The origins of the University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology can be traced back to 1924, when the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association appointed a committee under the leadership of Dr J W Dunbar Hooper "to enquire into the condition of midwifery work" in Victoria. Among the recommendations of this committee was that the teaching of Obstetrics be carried out under the guidance and control of a director or professor appointed by the University Council. In response to this recommendation, and with the support of a donation of £10,000 from the Edward Wilson Trust, Dr R Marshall Allan was appointed Director of Obstetric Research in 1925 by the University of Melbourne. Then, in 1928, the Chair of Obstetrics was created in the University of Melbourne with a further grant from the Edward Wilson Trust. Dr R Marshall Allan was appointed the first Professor of Obstetrics. He was also a member of the Honorary Medical Staff of the Women's Hospital wherein he was afforded beds and other facilities for teaching purposes. Professor Allan filled his chair with great distinction and brought international honour and recognition to the Women's Hospital until his death in 1946.
After a five year period of re-organisation and the creation of the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Lance Townsend was appointed the University's first Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1951. During his quarter of a century tenure of the chair, Professor Townsend oversaw tremendous growth in the clinical services, undergraduate and postgraduate education and research in Obstetrics and Gynaecolology at the Royal Women's Hospital and was a major national and international figure in the field over this period. In recognition of his contribution, which included the establishment of a second University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and which was located at the Mercy Hospital for Women under the direction of his protégé, Professor Norman Beischer, Professor Townsend was knighted for his services to Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
In 1977, Professor Sir Lance Townsend was succeeded in the University of Melbourne Dunbar Hooper Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women's Hospital by Professor Roger Pepperell, who continued the clinical service, educational and research development of the Department and the Royal Women's Hospital. In particular, Professor Pepperell supported the establishment of infertility, reproductive endocrinology, ultrasound, gynaecological oncology and perinatal medicine services at The Royal Women's Hospital, and was particularly committed to encouraging research in these areas.
Upon Professor Beischer's retirement in 1995, Professor Michael Permezel was appointed to the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Mercy Hospital for Women and the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women's Hospital and the Mercy Hospital for Women were amalgamated into a single Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The clinical responsibilities at each campus remain separate, but teaching responsibilities and administrative functions are shared.
After Professor Pepperell's retirement in 1998, Professor Shaun Brennecke was appointed to the Dunbar Hooper Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women's Hospital.