Robert Adams

Professor Robert Adams

Professor of Medicine

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Professor Robert Adams, MBBS, FRACP, FRCP (London), MD is a specialist respiratory and general physician with extensive experience in public health, clinical epidemiology and health services research. He completed post-doctoral training at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and is Adjunct Professor in the Discipline of Medicine at The University of Adelaide, Professor of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine and Medical Director, Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health (AISH) at Flinders University.

Prof Adams has extensive experience with large population based cohort studies. He is Principal Investigator of The North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS) and co-led the process of harmonisation with the Florey Adelaide Male Ageing Study (FAMAS), such that there are now over 2000 men aged over 35 being followed in the Male Androgen, Inflammation, Lifestyle, Environment and Stress (MAILES) study with a further 2000 women in the cohort. He was responsible for the conduct of sleep studies in almost 850 men in the MAILES cohort, one of the largest studies worldwide of sleep health in the community.

He has designed and successfully implemented trials in the diagnosis and management of asthma, health service improvement and initiated cohort studies in mental health patients. He has been CI on NHMRC and ARC projects that examine health ageing in relation to obesity, and spatial epidemiology of metabolic health, and is a CI on the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence National Centre for Sleep Health Services Research.

He has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications in journals and books, including top ranked journals in clinical endocrinology (Diabetes Care), allergy (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology), sleep (Sleep), and respiratory medicine (American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine).

Prof Adams has also contributed to health system safety research and practice. He led the TeamSTEPPS teamwork training program at SA Health and is a member of the board of the Australian Patient Safety Foundation. He was the Inaugural Chair of the SA Health Literacy Alliance. He is a member of the Translational Methods Sub-committee of the newly formed South Australian Advanced Health and Research Translation Centre, one of the four recognized nationally by the NHMRC.

Prof Adams is a founding member of, a multidisciplinary group including clinicians, mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists and others, that aims to apply systems thinking, design thinking, mathematical modelling (including the use of simulation), and operations research to achieve lasting transformative reform in healthcare.

Research Overview 

The Health Observatory is a specialist population research centre conducting a number of large scale representative population studies on health surveillance of chronic disease and related factors. The ultimate focus of the Observatory is to contribute to positive ageing by improving population health across the life span. The work involves the tracking of population health to identify gaps/targets that can be better addressed through prevention strategies and/or better management of chronic conditions and conditions associated with ageing.

Examples of ongoing cohort studies include:

i) the North-West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS), which has followed over 4000 adults since 2000 for a range of biopsychosocial and environmental variables, including bone mineral density, and resulted in over 200 publications so far (see and )

ii) The South Australian Giant Cell Arteritis Registry, involving DNA collection and genotyping studies as well as epidemiological studies (see Intern Med J 2014;44:32-39;  doi:10.1111/imj.12293)

iii) the Men, Androgens, Inflammation, Lifestyle, Environment Study (MAILES), which aims to examine non-traditional risk factors associated with the development of cardio-metabolic disease in men, and is following n=1629 men aged 40 years and over (see )

Research opportunities exist at all levels from undergraduate student projects to PhD and Post-doctoral level for enthusiastic candidates. 

His current research is focused in two areas:

 1. Sleep Health

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is very common, with up to half of adults having some form of the condition. OSA has a large negative effect on a number of areas of health - ie heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, mental health, accidents and quality of life.

In collaboration with colleagues at The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health and the Woolcock Institute at Sydney University, current research projects aim to better identify who is at risk of adverse health outcomes out of the large pool of people in the community who have some form of sleep apnea.  This works includes seeing if new markers of OSA on sleep studies (qEEG power spectral analysis, hypoxic burden, heart rate variability) can be used to improve the precision for identifying those at risk of adverse consequences. Work with other colleagues focuses on health economics analyses, including cost per DALY/QALY and decision analytic simulation studies for treatments of sleep apnea.

Clinical studies aim to examine the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and re-admissions to hospital for acute heart failure.

At The National Centre for Sleep Health Services Research ( we gather evidence on the community care for people with sleep disorders and investigate new practical approaches to improving sleep health service delivery in primary care in Australia and internationally. This new information will be incorporated into evidence- based primary care practice guidelines and practice change promulgated though policy initiatives where appropriate.

 2. - The Australian Health Care Modelling and Systems Design Collaboration

The Collaboration brings together many clinicians and modelers who have worked across Australia over the last 10-20 years. recognises the importance and potential to apply the following to achieve reform in health: Systems thinking; Design thinking; Mathematical modeling (including the use of simulation), and Operations research.

Simulation modeling is a means of communicating and discussing the proposed changes to the healthcare system with stakeholder groups before any changes are made.

