Dr Marnie Graco receives the Rob Pierce grant

Honouring a legacy

Dr Marnie Graco on the left, and Professor Rob Pierce on the right

Professor Rob Pierce was the founding Director of the Institute for Breathing and Sleep (IBAS) here at Austin Health until he was tragically killed while defending his home in St Andrews during the Black Saturday bushfire in February 2009.

The Rob Pierce Grant in Aid was established by the Australasian Sleep Association in his memory and was first awarded in the year of the late professor’s untimely passing, to support an early career sleep researcher in their sleep research in Australia or New Zealand. 

So imagine the delight when this year the 2021 Rob Pierce Grant in Aid was awarded locally to Dr Marnie Graco – a physiotherapist and implementation scientist from IBAS.

Marnie’s research into sleep apnoea in people with spinal cord injury was borne from research funded by a $5 million TAC grant Rob was awarded just weeks before his death.​​​​​​​

“I commenced working at IBAS just months after Rob's death as the project manager for the TAC funded research to improve sleep health in quadriplegia ,” Marnie said. 

Marnie completed her PhD at IBAS on Improving the management of sleep apnoea in spinal cord injury. Her PhD discovered that sleep apnoea is highly prevalent in people with spinal cord injury, yet few people were receiving adequate management.

“The Rob Pierce grant will support my research into alternative models of care for identifying and treating sleep apnoea in people with spinal cord injury – a group with poor access to diagnosis and treatment,” Marnie said.  

“I’m piloting a novel rehabilitation-led approach to managing sleep apnoea in a spinal cord injury rehabilitation unit in Sydney.

“It is great to see the Rob Pierce Award return to its home on the 21st anniversary of IBAS. This work promises to improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury, just as Rob hoped.”

Many thanks to the Austin Health Communications team for permission to republish this article, which meets their approval.


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