The Alfred's Professor Robyn O’Hehir receives Order of Australia

The Alfred’s Professor Robyn O’Hehir received an Order of Australia (AO) in this year’s Australia Day honours, recognising her “distinguished service to clinical immunology and respiratory medicine as an academic and clinician, to tertiary education, and to specialist health and medical organisations.

Professor O’Hehir said she was honoured to receive the award and pleased that it brings recognition to her specialised area of research and clinical practice.

“My career has been exciting, because I have been able to work on an important clinical problem in Australia.

“I am proud that my research, which hunts for novel methods to switch off allergic responses, is both laboratory-based and at the same time allows me to see and treat patients. We emphasise translation, taking our findings from the specialist lab to the patient’s bedside, to the entire community.”

Professor O’Hehir is known internationally for her innovative research in allergy and respiratory medicine and has headed the Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine at The Alfred and Monash University for the past ten years.

Among her many accomplishments, Professor O’Hehir was the first to identify and grow the immune cells that recognise the specific portion of a protein that causes allergy. This led to immunotherapy to prevent allergy and asthma due to house dust mite and pollen.  

She is now testing this approach for peanut allergy, which can cause severe reactions and even death from anaphylaxis in some children. She is also pioneering the use of a novel drug to treat inflammatory lung disease and cystic fibrosis.

Professor O’Hehir said her work would not have been possible without the support of her colleagues and that she hoped she could help others, particularly young women who wish to follow in her footsteps.

“I have had wonderful support for my research and my clinical leadership from Monash University and my colleagues in allergy, immunology and respiratory medicine at The Alfred.

“As one of the far-too-few female Professors of Medicine in Australia, I try to provide a role model for the many excellent women entering and practicing medicine, showing it is possible to combine clinical care, research, education and family life”.