Calling Snorers and Asthmatics: Volunteers Wanted

Are you a snorer or an insomniac wanting to get a more restful night’s sleep? The solution may be right on your doorstep on Glebe’s main road.

The suburb is home to the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, the country’s leading facility for sleep and respiratory health research and treatment. Many of the Woolcock’s doctors are world-renowned medical researchers that form part of a 200-strong team dedicated to discovering new treatments and better diagnostic tools for sleep and breathing.

To keep innovating, the institute’s researchers are constantly putting exciting new treatments to the test and seeking NSW residents to get involved.

“Each year several hundred people enrol in our research to help their asthma, COPD, lung disease, insomnia or sleep apnea,” says the institute’s executive director Professor Carol Armour.

Currently scientists are seeking participants for more than a dozen studies, including work to investigate the benefits of sleeping pills on sleep apnea, another looking at whether COPD drugs really work, and tests to see if melatonin can stop people kicking and shouting in their sleep. 

Prof Armour explains the benefits of getting involved. “Our volunteers get no-cost access to top specialists, the latest treatments and disease management tools,” she says. Patients travel from across the state to have their condition regularly monitored by the best in the field but, she says, for those who are local, it may be even more appealing.

The institute has been on the corner of Glebe Point Road and Leichhardt Street, Glebe, since 2008. But its good work started in 1984 when Professor Ann Woolcock founded the world-leading Institute of Respiratory Medicine.

Born in the country town of Reynella, South Australia in 1937, Ann was the eldest of four children and grew up with a passion for science. Her inquisitive mind, determination and hard work saw her graduate an MD in 1967 and go on to make major discoveries in respiratory and sleep medicine. 

“Her research has had a fundamental impact on our understanding of the causes, natural history and determinants of poor lung health, in particular asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease,” Professor Armour says.

She worked for 17 years as a clinician, researcher and director at the institute, during which time she collected a raft of accolades and continued to innovate until her death from cancer in 2001. The institute was renamed in her honour in 2002 and outgrew its first home at The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, six years later. It relocated to the purpose-built laboratory and clinical complex in Glebe where it remains today, operating as a not-for-profit company with strong campus partnerships with the University of Sydney and other Universities in NSW. The Institute also works in collaboration with Royal Prince Alfred, Concord and North Shore Hospital.

The institute has continued to innovate over the years, producing research to, among other things, better diagnose sleep disorders, predict asthma epidemics and improve TB screening for refugees and migrants. Researchers also worked with government to make school heaters healthier and develop Australian guidelines for the best treatment for sleep and respiratory disorders.

Aside from research, the Woolcock operates a medical clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of all sleep and respiratory-related conditions. Patients can make appointments to get access to world-leading clinicians and up-to-the-minute approaches to care. Specialists are available for consultations on sleep apnea, insomnia and other sleep complaints, and respiratory issues like COPD, emphysema, allergies, asthma and rhinitis.

“We are very proud to know our discoveries have made a difference in people’s lives,” Professor Armour says. “With so much achieved to date, imagine what your involvement can help us achieve tomorrow.”

If you’re interested in participating, visit http://woolcock.org.au/participate-in-research/ to see the full offering of research studies currently underway. You can contact us by phone on 02 9114 0000.