UQ’s Fine Fellows

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship scheme is a professional recognition scheme for university educators. It provides an international benchmark for teaching quality.

Following a successful pilot in 2016 and further development across the last year by The Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation (ITaLI) alongside school and faculty partners, the UQ HEA Fellowship scheme is now institutionally accredited by Advance HE (UK).

This enables ITaLI to manage and administer internal HEA Fellowship applications for the benefit of all staff (both academic and professional) working in Teaching and Learning at UQ.

At UQ, the HEA scheme is one way the university is building and acknowledging a community of great teachers creating change. Read about one of our newest HEA Fellows below.


Dr Leanne Coombe (SFHEA) from the Faculty of Medicine specialises in Indigenous public health, cross-cultural education and curriculum design. Her greatest passion outside of teaching is music; she is a classical first soprano with the Brisbane Chorale, Canticum Chamber Choir. Leanne's talent has seen her perform in the community chorus for the Opera Australia production of Aida on the Beach, in the Grand Hall of the Sydney Opera House, and later this year New Zealand, where she will sing in concert with Auckland Choral. Before her role at UQ, Leanne’s career saw her work in Japan, Papua New Guinea and Samoa for organisations such as the World Health Organisation.


Teaching journey

On finishing high school, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree with the aim of going on to undertake a Diploma in Education so that I could be a secondary school teacher. To pay my way, I got a part time position working as a receptionist in a medical and dental clinic. That, is where my life course changed and my interest in becoming a health professional took hold. I dropped out of my Arts degree and went on to become a Dental and Oral Health Therapist. I also left the city lights and went to work in the rural and remote communities of Far North Queensland where I began working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It was here that I was introduced to the disparities in health status between Indigenous and Non-indigenous Australians, and realised the importance of the social determinants of health. A commitment to helping address these disparities became my career’s motivation and eventually led me to my current role, which has finally fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher. I am now an academic specialising in Indigenous public health, but I have also become a cross-cultural education and curriculum design expert.

HEA experience

I really enjoyed the HEA application process and the opportunity to reflect on the journey I have taken to become the academic I am today. It isn’t often you have the opportunity to map out the stages of your career and realise how different roles and experiences have influenced your teaching philosophy and practice.

Working in a support and mentoring role means I don’t often get credit for the end product. It was therefore gratifying to acknowledge and achieve recognition for some of my major career achievements. It gave me the space to acknowledge ownership of the impact I have had on the teaching practices of others.

I am thrilled to be part of an international network of recognised higher education teaching and learning experts.

HEA has enhanced not just my outlook on my career but the opportunities. Being a Fellow is already opening doors to a whole range of interdisciplinary partnerships, which as a public health academic is really exciting.

Memorable teaching moment

I recently found out that one of the Aboriginal medical students I taught at The University of Melbourne has taken up an academic position teaching Indigenous health into the medical program. She contacted me to convey her disappointment when she learned that the course I used to teach is no longer being delivered and commented that she is keen to redesign the curriculum to reinstate it!

Teaching philosophy

I firmly believe it is important that Indigenous health is taught using a strengths-based approach rather than deficit model that reinforces negative stereotypes. By this I do not mean that issues are ‘glossed over’, but rather students are provided with examples of positive and successful interventions that have provided solutions to the complex health issues in partnership with Indigenous peoples. Equally though, I have observed that it provides a safe environment for those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who may be included in the class. It not only respects their position as one of the First Peoples of Australia, but it validates the strengths they personally possess and empowers them to contribute to solutions, instead of reinforcing their Indigeneity as a health ‘risk.’

Career goal

I would like to see Indigenous health content fully integrated and taught utilising a strengths-based approach in all health professional education programs at UQ.