Prof Michelle Leech is a rheumatology consultant and deputy dean at Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine. It is hard to believe that she was once a self-described “shy” medical student that dreaded answering questions given her success as a doctor! Today, we walk to Prof Leech about how she evolved from timid medical student to academic pioneer and respected clinician.

Michelle thoroughly enjoys the clinical side of her specialty. For her, it comes down to taing a “good history” in order to tackle the “diagnostic dilemmas” she faces on a daily basis. Her description of a typical day is truly reflective of her university’s motto, “ancora imparo” (I am always learning). We learn lots about the perks of rheumatology, including the teams they interact with, and the cases encountered on the wards, which sound fascinating. Moreover, Michelle is able to delve into each in great detail with both the patient and their families. The constant opportunity to teach students and delve into research limits Prof Leech from getting “stuck in a rut”. Yet as with any specialty, dealing with patients can bring an emotional toll, especially in rheumatology where it can seem a “world of pain”.

We talk at length about the “training bottleneck” troubling many specialties, its impact on rheumatology, and where the future of specialty training may lie (literally – and it’s not in hospitals!). Other ideas, such as dual training and flexible working hours, are explained to us by our wonderful mentor. Michelle also gives us fantastic insight into her pathway to being an academic professor and researcher, and how this has helped her clinical work.

Michelle’s advice to use students is to simply “have a rest!”. We debate the origin and future of the hypercompetitive state of medical school which she believes is up to us as a group to “dial up and down”. Her opinion is that work and life exist on a “continuum”, not as separate entities, and that we should pursue that which keeps us “energises, and causes [us] to energise others” rather than to fill out our CVs. Wise words! Work and life is a “continuum”. She also implored young doctors to admit their vulnerability and ignorance, to lean on those around them for support, and share our stories with colleagues, to foster a supportive community that will stay with us through our junior years (and beyond).

Lots of interaction with ortho, ID, haem, resp.

If you have any other questions you’d like us to ask Dr Michelle Leech, fill out the form below or shoot us a message!

Pathways into Rheumatology

Medical School → Internship → Basic Physician’s Training (3 years full time equivalent) → Advanced Training in Rheumatology (3 years) → Consultant

Source: Royal Australian College of Physicians


According to the Australian Government Taxation Data, in the 2013-14 income year we had:

  • 50 female general medicine specialists earning an average of $169,409
  • 85 male general medicine specialists earning an average of $256,933
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TMC038: Rheumatology and Academics with Dr Michelle Leech
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