Respirology: History

Respirology is a relatively young subspecialty of internal medicine. The field emerged in the 1960’s with most respiratory specialists having trained in the United Kingdom. In Toronto, the Respirology Training Program started in 1972, the same year as the first accreditation in respirology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Toronto has played an important role in the evolution of this field in Canada and abroad with the understanding of control of breathing, the development of mechanical ventilation and intensive care units and the first lung transplantation, to name just a few milestones.

Respirology as a specialty has its roots in the original tuberculosis physicians, mainly general internists, working in sanitoriums and taking care of the consumptively ill. Smoking-related diseases, development of the flexible bronchoscope, and the growth of the study of respiratory physiology, eventually led to the formation of a separate specialty designation that officially became recognized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1972, the same year as the formation of a formal training program in Toronto.

The division's past is filled with tales of visionary respirologists, the formation of innovative programs, internationally respected research, and the development of a formalized training program in academic respirology. From the original "father" of respirology at University of Toronto, Dr. Colin Woolf, to the slew of researchers in pulmonary physiology that were recruited to Toronto from the 1970s onwards, the division has grown to have strong clinical, research, teaching and administrative roles both within the Department of Medicine and beyond.

2012 to present

Departmental Division Director: Douglas Bradley


Departmental Division Director: Khalil Sivjee (interim)

  • Established teaching clinics in Odette Cancer Centre, focused on ultrasound guided pleural procedures
  • Introduced the concept of a weekly Friday "academic morning" where sleep, research, and respirology grand rounds could be held
  • Recruited faculty to create an interventional pulmonology curriculum


Departmental Division Director: Liz Tullis


Departmental Division Director: Charlie Chan (Interim)


Departmental Division Director: Greg Downey

  • Strategic Planning Framework for 2005-2010
  • Faculty - 40 full-time members
  • Creation of Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care
  • Split of Critical Care and Respirology Training Programs
  • Increase in importance of hospital research foundations


Departmental Division Director: Art Slutsky

  • Division growing in size
  • Faculty spread across multiple hospitals
  • Increase in diversity of research interests
  • Increase in molecular and cellular research
  • Current research foci established


Departmental Division Director: Eliot Phillipson

  • Small numbers of faculty, mostly based at Toronto General Hospital and Sinai Health System (Mount Sinai Hospital) with labs at Medical Sciences Building at the University of Toronto
  • Physiology-based research interests
  • Start of training program

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