At our Annual Scientific Meeting in Perth in March 2016 we inducted two new Distinguished Members:

  1. Professor Stephen Gibson
  2. Professor Philip Siddall

Below are the biographies of these esteemed Australian Pain Society members as prepared by their respective presenters.

Professor Stephen Gibson


Professor Stephen Gibson

Presented by A/Prof Carolyn Arnold

Professor Stephen Gibson is a wonderful choice to be an Australian Pain Society (APS) distinguished member. Some of you will know him from his time as APS President (2009 to 2010 inclusive).

Stephen is a humble but accomplished psychology pain academic whose expertise ranges widely from laboratory testing for pain, to projects translating evidence into practice and highlighting our knowledge gaps. This is particularly relevant in the field of pain related to aging and dementia.

You may have had the good fortune to have Stephen visit your poster or see your presentation at a conference, where over the years he has offered insights into research design, and quiet words of encouragement in whatever skill or finding you have displayed. He has many successful PhD candidates who have gone onto higher research. He has students and clinicians who have been inspired to undertake research, and many clinicians whose practice has blossomed by inclusion of research in clinical work

Speaking broadly in the 1980s Stephen Gibson qualified as a psychologist at the University of Melbourne and gained his PhD at La Trobe University. Now he is an Honorary Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Deputy Director of the National Aging & Research Institute (NARI) in Melbourne and Head of Research at Caulfield Pain Management and Research Centre in Alfred Health.

Stephen is a longstanding member of the APS, joining back in 1990 and, despite a gruelling schedule, has rarely missed a conference since that time.

In 2005 under A/Prof Roger Goucke’s leadership Stephen was a major contributor to the ‘Pain in Residential Aged Care Facilities, Management Strategies’ guideline, published by the Australian Pain Society. He went on to lead his research group to use the age appropriate assessment tools and integrated pain management techniques into models of gold standard treatment approaches for chronic pain in older adults, in multidisciplinary geriatric clinics and for quality improvement in pain in nursing homes Australia wide. This internationally recognised definitive text is currently being updated and Stephen is again an integral part of the review team.

His time on the APS Board was notable for his contributions to the speaker and topic suggestions for many of our Annual Scientific Meetings, his ability to direct attention to pain across the lifespan, and as President for his leadership and contributions to the development of the National Pain Strategy and co-chairing the National Pain Summit held at Parliament House, Canberra in March 2010. This also resulted in his position as an inaugural Board member for Painaustralia (established in February 2011, after the National Pain Summit).

Stephen also devotes his time to assist with the review of our APS/APRA PhD Scholarship applications, adding his valuable support to this flagship research training initiative, which was established over 20 years ago.

Prof Gibson’s clinical research career spans over 25 years and has been directed toward examining age differences in pain perception, exploring neurophysiological mechanisms of pain in conditions that commonly affect older persons (e.g. Osteoarthritis, Postherpetic Neuralgia, Dementia) and improving pain assessment and management in persons with dementia. The NARI laboratory is now widely regarded as a leading world centre for research into pain in older persons. There has been a strong emphasis on studying the impact of pain on mood, function and quality of life, as well as the psychological mediators of mood disturbance and disability. The other major area of research activity has focussed on the evaluation and establishment of pain treatment approaches targeted to the special needs of older persons. Prof Gibson is internationally recognised for his work on pain in older persons and particularly in those with dementia. He has delivered over 100 international and national invited presentations since 1995, including multiple keynote and plenary lectures. Major presentations include a plenary lecture at the IASP 10th World Pain Congress in San Diego, 2002, a keynote at the 2003 Canadian Centre on Health and Aging, the 2005 Massey University distinguished lecture at International Psychogeriatric Society meeting in New Zealand, the 2006 Jocelyn Wales distinguished lecture, a keynote address to the Australasian Podiatry Association in 2007, a plenary lecture at the British Pain Society meeting, Manchester 2010 and the Bonica lecture at the Australian Pain Society meeting, Hobart 2014.

Internationally, Stephen is on the executive committee of Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) action TD1005 (Pain Assessment in Patients with Impaired Cognition, especially Dementia), on the scientific committee and current chair of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) special interest group for Pain in Older Persons. He is a contributing member of the IASP taskforce for the development of a core curriculum for professional education on pain (the major reference source for professional training in 62 countries including Australia), and the only Australian scientist on the American Geriatric Society panel for research into pain in older persons. He is as well a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pain consortium (USA).

And in his own words “My major area of research interest has been persistent pain and its treatment in older people. Persistent pain affects more than 50% of the older population and can lead to major impacts on mood, function, sleep, cognition, social relationships and quality of life.

Over recent years I have become particularly interested in pain in persons with dementia. How can we assess pain when verbal communication is impaired? Does dementia alter the ability to feel and process pain? What are the best treatments for this group?   I have developed new assessment questionnaires and used state-of the-art neuroimaging techniques, experimental pain studies and randomised controlled trials to attempt to provide some evidence-based answers to these important questions.  

