History

The Institute for Breathing and Sleep (IBAS) grew out of research and education activities within Austin Health's Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine.

Research and education within the fields of Respiratory and Sleep medicine at Austin Health increased steadily from the 1970s, with foundations established by Dr Alastair Campbell, whose epidemiologic studies of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the veteran population made seminal contributions to the understanding of the fundamentals of the causation of this disease.

Dr Campbell established one of Australia’s first respiratory function laboratories at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, and was responsible for a large number of research studies of lung function. Interest in the physiology of COPD, asthma and bronchiectasis and in the treatment of lung cancer grew rapidly because of the Department’s large clinical caseload. The importance of tobacco smoking and of atmospheric pollution in the development of COPD and lung cancer were acknowledged and pursued in terms of education and research.

In the 1980s, the Department continued to grow under the leadership of Dr Colin Barter, who initiated the first multidisciplinary lung cancer meeting in Melbourne and continued to foster physiological research as well as spearheading the development of Melbourne's first pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients with chronic lung disease.  At this time, the importance of the upper airway in breathing changes during sleep began to be recognised and became a further focus of research interest with the development of a comprehensive Sleep Disorders Service. Interest in the cardiovascular and neuropsychological consequences of sleep apnoea syndromes led to collaborative research programs. The role of sleep disordered breathing in causing driver sleepiness and a major factor in occupational health and safety across a broad range of occupations became a major research focus.

In the 1990s the Victorian Respiratory Support Service (VRSS) was established at Austin Health as a statewide centre for the management of patients with respiratory failure.   Research into non-invasive ventilatory support and its applicability to a wide range of patients with chronic neuromuscular disease commenced, alongside the development of clinical programs.  During this decade, the education of students within Medicine, Nursing, Physiotherapy and Respiratory Science was pursued with the development of a comprehensive range of teaching and training programs. Public education was also a focus, though the publication of education booklets and media.

Professor Rob Pierce succeeded Dr Barter as the Director of the Department in 1994 and led the area through the merging of the Repatriation and Austin Hospitals.  In 1998 the University of Melbourne recognised the pre-eminence of work done at Austin Health by establishing the inaugural Chair in Respiratory Medicine and appointed Professor Pierce to this role.

Prior to 2000, research and education in breathing and sleep at Austin Health and at the University of Melbourne were driven by efforts of individuals in a dedicated but relatively uncoordinated fashion. These efforts, though at times inspiring, had been necessarily staccato in the struggle to balance the competing demands of heavy clinical and laboratory workloads with the need for research and education.

The time had come when the research and education output had grown to a level where a more integrated and coordinated approach was required to facilitate future growth and development.

The creation of a research institute fitted with the trend in funding towards favouring collaborative groups rather than individuals working in isolation. It increases researchers’ abilities to produce highly sophisticated collaborative research protocols and proposals at short notice, as is often required. It also allows for funding to remain separate from clinical activities and be more closely accountable.

IBAS was incorporated on 7 July 2000.  An opening event was held in December 2000. Speakers included Professor Rob Pierce (CEO), Mr Bill Noonan (Director), Ms Jennifer Williams (Austin CEO) and Mr John Thwaites (Victorian Minister for Health).  The inaugural Chairperson, Mr Kevin Ferguson, served in this capacity until resignation due to illness in 2014.

Despite their separate legal standing, IBAS and Austin Health have continued to be co-located and to work seamlessly together in their joint aim of improving prevention, diagnosis, treatment and education for those affected by respiratory and sleep conditions.

From 2000 through to 2008, under the leadership of Professor Rob Pierce, IBAS became the home of research within sleep and respiratory medicine at Austin Health.  Major grants were awarded, including National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grants.  The tradition of supporting research from the smallest projects through to major programs of research were continued.  Though education remains the primary objective of the Institute and the driver of individuals' work, research is the most predominant activity on a day-to-day basis.

The year 2009 started brightly with the awarding of IBAS' largest program of research to date - the Sleep Health In Quadriplegia (SHiQ) program.  The following day however brought Black Saturday, the worst bushfires in the history of Victoria.  Professor Pierce died defending his home and his loss was felt on the deepest level both personally and professionally by all within IBAS.  Much of Professor Pierce's work was continued by colleagues and his name continues to feature on publications reporting the outcomes of his research projects.

Professor Christine McDonald took over the leadership of IBAS, initially in April 2009 in an acting capacity and then formally from 2010 to May 2015.  This period saw both growth and consolidation within the Institute, with the formalization of many of the aspects of the Institute which have served it well since its inception.

In May 2015 Dr David Berlowitz was appointed to the position of Chief Executive.



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Institute for Breathing and Sleep

Level 5, Harold Stokes Building, Austin Hospital
145 Studley Road
Heidelberg, Victoria, 3084

(03) 9496 5390

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