Coming Up for Air;
the story of the New South Wales Asthma Foundation


 The powerful story of the energy and determination of two mothers in the 1960s whose young children  were stricken with severe asthma.

 Dismissed by the medical profession as over-emotional, Mickie Halliday and Leila Schmidt resolved to find  their own solution. Helped by friends, like Dr Clair Isbister, and an army of committed volunteers, they  created the Asthma Foundation of NSW whose establishment pushed Australian medical scientists to the  forefront of asthma research.

 The evolving role of women underlies the forty year history of the Asthma Foundation. Set in the Sydney  of the 60s and 70s, Coming Up for Air, is an evocative social history that depicts the attitudes and prejudices of the times. In 1961, a committee meeting for socialites Mrs Max (Mickie) Halliday and Mrs Arthur (Leila) Schmidt meant hats and gloves and ressing to the hilt. In this climate, Mickie and Leila struggled to be taken seriously. But one of the first recipients of funding from their fledgling Foundation was Professor Ann Woolcock who later achieved global eminence for her work as medical scientist and clinician in the field of asthma.

The story of the Asthma Foundation is also a template for the organisational politics that can threaten the success of such ventures. Coming Up for Air is a no-holds-barred account of a clash between ideas and egos, of conflict, which ensued when dedicated amateurs outraged a conservative profession. In particular, it details a titanic battle between the two eminent, male-dominated professions of law and medicine.

In Coming Up for Air, Babette Smith gives a compelling account of the romance and tragedy, the passion and conflict of people doing something worthwhile.

2003 published by Rosenberg Publishing and the Asthma Foundation of New South Wales

What they said
Babette was able to capture the tensions and rivalries within the Asthma Foundation, as well as record its many achievements and put them in a broad social and medical-research context. An exemplary institutional history...           Carl Harrison Ford, Editor