Current projects include i) multi-method simulation modelling of Mental Health patient care across Adelaide; ii) simulation modelling for re-designing care in the ICU; iii) patient flow simulation in the Emergency Department; iv) patient flow simulation in acute cardiac care. 

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2018 Professor of Respiratory and Sleep Health Flinders University
    2010 Professor (Level E) University of Adelaide
    2009 Director, The Health Observatory Basil Hetzel Research Institute
    2000 Consultant Physician in General Medicine Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2000 Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine Ashford Thoracics Centre
    1998 - 2000 Research Fellow Harvard Medical School
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2015 Award Prize Best Presentation Clinical Sleep Medicine Australasian Sleep Association Australia
    2008 Award Prize for Best Presentation on Environmental & Occupational Health Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand Australia
    2007 Award Prize for Best Presentation on Environmental & Occupational Health Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand New Zealand
    1998 Fellowship Research Fellowship for Respiratory Medicine Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand / Allen & Hanburys
    1997 Award Finalist, Young Investigator Award Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand
    1996 Scholarship Reginald Walker Scholarship for Medical Research The University of Adelaide Australia
    1995 Fellowship Research Fellow The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation Australia
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1999 University of Adelaide Australia Doctor of Medicine (MD)
    1994 Monash University Australia Graduate Course in Health Economics
    1986 University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB,BS)
  • Postgraduate Training

    Date Title Institution Country
    2012 Fellow Royal College of Physicians United Kingdom
    1995 Fellowship Royal Australasian College of Physicians Australia
  • Research Interests

Research Funding (since appointment 2001)

Effect of sex steroids, inflammation, environmental and biopsychosocial factors on cardiometabolic disease risk in men. NHMRC Project Grant 627227

(Investigators: Wittert G, Wilson D, Travision T, Adams R, Taylor A, McKinlay J, Jenkins A, Milne R, Hugo G, Atlantic E).

$1.7 million


Linking Place to Metabolic Syndrome via Behavioural and Psychosocial Antecedents: Levers for Public Health Intervention. NHMRC Project Grant 631917

(Investigators: Daniel M, Hugo G, Paquet C, Taylor A, Cargo M, Adams R).


Linking Place to Metabolic Syndrome via Behavioural and Psychosocial Antecedents: Levers for Public Health Intervention. NHMRC Partnership Grant 570150

(Investigators: Daniel M, Hugo G, Paquet C, Taylor A, Cargo M, Adams R).


Australia's Baby Boomer Generation, Obesity and Work - Patterns, Causes and Implications. ARC Linkage Grant LP0990065

(Investigators: GJ Hugo, GA Wittert, RJ Adams, L Cobiac, M Daniel, CC Findlay, AW Taylor, DH Wilson, HR Winefield, AL Woollacott, R Ruffin).

$1,357 million


Establishing the safety and effectiveness of a diagnostic therapeutic trial for asthma in community elderly.  NHMRC Project Grant, No 339124

(Investigators- R. Adams, D. Wilson, R. Visvanathan, J. Beltrame).


Spirometry in asthma management in children and adults in general practice.

NHMRC Project Grant, No 349573

(Investigators- A. Crockett, J. Beilby, P. Mudge, P. Ryan, R. Adams, R. Staugas, N. Stocks).


Obesity, Health, Social Disadvantage and Environment in Australia: Relationships and Policy Implications. Australian Research Council Linkage Grant LP0455737,

(Investigators - G. Hugo, R. Ruffin, G. Wittert, R. Adams, A. Taylor).


Enhancing the management of people living with chronic conditions: understanding the social space that is ‘the consultation’.  ARC Discovery Projects, DP0452805,

(Investigators- J. Cheek, K. Price, R. Adams, D. Wilson).

Other competitive grants

A survey of sleep health in Australia. Sleep Health Foundation,

(Investigators: R Adams, A Taylor, D McEvoy, N Antic, T Gill)


Obstructive sleep apnea-related autonomic disturbance. ResMed Foundation,

(Investigators: R Adams, D McEvoy, G Wittert, N Antic, A Vakulin, A D’Rozario)


The Promulgation of Operational Research, Systems Thinking and Design Thinking within the Australian Health Care Sector. Premier’s International Research Fund

(Investigators: M Mackay, R Adams, N Bean)


Partners in Recovery - Pilot Project of Consumer centred care; developing an electronic communication, care and evaluation platform for Partners in Recovery.

(Investigators: R Adams, G Jones).

2012 The Mental Health Observatory, Country Health SA $70,000

Investigating sleep apnea in a community-based sample of men. ResMed Foundation,

(Investigators: R Adams, D McEvoy, G Wittert).


“Asthma app”, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation Small Grants

(Investigators: S Appleton, R Adams)


The Health Observatory. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation Program Grant. 2009-2013

(Investigators: Adams R, Wilson D, Hill C, Visvanathan R, Ruffin R, Wittert G).

