Peter Slattery is hanging up the tools after 38 years of creating custom equipment for Queenslanders with disabilities.

Peter Slattery celebrates an amazing career in rehabilitation engineering at Metro North

Director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Centre, Peter Slattery is hanging up the tools after 38 years of creating custom equipment for Queenslanders with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Centre is an engineer-led service that designs and manufactures solutions for clients with mobility and assistive technology requirements.

Graduating from a Bachelor of Engineering (Mech) Hons in 1985, Peter started his career as a bioengineer with the then North Brisbane Hospital Board, Department of Physical Sciences.

“I was the only junior engineer in the team and provided engineering support to four work teams, Medical Instruments, Radiation Mechanics, Orthotics and Prosthetics, and Rehabilitation Engineering. Most of my time was involved with Rehabilitation Engineering but I got the chance to work across the entire hospital complex on a variety of biomedical engineering projects as well,” Peter said.

Peter joined the Rehabilitation Engineering Centre as Acting Director in August 2005 and was permanently appointed to the Director role in 2006. He has seen the Centre grow from its very modest beginnings in an old (now demolished) house on Bramston Terrace at Herston.

“For much of the history of the Centre we were in spaces that no other service really wanted. At Bramston Terrace we worked from a single room with second-hand tools from other teams. There was no air conditioning and some clients’ wheelchairs didn’t fit through the doors so we would do our assessments on the timber front porch,” Peter said.

After several years in the lower level of the then Royal Children’s Hospital, the Centre relocated to the Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) in November 2020 with the new space now consists of three clinical rooms for assessments, adjoining a large workshop with the latest in manufacturing equipment. The rear of the workshop also opens to the carpark allowing modifications to patient or carers’ vehicles.

Peter believes the state-of-the-art facilities at STARS makes the Centre the best of its type in Australia.

“Moving to a purpose-built facility at STARS has provided an amazing opportunity to help improve the lives of people with complex needs. It is very humbling to have been part of building such a wonderful service and facility,” he said.

Peter has assisted many patients over the years with a variety of custom items from wheelchair seating, toilet paper holders, and joystick adaptors for gaming. Some of his most memorable clients have been children.

“I have always enjoyed assisting children with their first powered wheelchair. As soon as they work out the controls the first thing they do is spin in a circle – to see a child’s joy at being able to independently move is just wonderful,” he said.

In addition to providing solutions for clients with a disability, Peter has also enjoyed his involvement in research.

“As I child I was always wanting to pull things apart to figure out how it worked. Research is a great way to understand how things work and how things can be improved,” Peter said.

“Working with the great team at the Herston Biofabrication Institute and QUT on the development of 3D printing of custom seating cushions, for example, was a great experience.

“I hope to stay involved in research in some capacity through my role as Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Queensland.”

Throughout his career Peter had the opportunity to work with a range of people and has, therefore, always valued mentoring others in the profession.

“I was very lucky early in my career to learn from lots of very talented people and I have always tried to pay that back by helping others. I have particularly enjoyed mentoring several young engineers, watching them go from students to being successful in very senior roles in the field,” Peter said.

Although looking forward to retirement, Peter will miss his Rehabilitation Engineering Centre team.

“My team have done the most wonderful work over the years to assist patients with disabilities. They have become like a second family to me, and I will miss them very much. The Rehabilitation Centre will certainly remain in the best of hands.”

Peter certainly won’t be putting his feet up any time soon though, with a number of plans for his retirement.

“I am a man with many hobbies including model aeroplanes and a classic car, a Volvo 1800S that’s in need of attention. It is also time for me to give some more support to my wife who is going to stay working for a few more years.”

2024-02-13T14:54:35+10:0013 February 2024|
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