Our People

Dr Rachel Thompson

Office of Medical Education
02 93858038



My undergraduate training was in Medicine, gaining MBChB with an intercalated BSc Hons (Epidemiology) at Sheffield University, England in 1990. Following registrar training positions in paediatrics and public health, I gained a Masters in Public Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UCL) in 1999 and emigrated to Australia in 2000. I have been an academic at UNSW since 2004, with a focus on teaching as the L&T Fellow for the faculty since 2007, transferring to an Education Focussed role, 2017.  In October 2019 I was award a PhD from School of Education, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW, thesis entitled: "A Vygotskian Exploration of Medical Students’ Critical Thinking Within Threshold Concept Liminal Spaces."


As Faculty of Medicine Learning and Teaching Fellow, I aim to promote and support learning and teaching and related scholarly activities within the faculty and across faculties at UNSW. Please see our support webpages: http://staff.med.unsw.edu.au/learning-teaching

I facilitate the community of practice Medical Education Interest Group in the Medical Faculty (the MedEd group). This group was formed in November 2006 and brings together medical faculty staff interested in education issues to support scholarly practice, to encourage research and develop new networks amongst its members. I organise the monthly seminar series, a monthly faculty-wide newsletter, the annual faculty learning and teaching forum, a Moodle support module and a MedEd group Twitter feed. For more details and link to sign up for the group, please see: http://staff.med.unsw.edu.au/medical-education-interest-group


Web-based / blended learning; teaching of threshold concepts; learning modes; critical thinking; self-directed learning; assessment methods; research into course evaluation.


  • 2014 Australian Government, Office of Learning and Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning: "For leading the development of a vibrant medical education community that has fundamentally enhanced and enriched teaching and learning at the Faculty of Medicine."
  • 2010 UNSW Medicine Teaching Excellence Award
  • 2009 UNSW Medicine Award for Innovation in Learning & Teaching


  • Member of ISSOTL 2007
  • Member of ANZAME 2008 - present
  • Member of HERDSA 2013-present 
  • Invited advisor for: AMSA policy (2013)
  • Invited reviewer for: AMSJ (2013, 2016, 2018), MSJA (2014)
  • Invited reviewer for: FHPE (2016)  

MBChB, BmedSci(Hons) Epidemiology, MPH, Graduate Certificate University Learning & Teaching, PhD.


UNSW L&T Seed Fund Grant 2008-9: Development of an application for an ALTC competitive grant on Diagnosis of Numeracy Problems in Science and Medicine.

UNSW Faculty L&T Grant 2009-10: Development of an adaptive tutorial: What is research?

Project team member of OLT Competitive grant for 2012-13: Evidence-based Optometry: https://www.eboptometry.com/    

On project team of the following UNSW L&T Innovation grants 2014:

  1. Discipline maps: ‘at a glance’ visualisations of the curriculum to enhance learning on clinical placements.
  2. Meeting challenges of workplace learning & teaching: a blended learning approach to supervisor training (BLAST).

2015-2016. Joint lead investigator with Dr Barbara Ann Adelstein (POWCS/UNSW) on the following UNSW PVCE Learning & Teaching Innovation grant ($25K): Quality & Safety Resource (QSR): Personalising the learning and teaching of Quality and Safety

Research activities: 

Since 2007 I have been working as the Academic Fellow for Learning and Teaching for the Medical Faculty at UNSW. This role involves educational research, support for staff in gaining funding, grant project support work and evaluation, networking across the Medical Faculty, and research and discussion with the L&T staff and research groups across UNSW.


PhD awarded October 2019. This research was undertaken with the School of Education, UNSW, supervised by Dr Tony Loughland and Dr Michael Michell (School of Education, UNSW Arts & Social Sciences) and A/Prof Noel Entwistle (UNSW Science). "A Vygotskian Exploration of Medical Students’ Critical Thinking Within Threshold Concept Liminal Spaces."

Specific Research Keywords:
Medical Education, Higher Education, Evidence Based Health Care, Biostatistics, Critical Thinking, Threshold Concepts, Quality and Safety, Numeracy, e-learning, Blended Learning, Student Learning.

ResearchGate weblink

    Field of Research (FOR) Tag: 
    Education Assessment and Evaluation
    Curriculum and Pedagogy
    Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy
    Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
    Socio-economic Objective (SEO) tags: 
    Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
    Education and Training
    Teaching & Supervision
    I am available to supervise: 
    Areas of supervision: 

    ILP Research Interests (educational research):

    (Will supervise ILP students)  

    • Evidence-Based Medicine
    • Medical Education
    • Threshold concepts in medicine curricula and clinical practice
    • Professional Practice
    • Learning and teaching Quality and Safety in Medicine    

    Previous supervision (co-supervision of 2 UNSW ILP projects):

    2009 ILP Student, T Camelleri, "Health related quality of life of people with Parkinson's disease and their carers, in a rural environment." (co-supervisor)

    2017 ILP Student, J Li, "Minimising ‘false positive’ in medical student selection." (co-supervisor)

    Broad Research Areas:

    Medical Education, Threshold concepts. Evidence Based Medicine, Biostatistics, Quality and Safety in Health Care, Epidemiology.

      Currently supervising: 

      Adjunct Fellow at Western Sydney University, School of Medicine (2019-)

      PhD student: Dr Faraz Khursid, "Threshold concepts guided approach to teaching, learning and assessment of Pharmacology"

      Supervision keywords: 
      medical education
      evidence-based practices
      higher education
      student learning in higher education
      quality and safety
      evidence-based medicine
      safety management
      professional practice
      threshold concepts
      qualitative methodology

      I convene and teach Evidence-based Medicine/Practice (EBM/EBP) (which includes basic medical statistics) and introduce the theory of Quality & Safety in Healthcare to first and second year students in Phase 1 of the medical program. I build on this learning to teach about applying these skills and knowledge clinically in Phases 2 and 3. The whole element as taught across the UNSW medicine program is called QMP - Quality of Medical Practice which consists of learning the basics of EBM and Quality and Safety

      Over the past 15 years, I have designed, taught, maintained and evaluated a fully blended curriculum for QMP which includes innovative online resources, including the QMP website (under development) and Smart Sparrow adaptive tutorials (shared via BEST network), iSpring/Camtasia developed audio-visual interactive SCORM packages, and short YouTube videos. These resources are fully integrated with lectures, tutorials and practicals in Phases 1-2 of the UNSW undergraduate medical program. 

      My educational research and development revolves around the identification, teaching and learning of threshold concepts and numeracy issues in the learning of medical statistics and Evidence-based Medicine. Currently finalising PhD thesis for submission in March 2019: A Critical Intersection: A Vygotskian exploration of critical thinking practice within the threshold concept liminal space in undergraduate medical students at UNSW.

      For more information about my approach to teaching, please see UNSW CELEBS group, "A discussion of transformation in teaching through reflection on feedback": https://youtu.be/Q54ArElf_rE 

      I was an expert member for the exciting OLT EBP Optometry project (2012-13).  My main role here was to assist in the development of an innovative online resources to teach EBP.

      Media & Expertise
      Areas of expertise: 

      Medical Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Health Services Research (teaching of Quality and Safety).