$1.25 million

Proposal to develop, implement & evaluate TeamSTEPPS Teamwork Training System.

Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare / Commonwealth Dept. of Health & Aging.  RFT 376/0607,

(Investigators: R. Adams, C. Pirone, K. Stead, R.Webb).


Pilot Study Of Materials For The Diagnosis Of Asthma In Older People In General Practice.

Commonwealth Dept. of Health & Aging,

(Investigators- R. Ruffin, R. Adams, D. Wilson, J. Beilby, J. Cheek).

2004 Pressure Ulcer Prevention Practices Integration of Evidence in SA (PUPPIES) Collaborative. SA Safety & Quality Council


(Project Sponsor).


Communication and Teamwork in Healthcare Training Workshops,

SA Safety & Quality Council, (Co-investigators- Paddy Phillips, R. Adams).


North Western Adelaide Health Study,

Dept. Human Services, SA, Health Services Research Improvement Projects (HSRIP)

(Investigators- R. Ruffin, D. Wilson, A. Taylor, R. Adams, P. Phillips, J. Cheek).


A tender for the development of an algorithm for the diagnosis of asthma in the older person. Commonwealth Dept. of Health & Aging,

(Investigators- R. Ruffin, D. Wilson, R. Adams, J. Beilby, J. Cheek). 


Understanding consumer experience of adverse events- a qualitative study, SA Safety & Quality Council

(Investigators- R. Adams, J. Cheek, K. Price).


Proactive Risk Management and Computer-Facilitated Academic Detailing by Pharmacists. Medication Safety Awards Innovation Program, Australian Council for Safety & Quality in Health Care,

(Investigators- S. Shakib, J.Faunt, M. Pradhan, R. Adams).


Encouraging all surgical patients to self-report post-operative complications,

Safety Innovations in Practice (SIIP) Mark II Program, Australian Council for Safety & Quality in Healthcare

(Investigators- R. Adams, G. Maddern, A. Roex, B. Smith, S. Rowe).


Safe use of anticoagulants in South Australian hospitals,

SA Safety & Quality Council,


Evaluation of an Incident Reporting Intervention to Improve Hospital Systems (IRIS),

SA Safety & Quality Council,

(Investigators- B. Smith, G. Maddern, W. Runciman, R. Adams).


North Western Adelaide Health Study,

Dept. Human Services, SA,

(Investigators- R. Ruffin, D. Wilson, A. Taylor, P.Phillips, R. Adams, J. Cheek).

Professional Teaching
2008 Master Trainer, TeamStepps ™, Teamwork and Communication Training Program, SA Health
2005 - 2006 Teaching Faculty & Planning Group, Talking Heads Communication Training Workshops for Senior Clinicians, SA Dept. of Health/SA Safety & Quality Council
2003 - 2011 Teaching Faculty & Planning Group, Root Cause Analysis/Patient Safety Training Workshops, Dept. of Health
Conference Organisation
April 2003

Convener, Scientific Program Committee, Annual Scientific Meeting 2003,

Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand

July 2005
Scientific Program Committee, 3rd Australasian Quality in Health Care Conference.
Current Teaching:




