Rick Leventer, PhD FRACP

Understanding the causes and outcomes of neurogenetic diseases focussing on brain malformations and leukodystrophies

Rick has a MBBS (Hons) and BMedSci (Hons) from Monash University and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He is a full time consultant paediatric neurologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, a group leader in neuroscience research at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and a Senior Lecturer in the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics.

Interview by Russell Dale


Tell me about your interest in child neurology.

My interest in the brain began as a medical student during lectures in biological psychiatry. I subsequently did a BMedSci in schizophrenia and later became more interested in brain development and paediatric neurology. In the mid-1990’s I was a neurology fellow at the Royal Children’s Hospital and spent 12 months analysing the MRI scans of 109 children with brain malformations. I went on to do further training in Child Neurology at Washington University, St Louis followed by a Neurogenetic Research Fellowship with Bill Dobyns and David Ledbetter at The University of Chicago Department of Human Genetics Brain Malformation Program. During this time, I received training in the clinical, imaging and genetic aspects of brain malformations, including laboratory training in gene sequencing. In 2001 I returned to Australia as a Paediatric Neurology Consultant and subsequently completed my PhD in the topic of cortical malformations.


Who are your main collaborators in your research?

I work with a team of local, national and international collaborators in neurology, neuroimaging, genetics, neurobiology and neuropsychology.


What would be the strengths of Australia and New Zealand multicentre collaboration?

We are a relatively small group of child neurologists and see the majority of children with neurological disorders through a limited number of centres. We therefore have the ability to ascertain large cohorts of well-phenotyped patients for collaborative study.


What would you say are the barriers to research?

Our hospitals need to value the role of the clinician researcher to improving the care of children with neurological disorders, and to show this recognition in the structure of the jobs available to child neurologists.


If you were to give advice to a trainee, what would it be?

Find a clinical and research niche within child neurology that excites you and that will benefit your patients. Then try and structure your work from the outset to allow you to pursue a balance of clinical, research and teaching activities.


What is your favourite thing to do in Victoria?

Horse riding in the high country.


Thanks Rick.