Dr Leon Wall, Australia
After passing exams to gain admittance to the Australasian College of Dermatologists in 1969, Leon Wall entered private dermatology practice in Perth, Western Australia. He found the great plethora of conditions seen in private practice a great challenge, but none more so than contact dermatitis and occupational dermatology.
In 1978, the opportunity came for him to take a year off from private practice and spend a year overseas to gain further experience in this area. He spent 3 months with Terence Ryan at Oxford University hospitals and then 9 months under the tutelage of Professor Charles Calnan and Drs Etain Cronin and Richard Rycroft in the Contact Dermatitis Clinic at St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin in London.
In that 9 months, he spent most days in the Contact Clinic but also visited numerous factories trying to track down the causes of some cases of occupational dermatological disorders. This led to various publications including “Occupational Nickel Dermatitis in the Electroforming Industry”, “Occupational Exposure to Viral Warts in Meat Handlers” and “Nickel Penetration through Rubber Gloves”.
In the early 1980s, Leon ventured back to the Contact Clinic at St. John’s Hospital. On that journey, he also took the opportunity to visit other experts in the field, including Professors Jan Wahlberg in Stockholm, Niels Hjorth in Copenhagen and Sigfrid Fregert in Lund.
In 1989, he was deeply honoured to receive an invitation, via Howard Maibach, to join the ICDRG and readily accepted. He remained for only 3 years as he found the travel involved, to do justice to the position, impinged heavily on commitments in Perth. At that time, Leon was the only dermatologist in Perth committed to investigating patients with contact and occupational skin diseases and this required him to be present for a large part of the year. Nonetheless, he counted his years with the ICDRG as invaluable experience in the field.
In the early 1990s he commenced the momentous task of following up all the cases he had previously seen with documented occupational skin diseases, numbering just under 1000 patients. This lead to a number of publications: “Occupational Skin Disease in Western Australia”, “Attitudes Towards and Knowledge of Occupational Skin Disease”, “Prognosis of Occupational Chromate Dermatitis” and finally, “A Follow-up Study of Occupational Skin Disease in Western Australia”.
It was during the latter study that he first coined the term “persistent post occupational disease” (PPOD). It describes a group of workers who, after suffering from an occupational skin disease, and not having previously suffered any skin ailments nor being atopic, were left with ongoing, and often crippling skin disease.
Leon retired from active practice in December 2009 but continued teaching in the fields of contact and occupational dermatitis for a further 5 years.