2022 Emily Hensley Award Recipient | Dr Francesca Valmorbida McSteen

2022 Emily Hensley Award Recipient | Dr Francesca Valmorbida McSteen

Focused on celebrating individuals 40 years old and under, the Emily Hensley Award gives past students of Melbourne Girls Grammar the opportunity to share what they’ve been doing since leaving school and inspire our current students and community to pursue their passions. 

After receiving a great deal of interest and nominations this year, the School and selection panel decided to award the Emily Hensley Award to two recipients. We are delighted to announce that Dr Francesca Valmorbida McSteen (2005) and Sarah Giles (2001) have been selected as the 2022 Emily Hensley Award recipients. Please join us in congratulating them. Francesca received her award at Speech Night on 30 November. Read more about her award and her achievements below, and click here to also read about Sarah’s nomination and award. 

DR Francesca Valmorbida MCSTEEN

Dr Francesca Valmorbida McSteen (2005) has demonstrated tremendous leadership during her many years of education and training. She has been a co-ordinator, educator, convenor, mentor, adviser, representative and is continuously seeking ways to contribute and make change for the better. Through this award, we want to recognise the significant contributions that Francesca has made to the community, to her profession and those around her.

According to her friend Athena Kellis (Scotis, 1965), Francesca was an outstanding student at MGGS, serving as Debating Captain, the Amnesty International Convenor and receiving prizes for excellence in French, English, Literature, Ethical Studies and the ‘Swannie Award’ for Debating at the Debaters Association Victoria in Year 12.  Francesca achieved a VCE score of 99.4 and excelled academically across all parts of the curriculum. She decided to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Monash University because she found the hospital environment fascinating and exhilarating during a work experience placement she completed during her time at school. After graduating from Monash University with excellent results, including a Distinction for her Pre-Intern Appraisal, and the John Desmond Prize for Occupational Medicine, she was selected for an internship at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2011.

During Francesca’s internship year, she happened to be allocated two psychiatry rotations, and fell in love with the specialty. She completed her residency in 2012, which confirmed her passion, and began her training as a Psychiatric Registrar at North Western Mental Health. Francesca experienced working through a variety of units, clinics and hospitals with adolescents, adults and seniors through the gamut of mental health conditions. During this time, she also studied for her Master of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, achieving First Class Honours. She was admitted to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), where she reached the level of Fellow in March 2019.

“At school, I thought that I might be interested in psychiatry as I had done some extension literature classes with Dr Susan Schwartz who was a psychoanalyst and was an inspirational teacher. Once working as a junior doctor, I realised that I liked spending time with people and found their individual stories very interesting. As a psychiatrist I feel privileged to have people share their personal stories with me and find the opportunity to attempt to offer assistance at times of significant vulnerability very rewarding.”

With the hopes of studying a Master of Public Policy to add another branch to her knowledge base, Francesca applied to three prestigious schools: King’s College London, Cambridge, and Oxford University. She was offered a place at all three schools, and chose Oxford’s renowned Blavatnik School of Government, which accepts only 120 of the best and brightest masters students from over 70 countries. She reveled in the experience and graduated with Distinction, enabling her to add value in another area of passion: government mental health care system reform.

Becoming more aware of the limitations of our current health system has been one of the motivations to pursue my Master’s in public policy with a view to working to improve our system more broadly in the future.

Dr Francesca Valmorbida McSteen (2005) with her son at her graduation recently.


After 15 years of difficulty and exhausting study and training, Francesca has exhibited a tremendous amount of self-discipline to become a fully qualified psychiatrist, achieving outstanding gradings and assessments along the way.

Courage and Integrity  

After initially failing her final ‘scholarly project’ by the RANZCP, which delayed her several months in gaining her final letters of qualification, Francesca showed courage by bouncing back and not giving up on her dream. Although the scholarly work was reviewed on appeal and later passed, it was an unexpected set-back that changed her career plans for the next 18 months. It was the first time Francesca had faced such disappointment and the first time her future was not planned out in advance. Yet, it also opened possibilities and opportunities that led to what Francesca describes as “one of my most enjoyable and valuable experiences”.

She completed two stints as a Locum Psychiatrist at Bendigo Health, travelled to Oxford University to undertake a Master of Public Policy and served a three-month stint as a Policy Fellow at Mental Health Reform Victoria, which focused on implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Francesca displays a great amount of courage and integrity when performing her duties as a psychiatrist, often visiting people in homeless shelters, boarding houses and even in the streets and alleyways of our city. The work can be risky and can involve support from Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and various charities.


Francesca’s compassion shines through in her commitment to improving access to treatment and quality of life for people with chronic severe mental illness. This is a key area where she is aiming to contribute through system and policy reforms that create accessible and comprehensive community programs.

Francesca has also spent time as an English tutor and mentor in the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning Program from 2009 to 2011. She worked each Sunday morning with children aged 5-15 helping them with homework, job applications, language skills and simply having someone to assist and mentor them.

Francesca has excellent references who all speak very highly of her work ethic and achievements. 

“She has completed her fellowship training (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry). Over this period, she has completed her fellowship training and the University of Melbourne Masters of Psychological Medicine (MPM) to a very high standard, and has taken on leadership roles as the principal registrar of the Royal Melbourne Hospital Department of Psychiatry, supervising and teaching junior doctors and medical students capably, and co-ordinating many aspects of the clinical service within the hospital. She is respected and well-liked by colleagues and the senior medical staff and has proven herself to be a highly competent clinician and future leader.” – Dr Paul Cammell

“She is well-liked throughout the service, is hard-working and motivated, a very competent clinician and leader among her peers. Francesca has shown outstanding academic excellence, completing her Masters of Psychiatry with Melbourne University, graduating in 2015 with first class honours.” – Dr Richard Yeatman

At just 34 years of age, Francesca is at the launching point of her professional career and is formidably equipped to have a profound impact on mental health in Victoria and Australia. She is currently working as a Psychiatrist at The Alfred Hospital and will return to The Royal Melbourne Hospital, after a period of maternity leave, next year. Currently she is doing Consultation Liaison work at the Alfred Hospital with the lung transplant team but will return to work in Homeless Outreach Psychiatry at Royal Melbourne in October next year. Francesca continues to dedicate her career in the mental health sector, with the hope to improve the current health system more broadly in the future.