Workforce-ready doctors with empathy and a real-world approach to challenges

Professor Prue Morgan with students
Professor Michelle Leech

Given its elite status as a medical course among those offered by the Group of Eight – the top research-intensive universities in the country – it’s hard to believe the Monash School of Medicine was established as recently as 1961, one hundred years after the previous medical school had opened in Australia.

As it celebrates its sixtieth year, the Monash School of Medicine reaches far and wide, leading the world in international medical research. The enduring partnerships it forges, with government, industry and other research institutions globally, make it a key player beyond the walls of academia. In a little over half a century, it has contributed to many clinical breakthroughs including in drug design, in vitro fertilisation, functional genomics and neuroscience, among many others.

A combination of diverse, world-leading clinical schools led by highly skilled clinician teachers, a focus on real-world solutions and an emphasis on both doctor and patient safety has made the Monash School of Medicine one of the most sought-after in the country – indeed, its medical course regularly ranks among the best in the world.

From its beginning, the course has prioritised patient safety and the development of workforce-ready medics. For all the clinical acumen and scientific expertise expected of medical students, they are training for a profession that has people and wellbeing at heart.

“There has always been a strong focus on communication at Monash, which is sometimes described as a soft skill,” says Deputy Dean (Medicine), Professor Michelle Leech.

“Above all, we’re training our students to arrive in the workforce ready to look after patients,’ says Professor Leech. “We want them to start that journey in a safe way and to thrive.”

Innovation is also central to the course’s success. It was one of the first to use simulation, and it is at the forefront of advances in public health and preventive medicine, and in the emerging area of telehealth.

The Faculty’s School of Rural Health is the oldest and one of the largest rural health schools in the country, and for the last ten years, the Faculty has been co-delivering a synchronous medical program with Monash University in Malaysia.

“The entire course is delivered in two countries, which is unique,” says Professor Leech. “We work closely with our colleagues in Malaysia to deliver an identical curriculum and assessment.”

Teaching innovations like the Patient Safety and Preparedness for Practice program, led by Associate Professor Julia Harrison, reinforce workforce readiness, and that the quality and safety of patient care is at the centre of all the work medical professionals do.

Monash School of Medicine also leads on prescribing safety. Prescribing errors are one of the main causes of patient death and medical error. “Monash was the first medical school in Australia to start using the Prescribing Skills Assessment,” Professor Leech says. “Under the leadership of Associate Professor Claire Harrison we’ve made it an intrinsic part of the final year course.”

Evidence-based practice has been a strong driver of excellence at the school since its inception. “COVID-19 has taught us we have big systems problems to solve in health – we need contingencies around things like online learning and pandemic response. Empowering young, clever people to be advocates and leaders, and to be part of solutions, is critical,” Professor Leech says.

“The ability to look at the research and evaluate it carefully has always been a very strong theme in our course,” says Professor Leech. “Students can uncover small but important practice-changing elements that make a big difference.” Research innovations like the Scholarly Intensive Placement, which is part of the MD course, allow students to build their research and investigation capabilities.

The final year of the course is structured so that interns are out in the workforce and embedded in multidisciplinary teams before they officially start. This builds good team behaviours and increases their exposure to and comfort with patients.

Professor Leech is an alumna of the very course she now leads. “When I entered the course in the 1980s, Monash had a reputation for being a forward-thinking and less “establishment” place,” Professor Leech says. “There is a commitment to continuous learning – ancora imparo – that continues to exist at Monash University, and I feel incredibly proud to be a Monash graduate, and to be a Monash medicine graduate.”

“I want to model a culture that encourages leadership and kindness; to ensure that education and learning are safe. If graduates feel supported and cared for in their learning it will make them better, more empathetic doctors – it will complement their clinical acumen.”

“People who feel safe make others feel safe - the ultimate goal of any doctor should be to make patients feel safe.”

Meet some of our medical alumni and find out about their career journeys since graduation and reflections on this milestone celebration for the School:

Explore more medical alumni stories:

1966 - 1969

1970 - 1979

1980 - 1989

1990 - 1999

2000 - 2009

2010 - 2021

  • Dr Pallavi Prathivadi - The honours degree of Bachelor of Medical Science 2010
  • Dr Tarinee Kuchal - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 2012
  • Dr John Clark - Bachelor of Medical Science 2013, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 2013, Master of Medicine 2018
  • Dr William Yan - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 2014
  • Dr Jennifer Tang - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2014
  • Dr Jarrel Seah - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2015
  • Dr Elvis Rapoo - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2016
  • Dr James Kemper - Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) 2017, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2018
  • Dr Patrick McLean - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2019
  • Dr Beau Wilson - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2019
  • Dr Sam Burrell - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2019
  • Dr Kyle Bennett - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2019
  • Dr Jesse Schnall - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2019
  • Dr Jessica Kemper - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) 2020
  • Dr Laura McArthur - Doctor of Medicine 2021, Bachelor of Medical Science 2021

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

For more news, visit Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences or Monash University.