The Endocrine Department of St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney was established in 1962.
Prior to 1962, endocrine services at St Vincent’s were fragmented and made available via several hospital departments. In 1938, a diabetes clinic had been established as part of the Department of Medicine under the supervision of a junior outpatient physician with no inpatient responsibilities. From 1958, radioactive iodine uptake tests of thyroid function were provided by the Physics Department. The Pathology Department provided measurements of basal metabolic rate (BMR) and serum protein bound iodine (PBI) as measures of thyroid function. Glucose tolerance tests were used for the diagnosis of diabetes as well as a limited range of urinary steroid assays.
In 1962, Dr Leslie Lazarus was appointed as Staff Endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, the first such appointment in Australia. In that year, Dr Lazarus and Dr Margaret Stuart, a biochemist, established the Endocrine Laboratory in the Pathology Department, providing a range of dynamic tests. After the opening of the Garvan Institute in 1963, the Endocrine Laboratory and its associated research laboratory transferred into the Garvan Institute. From the time of its origin, the Endocrine Department was committed to the provision of clinical services, teaching and research activities.
In 1964, diagnostic hormone assays by radioimmunoassay were offered by the Endocrine Laboratory, another first for Australia. The Laboratory was appointed as the NSW State Referral Laboratory for Hormone Assays by the NSW Department of Health in 1978.
With the appointment of Dr Lazarus as a Consultant Endocrinologist to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1967, the teaching and service commitments of St Vincent’s and the Children’s Hospital Endocrine Departments were significantly expanded. In 1967, when Dr John Casey joined the Endocrine Department as Staff Endocrinologist, he extended the range of steroid hormone diagnostic assays provided by the Department. In 1973, Dr Creswell Eastman also joined the Endocrine Department as Staff Endocrinologist, and subsequently introduced a battery of diagnostic assays for assessment of thyroid status.
Soon after, the integration of the Diabetes Clinic into the Endocrine Department in 1975 ensured that the full range of endocrine services as well as teaching and research were now available under the direction of specialist endocrinologists.
In 1978, the Hospital purchased an attractive, though somewhat dilapidated terrace house at 372 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst for the purpose of establishing a Diabetes Centre. In February 1980 after extensive renovation, Education and Insulin Initiation/Stabilisation programs began. Our service was the first ambulatory insulin initiation program for type 1 diabetes in Australia.
There was an official opening on August 7th by the then NSW Minister for Health, Kevin Stewart. The principal people involved at that time were Professors Don Chisholm, Director of the Centre; Les Lazarus, Chairman, Department of Endocrinology; Lesley Campbell, Visiting Physician; and Ms Elaine Clark, Nurse Manager.
The Centre flourished and introduced a number of innovations in management and education resulting in several published articles in the Medical Journal of Australia and elsewhere (1984-87), detailing the benefit and cost efficiency of the Centre's programs.
In 2010, the terrace house was demolished to make way for the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, a joint venture between St Vincent’s Hospital and the Garvan Institute. The Diabetes Centre then moved to its new premises within the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, with Professor Lesley Campbell as its Director.
Thirty-three years since its inception, St Vincent’s Diabetes Centre continues to provide world class specialised diabetes care to patients both locally and nationally.
Dr Leslie Lazarus August 2012