Associate Professor Fiona Dobson

portrait image of Fiona Dobson

Head of  Department -  A/Professor Fiona Dobson

About the Department

Department values picture Aboriginal art

Interpretation of the Faculty of MDHS Values. Artwork created by Indigenous artists Kat Clarke.

Wurundjeri translation: Aunty Gail Smith, Wurundjeri Elder from Wurundjeri Council. This artwork depicts the united of the values MDHS are guided by. The shields are a representation of how we are protected by these values but also loyal to them. Surrounding the shields are the communities that are connected to MDHS, such as the Hospitals and research centres. The line work pattern in the shields represent how each value is linked as each one doesn't work without the other. The artwork has been used with permission.

Established in 1991, when Professor Joan McMeeken AM was first appointed as Head of School and Foundation Professor, the Department of Physiotherapy at The University of Melbourne makes distinctive contributions to the physiotherapy profession and the communities we serve through teaching and learning, research, and engagement. The department thrives on community involvement with extensive collaborations with stakeholder partners within the acute, private, primary and community care sectors. Our outstanding teaching and research nexus provides graduates with cutting edge evidence-based skills and knowledge upon which to base their future practice. We are a department within the Melbourne School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences that is welcoming and based on strong values that guide us in supporting the careers and wellbeing of our students and staff, fostering a culture that supports us all to do our best work.

Teaching and Learning

Our vision in teaching and learning is to create a new generation of physiotherapist through a focus on excellence, professional commitment, engagement, and leadership.

Outstanding academics lead innovative entry to practice and post graduate programs informed by scholarship of learning and teaching. Our department has extensive experience with graduating excellent work ready graduates over the past 30 years, and since 2011, through our graduate entry extended masters (AQF-level 9E) Doctor of Physiotherapy degree, the first of its kind in Australia. Our students have access to excellent teaching and learning spaces including contemporary practical and simulation labs situated within a refurbished interdisciplinary learning hub at 200 Berkeley Street. Students are well prepared for the changing roles of the physiotherapist in areas such as interprofessional practice, chronic disease management across the lifespan, health promotion, acute care, community care and private practice. Our graduates are trained to be workforce ready and many return to engage in graduate research degrees and postgraduate coursework programs, including our online suite of master’s degrees and blended learning speciality degrees such as paediatrics and women’s health. Students can expect a strong cohort experience of dynamic and interactive learning through outstanding clinical placements and innovative blended learning informed by current evidence and best practice. We provide a friendly and supportive learning environment, exposure to outstanding educators and clinicians and mentoring from dedicated academics to enhance learning, well-being and preparation for a career in healthcare. Our professional team ensures student-centred services that are efficient, effective and delivered in a professional and friendly manner to enhance the student experience.


Our vision for research is to generate and implement high quality world leading research to enhance the health and wellbeing of our community.

Our research has a strong focus on implementation and health services research across the lifespan, including the use of digital health to develop innovative models of care delivery and improve access to health care. Our world-leading researchers have high success in obtaining competitive grants, disseminating research findings widely, and translating our research into clinical practice and our education programs to ensure meaningful impact. We strive to create a climate of research excellence and leadership within the profession, including through our research joint appointments with our major clinical partners. Our large cohort of graduate researcher students and early- to mid-career postdoctoral researchers are well supported with quality supervision and resources and our graduate researchers have excellent completion rates. We are proud to have internationally renowned researchers in the fields of musculoskeletal (Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports medicine: CHESM), paediatrics, women's health, education, and cardiorespiratory and neurological physiotherapy. Academics who undertake research also teach strengthening our teaching – research nexus and ensuring student information stays relevant and evidence based. Our researchers work on campus, including in our large gait laboratory, and in clinical/community settings.


Our mission for engagement is to connect, celebrate and engage with current students, staff, alumni, clinical partners, and consumers in order to build life long and mutually beneficial relationships for the advancement of the Department of Physiotherapy and its alumni.

To achieve deeper engagement with our stakeholders, our engagement goals centre around enhancing the student experience in all that we do, strengthening our visibility and championing our success, maximising the impact of knowledge-gain developed by our researchers and graduate research students, and forging a deeper partnership with traditional owners of the lands with which we engage.

Final Word

My top 5 advice tips to my younger self are:

  1. Get yourself a good mentor – no make that two.
  2. Take (calculated) risks, say yes often, don’t be afraid to take the B-line – you just never know where this will lead you (but be strategic, don’t be scared to say no to dead ends)
  3. Reflect often – how did today go, did I make an impact, what could I have done differently?
  4. Own up to mistakes, it’s ok to say you’re wrong – people will respect you for it
  5. Be kind and pay it back – mentor, sponsor, support, celebrate others often.

Associate Professor Fiona Dobson
Department of Physiotherapy, Melbourne School of Health Sciences