2008