Following general medical training as a Lecturer in Medicine at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Irene Leigh trained as a dermatologist in the UK at St George’s Hospital (Registrar) and as a senior registrar at the Middlesex Hospital and St John’s Institute of Dermatology. In 1983 she established the Centre for Cutaneous Research at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London (BLSMD). During this period she has been appointed Professor of Dermatology (1992), Professor of Cell and Molecular Medicine (1999), Research Dean (1997-2002), Joint Research Director (2002-5), Dean for e-learning (2005-6).
In November 2006 she has been appointed Head of College and Vice Principal of Dundee University in November 2006 and re‑established a research laboratory in Dundee including the CR-UK Skin Tumour Laboratory to continue her research on non-melanoma skin cancer and genetic skin disease. She was President of the Association of Physicians of UK and Ireland in 2010 (Annual Meeting Dundee) and a council member of the Academy Medical Sciences (2009-2012). Having established courses in Global Public Health in Dundee in partnership with i-PRI, she retains a research directorship of i-PRI in Lyon.
Prof. Leigh also has a BAD Fellowship to work on educational programmes in global health (biostatistics and epidemiology) with i-pri in Southern Africa and Tanzania in 2017.
Her research has focused on the molecular mechanisms of skin cancer, genetic disease and tissue engineering and she is recognised as an international leader in those fields.