Professor Robyn O’Hehir is a leading international figure in allergy and asthma research.
As a consultant physician, Robyn treats patients with allergies and other diseases caused by benefits. She combines her clinical work and research interests in her role as Professor/Director of Respiratory Medicine, Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Research) at Monash University and The Alfred hospital.
Over 30 years she has developed important techniques for studying how allergic reactions and anaphylaxis are triggered. Her work has initiated changes in allergy management, such as allergy shots for house dust mite and grass pollen allergies, hay fever medications that protect against the common grasses here in Victoria, and policies for latex-free hospitals. Her work has also helped to shift therapies for asthma and food and drug allergies away from hospitals to primary care physicians. A significant breakthrough by Robyn’s team resulted in the first clinical trials of a peptide- based therapy to prevent allergic reactions to peanuts.
In 2016, high pollen levels coincided with sudden changes in temperature and wind direction to create a ‘thunderstorm asthma’ crisis. Tragically, this resulted in ten deaths. More than 9,000 Victorians were affected and over 1,000 attended hospitals for assistance. Robyn was a member of the Department of Health and Human Services group that studied this event and developed a state initiative outlining future response strategies. While trialling new treatments for thunderstorm asthma, her research team discovered that a tablet used for hay fever could provide long-term protection.
Robyn has developed world-first treatments for life-threatening allergies and innovative techniques that will continue to improve our understanding of why allergies occur. Robyn has received many honours for her outstanding contributions to respiratory medicine and, in 2016, was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Reviewed 06 March 2019