University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson Professor Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, has been awarded nearly $1.4 million for a peer-support program for sleep apnea patients.

The funding, from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, will be used by Parthasarathy and his research team to implement the findings of a previous research project in which peers were trained to help patients starting treatment for sleep apnea.

The program will be made available to patients at Banner – University Medicine clinics in Tucson and later will be expanded to 11 centers in six states within the Banner Health system, in which more than 11,000 sleep studies are conducted and 9,000 patients are seen annually for sleep disorders.

“Our biggest barrier to treating sleep apnea is helping individuals use a CPAP machine,” Parthasarathy, director of the UA Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences and medical director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, says in a statement. “We are creating a therapy program that trains ‘peer buddies’ to educate and support new CPAP patients on how to use a CPAP machine.”

Others involved with the project are Stuart F. Quan, MD, professor emeritus at the UA and the Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Sandipan Bhattacharjee, PhD, assistant professor, pharmacy practice and science, in the UA College of Pharmacy; and consultants Jerry Krishnan, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and public health and associate vice chancellor for population health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Adam Amdur of the American Sleep Apnea Association, a patient advocacy group.

“Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder condition that affects 1 in 10 people in this country with major health consequences when left untreated,” says UA president Robert C. Robbins, MD. “We are leaders in the study of sleep and its long-term impact on our overall health and recovery. Dr Parthasarathy and his team of researchers developed an innovative solution to a health-care problem with major implications.”

“We are proud to play a part in Dr Parthasarathy’s important research in Tucson and in other Banner Health sleep centers and clinics,” says Chad Whelan, MD, chief executive officer of Banner – University Medicine Tucson. “Translating the clinical research of UA physician-scientists into positive patient outcomes is exactly the sort of synergy we hoped to create in our unique partnership with the University of Arizona.”