Our work has already had a major impact on improving pain assessment and treatment in this very vulnerable group.”

Stephen recently highlighted that the research that had had the greatest impact was his study using experimental pain and fMRI neuroimaging to determine whether pain processing is impaired in persons with Alzheimer’s disease (2006). This research raised many concerns about the apparent under-treatment of pain in persons with dementia. He said “we were able to demonstrate that pain sensitivity and pain processing is not compromised and indeed, may be even more distressing in persons with mild-moderate Alzheimer’s disease”. It remains as the only study of its type in the world and has contributed to a major shift in clinical practice, such that analgesics are now routinely given to all persons with dementia.

Prof Gibson has published in many high quality international journals such as Pain, Brain, Lancet, NeurosciBiobeh. Rev, MJA, Neuroimage, Clin.J.Pain, Neurobiol Age, JAGS. He has published over 150 scientific papers with more than 9,000 citations and 22 papers being cited over 100 times.

Stephen is married to Lesley and has a family with three children (teenage and young adults). They have supported his wonderful endeavours and obviously balanced out his long hours of deskwork. He maintains his interest in basketball and plays in a team, which came together over 30 years ago! He has also shared his prodigious knowledge of wine at many APS functions, reflecting his own large wine collection.

Prof Stephen Gibson is a very impressive quiet persistent and consistent achiever, someone for whom we of the APS have a great respect and appreciation, and we congratulate him on this APS Distinguished Member Award.

Professor Philip Siddall


Professor Philip Siddall

Presented by Mr Tim Austin

Phil Siddall casts a long shadow over the world of Pain Management. He has made enormous contributions in the areas of basic science, clinical science, clinical care, research, education and mentoring.

Phil commenced Medicine at the University of Sydney in 1975, beginning a relationship with that institution that has been almost continuous to the current day. Having graduated at the end of 1979, Phil commenced work as an Intern and then Resident Medical Officer (RMO) at the nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH).

Phil’s move into pain management followed a highly unusual course. He had a desire to go to China, and completing a course in Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine enabled this to happen. From 1981 to 1984, Phil studied in Beijing, China, gaining a Graduate Diploma in Acupuncture. In preparation for this sojourn, Phil began to learn Mandarin, and returned to Australia more than proficient in the language. Indeed, Phil’s treatise on “The Use of Acupuncture for the Management of Headache” was completed in Chinese!

Phil returned to RPAH to an RMO role before being encouraged by APS past President Amal Helou to apply for a part-time Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) position as an Acupuncturist in the Pain Clinic. Amal recalls some of Phil’s learned Chinese mannerisms, and his delight at finally having a lamb roast again!   Phil also recalls making a very “herbaceous” moxa, the smell of which was not enjoyed by the rest of the Pain Clinic. Phil’s pain VMO role grew, and he increasingly cultivated his clinical skills working under a very patient Dr John Ditton (APS president 1991-1993). In 1985, early in his specialty, and encouraged by John Ditton, Phil joined the Australian Pain Society. He remembers well his first Annual Scientific Meeting the same year. Held in the Academy of Science building in Canberra (easily accommodating the 100 or so attendees), Phil has strong recollections of “a very precise, dapper, bow-tied, and scarily smart professor of neurophysiology from Germany” plenary Lecturer, Manfred Zimmerman. Phil recalls being somewhat overawed by the content, but suggests this was the beginning of being hooked on neuroscience. A few years later, he was stimulated to commence a PhD in neurobiology with Roger Dampney from Sydney University.

In 1993 Phil was recruited by Professor Michael Cousins to work in the newly established Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI) at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH), with emphases in both the basic and clinical sciences. As if this was not enough, Phil was still finishing off his PhD! This move began a key relationship with a number of pre-eminent clinicians and researchers. Apart from Michael Cousins, Phil worked closely with clinical luminaries such as Laurie Mather, Suellen Walker, Paul Wrigley, and basic researchers such as Kevin Keay and Arthur Duggan. Phil and Michael Cousins had (and continue to have) a strong working relationship, not only sharing multi-disciplinary team meetings, but also collaborating on research and hence co-authoring many academic papers. Professor Cousins reflected on Phil’s early time at RNSH as exceeding his own high expectations. Whilst at the PMRI, Phil contributed heavily in areas of research, education and managing a clinical load.

In keeping with his penchant for moving out of the comfort zone, Phil headed to Greenwich Hospital in 2012 where he set up a full Pain Service, and continues there as Director.

Phil has been prolific in the field of pain research, his work always demonstrating a most methodical approach.   His PhD, completed in 1993, was titled “The Functional Organisation of Descending Pathways in the Brain Stem Controlling the Spinal Transmission of Nociceptive Information”. This then stimulated his interest in, and research of, neuropathic pain, and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in particular. Much of this work has influenced guidelines into the understanding and management of SCI pain. Phil has always had a passion for translational research models and his guidance of other researchers (and clinicians) at the PMRI and Greenwich Hospital pain clinics has been (and is) enormously appreciated. 2007 APS/APRA scholar, Kathryn Nicholson Perry was one of these people. She credits Phil with improving her understanding of neuropathic pain conditions, allowing her to develop clinically relevant treatment approaches.

