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Research has revolutionised the lives of people with asthma

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Our history

The 1950s was a dark time for mothers of children with asthma. The medical profession didn’t recognise asthma as a proper medical condition and even insisted it was the result of “over-protective mothering”.

As history can testify, great partnerships and great institutions are built on a chance meeting somewhere. Such was the case when Mickie Halliday (as she was then known) met Leila Schmidt at a picnic at Sydney’s Lane Cove Park in October 1960. Both had children with severe asthma and both had found it difficult to get help and treatment for their children. Both had experienced asthma attacks, and in those days a severe asthma attack was remedied by an injection of adrenalin to the heart! As they spoke they discovered a mutual interest in raising money to support medical research into a cure for asthma.

Asthma Foundation NSW is created 

But when Mickie approached the medical fraternity with an offer to raise money for research, provided it was spent on asthma, the scientists told her that she was welcome to raise money, but they would decide what it was spent on. Realising that they’d have to go it alone, Mickie and Leila set about establishing the Asthma Foundation of NSW which opened its doors in January 1962.

One of their first actions was to raise funds for the new Foundation. Almost £250,000 was collected through a door knock and various events - the largest amount ever raised by a charity in Australia at that time. In the end Mickie did get her way. With the help of Professor John Read, an eminent asthma researcher, she ensured the money was used for asthma research. 

Prominent researchers receive grants 

Asthma Foundation of NSW research grants launched the careers of a number of prominent researchers whose many achievements are in our Research Hall of Fame section:

  • Professor Ann Woolcock
  • Dr Euan Tovey
  • Dr Sandra Anderson
  • Professor Judy Black

They all made significant contributions to the understanding of the complex condition of asthma, and how best to manage it.

The Foundation has now been supporting asthma research for almost 50 years and is the largest independent source of research funding outside of the Commonwealth Government.

A national organisation is formed 

“Powerhouse” and “human dynamo” are often overused in the modern media, but either adjective could have been applied to Mickie who single-handedly established branches in most regional NSW centres and Foundations in every other state apart from the Northern Territory in the first five years of the Foundation’s existence.

Sadly, in January 2012 Mickie passed away, having seen the the Asthma Foundation reach its 50th anniversary. She would be delighted to see the national growth of the Asthma Foundations around Australia, all committed to providing help and support to people with asthma.

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