|Proud moment: Leigh celebrates his graduation with his two children|
In 2015 Leigh completed his final year of medicine, most of it with Monash Rural Health. This year, he will become an intern at Central Gippsland Health Service (CGHS) Sale campus.
After 25 years as an airforce pilot, the last 16 at East Sale RAAF Base, Leigh had what he described as a “midlife crisis”. “Many factors influenced my decision,” Leigh said. “I’d hit that critical point in my career when it was either climb up the command chain and sit behind a desk, get out and fly for a commercial airline or change careers.”
Ironically, Leigh had wanted to become a doctor since high school. However he was also attracted to military flying. “It was hard to decide which path to jump down but I chose the latter,” he said. “I have a strong science background which helped.”
After graduating from the Defence Academy in Canberra, Leigh completed pilot training in Perth, followed by stints in Sydney and Katherine before being posted to East Sale. He flew varied aircraft, including the Hercules, and spent considerable time on deployment including in the Middle East.
“Operational deployments change your outlook on life,” Leigh said.
So sponsored by the military, Leigh enrolled in the Monash graduate-entry medical course, completing his first year with Monash Rural Health in Churchill and the following years between Sale and Bairnsdale. It was the opportunity to study medicine in a rural or regional area that appealed to Leigh who didn’t want to disrupt family life – he is married with two children, aged ten and six.
“We really love living here and were reluctant to move,” he said. “We love the open spaces.”
The second year of his course saw Leigh studying in Sale while the third was predominantly with a GP clinic in Maffra and rotations between paediatrics and obstetrics at Sale Hospital. This, his final year, has seen three rotations at metropolitan hospitals and three rotations at Sale and Bairnsdale.
Starting his internship at Sale in the new year, after 10 weeks on rotation through emergency, general medical and general surgery at Sale Hospital, Leigh will undertake the remaining 20 weeks with the Clocktower Medical Clinic in Sale. He will then return to the military for five years where he will specialise in aviation medicine, but eventually he hopes to become a GP, preferably remaining in the local area.
“I’d be over the moon … I love general practice.”