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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 currently the Professor in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine within the College of Medicine and Public Health 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.


He has authored 152 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 recognised nationally by the NHMRC.


Prof Adams is a founding member of Cumberland.au, 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.


His current research is focused in two areas:

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 – including 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 (power spectral analysis, 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.

Cumberland.au – 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. Cumberland.au 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:

  1. multi-method simulation modelling of Mental Health patient care across Adelaide
  2. simulation modelling for re-designing care in the ICU
  3. patient flow simulation in the Emergency Department
  4. patient flow simulation in acute cardiac care