Phil is a gifted educator, driven by a clear desire to see others learn. Whilst working at PMRI, he was in the first cohort of students to complete the Masters of Pain Management programme from Sydney University (delivered by the PMRI). Fellow students in that first year remember Phil sitting with them in the lecture theatre, then moving to the lectern to deliver one of the key neurobiology lectures, before returning to his seat as one of the students! In 2003, Phil became Director of Education at PMRI, in addition to his clinical and research roles. He oversaw a complete re-structure of the now Online Masters programme, and under his care the programme more than doubled its intake of students in the 9 years until 2012, when he stepped down from the role. Also under Phil’s leadership, the Masters programme forged an academic collaboration with the Universities of Edinburgh, California and Santo Tomas (in the Philippines), enabling a truly International teaching programme to be offered. Phil continues to teach in the Masters programme and the associated short course in Pain Management, unsurprisingly in topics such as neuropathic pain and neurobiology.

Phil is a regular speaker at conferences both local and international. His list of invited lectures and workshops cover all six continents, and typical of his approach to inter-disciplinary pain management, Phil has spoken at conferences and symposia across the areas of Nursing, Allied Health and Psychology, as well as medicine. Phil has a particular gift in explaining difficult concepts in simple ways. This was no more evident than when Phil was given the most appropriate honour of delivering the Bonica lecture at the 33rd APS ASM in Canberra in 2013. Many APS members will remember that lecture entitled “Losing your Inhibitions: Pain is all about the Gain”. Phil has also been a frequent contributor to ASMs through topical workshops and concurrent sessions, and has attended almost every APS ASM since 1985. He identifies the diversity of both the professions and opinions, and the passion of the debates, as reasons for continuing to attend for so long.

Phil has been a true leader and mentor in the field of pain. He has been an active member of many committees, both in Australia and internationally. For the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) he has chaired or been committee member of the Neuropathic Pain Special Interest Group, the Education committee, the Nominations committee and the delightfully named Committee on Committees! From an APS perspective, he was IASP Council member and APS liaison member from 2005-2011, providing regular communication between the organisations. He was also on the Sydney organising committees for the 2002 APS ASM and the most successful 11th World Congress on Pain in 2005. Phil is currently Conjoint Professor of Pain Medicine at the University of Sydney, and co-chair of the Pain Management Network of the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI). On the micro level, Phil has mentored numerous clinicians and researchers, his work ethic no more evident than when he told a post-doc before employment “If you want to come and work with me, you have to be thinking of ideas in the shower!” At the macro level, Phil acts as a referee or reviewer for over 20 Journals. He has been author or co-author of more than 70 articles, and an astonishing 28 book chapters. As if Phil has not been busy enough, he has contributed to the range of books on self-help in pain management. “The Pain Book” and “The Spinal Cord Injury Pain Book” are sensitively written and easy to follow, demonstrating most appositely his gentle approach to the clinical encounter.

With all these achievements in research and education, you feel that for Phil, these are less important than actually treating patients, demonstrated by the heavy clinical workload he maintains. Past and present clinical colleagues note him as very calm, always keen to hear the patient’s perspective and passionately desiring an outcome in keeping with their concerns.

Philip John Siddall was born and raised in Sydney, attending Scots College, including 5 years as a boarder. It was during this time at school that Phil developed a passion for the bagpipes, including a trip to play at the Edinburgh Tattoo. He continues to “kilt-up” and blow with the Scots Old Boys on a regular basis (including playing in the annual ANZAC day march in Sydney).

Phil met his wife Rhonda at a young age as her brother was at school with Phil. Both Phil and Rhonda acknowledge that the spark of romance certainly did not come until quite a few years later! However, it did and they were married in 1987, and they have 2 daughters and a son. Phil is a devoted family man, and Rhonda notes that whilst he works very hard, he is no workaholic, enjoying time in the garden, reading widely, and getting in some lap swimming, albeit slowly. Phil is keenly involved in St Barnabas’ Anglican Church, Broadway, attending since his undergraduate days, and he continues to “practise” his Mandarin with Chinese speakers at his church. He holds a strong Christian faith, which perhaps links to a somewhat more recent research interest, which is in Spirituality and Pain. Phil has quite a sense of humour, much happier to make a joke at his own expense rather than others.

Finally, the words that colleagues and friends most often used to describe Phil were: generous and humble. Phil sees everybody (multi-disciplinary team members, fellow researchers and patients) as his equal, and is therefore appropriately generous with his many gifts. It is for these many gifts, as well as his achievements, that the Australian Pain Society welcomes Phil Siddall as a Distinguished Member.


About Australian Pain Society

The Australian Pain Society is a multidisciplinary body aiming to relieve pain and related suffering through leadership in clinical practice, education, research and public advocacy.


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