Royal Australasian College of Physicians Fellowship Clinical Vivas   
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 Principal Supervisor Cardiopulmonary exercise testing for screening of pulmonary hypertension in a clinical population of Scleroderma patients. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mrs Sarah Ann Madigan
    2019 Co-Supervisor Risk factors of musculesceletal pain Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Claudia Kurkammz
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2015 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Diet and Epidemiology of Non-communicable Chronic Diseases: focusing on dietary and nutrient patterns and bone fragility in adults Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Yohannes Adama Melaku
    2014 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Schizophrenia and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Hannah Dawn Myles
    2012 - 2019 Principal Supervisor An Exploratory Investigation of the Oral Health of Hospitalised Older People Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Clare McNally
    2008 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Overcoming the Scoring Problem with SF-36 Component Summary Scores - A Method that Works Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Graeme Tucker
    2007 - 2011 Co-Supervisor Intertemporal Discounting as a Risk Factor for Obesity: An Economic Approach Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Mark Dodd
    2007 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Sarcopenia in Older People Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time APrf Solomon Yu
    2005 - 2011 Co-Supervisor Clinical Studies of Patients with Acute Coronary Syndromes in the Absence of Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Natalie Cutri
    2005 - 2010 Principal Supervisor An Epidemiological Investigation of the Role of Phenotype in the Association of Obesity and Asthma Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Sarah Louise Appleton
    2001 - 2009 Co-Supervisor Decision Support Systems for the Treatment of Community-Acquired Pneumonia Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time APrf Scott Clark
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2005 - ongoing Board Member Year 4/5 Board of Examiners
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Member Bachelor of Health Sciences Redevelopment, Chair Health Services Working Group
    2015 - ongoing Member South Australian Advanced Health Research and Translation Centre, Translational Methods Sub-committee Australia
    2013 - ongoing Member Written Examinations Committee, MBBS
    2012 - ongoing Member NHMRC, Career Development Fellowship Selection Panel, (Public Health)
    2011 - ongoing Chair NHMRC Career Development Fellowship Selection Panel (Clinical)
    2011 - ongoing Council Australian Patient Safety Foundation
    2010 - 2012 Member Glaxo Smith Kline, Asthma Management Expert Advisory Panel
    2009 - 2012 Member Docemus Committee, Division of Medicine The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2009 - ongoing Chair The Health Observatory Management Committee
    2009 - ongoing Member Policy Reference Group, Advancing Health Literacy through Primary Health Care System Project University of Queensland
    2009 - ongoing Member SA Health Clinical Handover Advisory Group
    2009 - ongoing Member TeamSTEPPS(TM) Master Training Faculty, SA Health
    2008 - 2009 Member Glaxo Smith Kline, Australian Avamys Expert Advisory Panel
    2007 - 2012 Chair South Australian Health Literacy Alliance
    2007 - ongoing Member Faculty of Health Sciences Research Committee
    2007 - 2008 Chair Steering Committee, Team STEPPS Project, SA Dept. of Health Australia
    2006 - ongoing Member Year 4/5 Course Committee (MBBS)
    2006 - ongoing Member Primary Care Respiratory Research Unit Advisory Committee
    2005 - ongoing Chair Year 4 Convener Final Examination
    2005 - ongoing Member Medical Course (MBBS) Assessment Committee
    2005 - 2007 Member Significant Event Review Committee Children Youth & Women’s Health Service
    2005 - 2007 Member Glaxo Smith Kline, Australian Asthma Exacerbation Expert Advisory Panel.
    2005 - 2007 Member Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand/ Royal Australasian College of Physicians Working Group for Rational Clinical Examination of the Respiratory System
    2005 - 2007 Member Royal Australasian College of Physicians Clinical Indicators Project Working Group
    2005 - ongoing Member Basil Hetzel Institute Research Policy Committee
    2004 - 2011 Member Safety & Quality Council The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2004 - ongoing Member Oral Assessor, Entry to Medical Course Assessments
    2004 - 2005 Member National Asthma Council Asthma Management Handbook 2005 Working Group
    2004 - 2005 Advisory Board Member Pressure Ulcer Prevention Practices Integration of Evidence in SA (PUPPIES) Collaborative SA Safety & Quality Council
    2004 - 2005 Member Clinical Services Sub-committee (Expert Cancer Advisory Sub-committee 2). SA Department of Health & Cancer Council of South Australia.
    2004 - 2005 Member Executive Committee Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand (SA branch)
    2003 - ongoing Member Australian Resource Centre for Hospital Innovations (ARCHI) Clinician’s Advisory Committee (SA branch)
    2003 - 2008 Member The Health Observatory Steering Committee
    2003 - 2005 Member Planning Group and Expert Advisory Panel, National Medication Safety Breakthrough Collaborative Australian Council for Safety & Quality
    2003 - ongoing Member Mortality Review Committee The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2003 - 2004 Member Clinical Governance Committee The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2003 - 2004 Member South Australian Health Omnibus Study Advisory Committee SA Dept. of Health
    2003 - 2004 Member Hospital Home Pathways Management Committee Western Domiciliary Care & The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2002 - 2004 Member Incident Reporting Improvement Project Committee SA Safety & Quality Council
    2002 - 2004 Member Informed Decision-Making Curriculum Ad-hoc Committee
    2002 - 2004 Chair Reportable Adverse Events Working Group SA Dept. Human Services
    2002 - 2004 Member Quality in Clinical Care Group The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
    2002 - 2003 Member Falls Prevention Working Group SA Dept. Human Services
    2002 - ongoing Member North West Adelaide Health Study Management Committee
    2001 - 2012 Member SERCIS Statewide Patient Satisfaction Survey Advisory Group, SA Health
    2001 - 2005 Chair Metropolitan Clinical Sub-committee, SA Safety & Quality Council SA Safety & Quality Council
    2001 - 2004 Member Year 4 Examination Committee
    2001 - 2003 Member Enterprise Wide Steering Committee for OACIS/Care Connect Project SA Dept. of Human Services
    2001 - 2002 Member Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee Asthma SA
    2000 - 2006 Member South Australian Hospitals Quality and Safety Council SA Dept. of Health
    2000 - 2002 Member Clinical Years Curriculum Management Committee
  • Position: Professor of Medicine
  • Phone: 82227413
  • Email:
  • Fax: 8222 6042
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: QEH - Main - Queen Elizabeth Hospital, floor 5
  • Room: 5 B
  • Org Unit: Medicine

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