Our history

When Dr John Sullivan established his private pathology practice in Brisbane in 1956, the speciality was still in its infancy. Clinicians typically ran a few tests in their rooms using basic equipment and a microscope and there were only 19 specialist pathologists registered in Queensland.  But the landscape was changing. As testing was becoming more complex and technology more sophisticated, the speciality of diagnostic pathology was developing fast.   Within 18 months, Dr Sullivan was bringing in a partner to help him handle the ever-increasing workload – his friend and colleague, Dr Nick Nicolaides.  As the 1960s became the 1970s, more specialist partners were added, more staff employed and the practice moved into successively larger facilities.  

In the mid-1970s, the convergence of the introduction of a universal free health system, Medibank (the forerunner of Medicare) with the advent of automation and computerisation transformed laboratory medicine.  Almost overnight, Medibank delivered a vast pool of patients from thousands of general practitioners, while the economies of scale created by automated high-volume testing meant the practice had the capacity to deliver the same fast, efficient, teaching hospital-standard service into regional areas. At the start of the 1970s the numbers of tests the practice was performing each week were reported in the hundreds. By the 1990s, they were being counted in the hundreds of thousands.

This was a time when a progressive practice could make its mark on the world. It was a matter of professional pride that profits were reinvested and innovation encouraged so as to stay ahead of the game. The practice became known for its many ‘firsts’ as decisions were taken that would set it on the path to where it is today. There was considerable pride in the evolving S&N brand - the unique collection of clever, curious individuals who between them had a level of expertise that would set the practice apart.   

By the mid-1990s, the former family firm had transformed itself into a large-scale, multi-disciplinary organisation and in order to continue to attract the best talent and invest in new technologies, it sought a sustainable source of funding. Corporate investment was acquired and in 1997, Sonic Healthcare became the parent company.  It was clear from the start that there was a synergy between the two companies. With shared corporate values, both were innovators with a ‘people first’ philosophy, and they had taken similar routes to achieving their respective successes.  Importantly, they each had an excellent rapport with their referring doctors based on a medically focused management structure. 

The arrival of the 21st century heralded a new era for Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology.  

As a member of the Sonic Healthcare ‘federation’, it was able to consolidate its reputation as Australia’s largest private referral laboratory specialising in esoteric and complex testing, while providing a full range of around-the-clock testing services to the communities of Queensland, Northern NSW and Darwin.  This meant continuing investment in state-of-the art equipment and a commitment to staying at the leading-edge of scientific innovation. In 2016, with its eye firmly set on the future, the practice developed a new purpose-designed main laboratory in Brisbane.