Research pioneer retires after 50 years in medicine

Emeritus Professor Stephen Leeder

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has farewelled Stephen Leeder who has retired after more than 50 years of service to medicine.

An emeritus professor of public health and community medicine, Leeder’s achievements and contributions to WSLHD have been extensive, including as chair of the WSLHD Board from 2011 until 2016 and as director of the WSLHD Research and Education Network which he held for over a decade.

Reflecting on his time, Professor Leeder said he was proud to see the growth of the research network to include about 700 researchers and educators in western Sydney. 

“It has been exciting to watch our amazing researchers being acknowledged on the world stage and the special relationships that have been formed between the research entities in the Westmead Health Precinct,” Stephen said.

Emeritus Prof Leeder commemorates the opening of the new Blacktown Hospital Clinical Services Building in his former role as WSLHD board chair.

Professor Leeder’s association with WSLHD began in 1972 when he joined the planning team that oversaw the building of Westmead Hospital. He then went on to hold various positions in public health research, educational development and policy across Australia and the world and found his way back to WSLHD in 1985 to head up community medicine at Westmead Hospital.

A passion for public health was ignited early on in his career after he spent 1968 in Papua New Guinea. At the time whooping cough was causing havoc in some of the highlands regions where immunisation programs weren’t place. Here he witnessed firsthand the power of preventative public health through immunisation and maternal health programs.

WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy said that Professor Leeder’s commitment to education has ensured that Western Sydney has a research and medical workforce fit for the future.

Emeritus Prof Leeder will continue as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Epidemiology but otherwise enjoy a relaxed retirement.

“Stephen has been instrumental in advancing research and teaching at WSLHD and we thank him for his many years of service. There are many researchers and clinicians who have flourished under his guidance and mentoring,” Graeme said.

While he enters retirement with mixed emotions, Professor Leeder says he will miss the people and staff the most.

“My colleagues working in Western Sydney have always been willing to go the extra mile to support patients and I have been constantly impressed by their commitment to the community,” Stephen said.  

Professor Leeder will continue in his role as editor-in-chief of the renowned medical journal International Journal of Epidemiology but plans to take some time out, sort through his vast collections of books and papers and then will see what comes along next.