This will be my last message as CEO of Lung Foundation Australia.
After 13 years working at the Lung Foundation, and four in the role of Chief Executive Officer, it is with very mixed emotions that I leave an organisation which I am passionate about and which I have seen grow in significance, impact and reach.
When I first walked through the doors in our old Lutwyche office in 2005, there were seven of us. Our work largely revolved around Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but a very young program in lung cancer was also showing some promise. We had a network of patient support groups and a very new 1800 Information and Support Line.
I now look around the office and see a full time staff of 27. Amongst them, we employ seven health professionals. 40% of our staff have a Masters degree or above.
I am very proud to have been part of an organisation that now fulfills the promise of its name – offering support across all lung disease, whether that is COPD, lung cancer, Interstitial Lung Disease, Pulmonary Hypertension, bronchiectasis or childhood lung diseases. We have a network of Lungs in Action exercise classes across the country. We have a specialised Lung Cancer Support Nurse available to provide expert advice to those trying to meet the challenges of this devastating disease. And we have raised funds to replicate this service for those with respiratory disease. In fact, last year, 27 people a day contacted Lung Foundation Australia for information, support and guidance – a testament to the wonderful staff at the end of the line.
We have also worked hard to increase awareness of lung disease, urgency around acting on symptoms and the fact that Lung Foundation Australia is here to help. When I took on the CEO role, a little more than 1 in 5 Australians over 18 knew who we were3. As I leave, this has increased to 1 in 34.
Our work to become a credible source of advice for government has also borne fruit. Last year alone, we held three successful parliamentary friends events, lodged 14 government submissions and are waiting for the outcome of our application for a Medicare Benefits Scheme subsidy for community-based pulmonary rehabilitation. We have recently been funded by the federal government to develop a National Strategic Action Plan for Lung Disease. You can read more on page 2 about this.
Our support for research has seen a significant increase in the past four years. Our awards program has grown by 180% since 2015 – from $390,000 in award funding to $1.1 million last year. In addition to this, we raise funds and support important research initiatives, including our Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) Registry (routinely hailed as the best in the world); our new Bronchiectasis Registry which is already presenting data at international conferences; and our Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group. Last year alone, it initiated and sourced funding of $7 million for seven new lung cancer trials that will involve 700 patients over the lives of those patients.
I believe I am now handing over an organisation whose reputation has been enhanced, which is regarded as a credible source of guidance for government, which is more accountable to its Board, which is a solid contributor to lung research; which is recognised as a good collaborator; a credible source of training and patient support and which is a very attractive proposition to recruit excellent staff.
These achievements are the result of a very hard working and passionate team at the Lung Foundation. They are the result of a committed Board, very ably led by Prof Christine Jenkins. And they are a result of outstanding contributions from our clinical and community volunteers, including an increasing number of very engaged and articulate patient advocates.
It has been a pleasure to work with all of you to achieve all of this. I am proud of what we have achieved together. I wish the Lung Foundation, under the leadership of a new CEO, the very best for the future.
3 Galaxy Research Omnibus, January 2014 (wave 1)
4 Galaxy Research Omnibus, March 2018