Professor Kate Leslie AO

Citation for the Award of Doctor of Medical Science (honoris causa)

In Andrew Mezei’s 2014 Archibald Prize short-listed portrait, Morpheus, Professor Kate Leslie sits by a pool; goldfish drift beneath ripples gently spreading from where her hand grazes the surface, and petals, fallen from a loose cluster of poppies nearby, float on top. Kate’s gaze, aimed directly at the viewer, is calm and steady. The insight this tranquil portrait affords us, into Kate Leslie and into the nature of her specialty, anaesthesia, speaks of the boundary between sleep and wakefulness, or more accurately, between the conscious and unconscious states. This dichotomy is also reflected in the nature of anaesthesia – a medical specialty where success is proved by the absence of awareness, by the lack of pain and by a smooth transition to life after surgery.

The discovery and clinical introduction of anaesthesia is commonly accepted as one of the most important turning points in medical history, making modern surgery possible and revolutionising our experience of pain. Anaesthesia is so successful that most people don’t give it a second thought but Kate Leslie has made a special study of what happens on those relatively rare occasions when anaesthesia doesn’t work and recovery doesn’t proceed as planned. Her work has led to a marked reduction in anaesthetic awareness during surgery, and improved long-term recovery and quality of life for patients, and has helped place the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network at the forefront of anaesthesia research internationally.

In addition to her exemplary clinical and research contributions, Kate Leslie has made many distinguished contributions to the leadership of her profession and is a strong advocate for women in leadership in medicine and health. She has a long and deep association with ANZCA, and in 2010 was the youngest person and only the second woman to be elected President of the College. Her professional leadership contributions also extend to roles with the Australian Medical Council, the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists.

Kate Leslie has published over 170 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She has been invited to deliver more than 250 local, national and international presentations and her editorial expertise is sought by several leading specialist anaesthesia journals. She is also one of the six editors of Miller’s Anesthesia (the premier anaesthesia textbook worldwide).

The merit of Kate Leslie’s contributions to medicine has been widely recognised by her profession and the wider community. She has been awarded the ANZCA Robert Orton Medal for distinguished service to anaesthesia, named the Australian Medical Association Woman of the Year, awarded Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

For her highly distinguished clinical, research and leadership contributions to the medical profession and to the advancement of anaesthesia, Professor Kate Leslie is awarded the Doctor of Medical Science honoris causa.