Research at EMHS

East Metropolitan Health Service (EMHS) is proud to be a centre of excellence for medical research and evidence-based clinical practice.

Through the legacy of Royal Perth Hospital (RPH), we have a long and distinguished history of research and innovation.

We actively encourage a culture of medical and scientific research throughout our hospitals and health services. Research into the causes, treatment and prevention of disease is fundamental to providing a high standard of health care.

Our investigations aim to bridge the gap between laboratory and clinical practice, and ultimately lead to more effective prevention programs, treatments and cures to improve the health status of Western Australians.

EMHS has a long-standing association with the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation (MRF). The MRF is a major provider of research funding for EMHS. Its laboratory facilities on the RPH site provide infrastructure for clinical research programs.

History of research at EMHS

RPH, the oldest entity of EMHS, has a long history of research and innovation. In the late 1890s an engineer named William John Hancock, who was working with the Western Australia postal service, ordered an X-ray machine from London and arranged for its installation at the hospital. The X-ray (‘Roentgen tube’) had only recently been developed by Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in 1895, and the then Perth Public Hospital was the first in Australia to use this new technology. By 1905 the radiotherapy unit was treating 70 patients a year for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Hancock started a legacy of research and innovation, according to G.C. Bolton and P. Joske in their History of Royal Perth Hospital (1982). Hancock was perhaps the most striking example of the new breed of scientifically trained young men who were beginning to challenge and upgrade acceptable professional standards in Western Australia.

In 1929 Dr Bruce Hunt was instrumental in setting up a diabetic clinic with an emphasis on providing dietary advice. Despite the belt-tightening years of the Depression, the expensive-to-run radiology department maintained its normal level of activity. In the 1930s, as typhoid and diptheria became less of a burden to public health, cancer emerged as the greatest health concern. In 1934 a mobile X-ray unit was obtained and a deep therapy unit four years later. “In this respect the clients of the Perth Hospital were probably on equal terms with patient at any hospital in Australia."

Some of RPH’s research achievements have gone into the annals of medical history worldwide.

Heliobacter pylori and stomach ulcers

In 1979 anatomical pathologist Dr Robin Warren described the heliobacter pylori and in the following years Dr Barry Marshall and colleagues conducted research that revealed the causal link between this bacterial infection and peptic ulcers. The work of Warren and Marshall earned them a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

Virus particles in patients with HIV infection

Dr John Armstrong and Mr Robert Home of the RPH Department of Anatomical Pathology were the first to demonstrate the presence of virus particles in patients with HIV infection using electron microscopy.

Perth community stroke study

This was the first longitudinal stroke survivor research project, conducted in 1989-1990.

Bone marrow transplant service

The first Domiciliary Bone Marrow Transplant Service was established at RPH in 1994.

Research news

Managing medication for people living with dementia

People with dementia often have coexisting health conditions that require medication.

The Medication Appropriateness Tool for Comorbid Health Conditions in Dementia (MATCH-D) study aims to determine to what extent improved medication management produces better health and functional outcomes for people with dementia.

Led by RPH’s Associate Professor Chris Etherton-Beer, the study is supported by a $586,000 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Learn more about the MATCH-D study.

Treating low blood pressure in sepsis patients

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection. When low blood pressure occurs in a sepsis patient the risk of organ failure is increased.

A team led by Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Medicine Consultant Dr Stephen MacDonald is trialing a treatment called Restricted Fluid Resuscitation in Sepsis-associated Hypotension (REFRESH).

The trial uses rapid intravenous fluids to treat hypotension rather than the more traditional vasopressor medications.

The results will be used to inform a large-scale international clinical trial.

Human Research Ethics and Governance

EMHS has a centralised area-wide Research Ethics and Governance (REG) Unit based at RPH. The aim of the centralised REG unit is to improve the efficiency and quality of ethical and governance reviews, especially for multi-site projects and clinical trials, and to support local clinical researchers to understand and meet their regulatory obligations.

Find out more about Human Research Ethics and Governance.