With plans to further research and education, Drobnich brings a renewed vision and focus to the organization.

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with sleep apnea, has selected Darrel Drobnich as its new president. With plans to further education, create new research initiatives and partnerships, and a renewed vision for the future, Drobnich plans to expand the focus of the ASAA and propel sleep medicine research and treatment into the future.

Initiatives and Education

Drobnich plans to develop and execute research initiatives and educational programs in order to further the ASAA’s mission. In regards to research, Drobnich says the ASAA will focus on proving the connections between sleep health, other medical conditions, and overall well being, which is the mission of the Sleeptember campaign and the aim of new research endeavors launching next year.

He says, “We are very much interested in showing that untreated sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss are associated with a significant increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, anxiety and depression, substance abuse, certain types of cancer, automobile crashes, on-the-job accidents, and total mortality, along with impaired work productivity, academic performance, and reduced quality of life.”

A significant focus will also be determining what types of treatments and interventions improve the types of outcomes that patients care about (in addition to health and quality of life).

Education will also be a top priority for Drobnich, and the Sleeptember campaign will continue to be one of the primary ways the group educates patients, physicians, caregivers, and the public. Drobnich says the campaign will use the power of social media to bring people facing health challenges as well as advocates together to form a community that will provide support and comfort and create research and advocacy programs.

“We see Sleeptember as a groundbreaking campaign that will break down the barriers that divide patient and stakeholder communities, educate and support one another, and raise funds for medical research related to sleep and related conditions such as cancer, mental health, heart disease, and pediatric issues,” says Drobnich. “We know that it will take time to build, but we believe that campaign will serve as models for sustainability and retention for partners that we worked with in PCORnet and other ‘patient-centered’ research endeavors.”

Advocacy is also key in achieving the mission of the ASAA, and according to Drobnich, the group will increase its advocacy presence in Washington, DC, to focus on increasing access to care, funding for research, and opposition to competitive bidding. In a recent effort, Drobnich says the ASAA worked with the American Dental Association to support Resolution 96. This resolution calls for the development of guidelines for almost 200,000 dentists to help identify sleep apnea.

With an upcoming research study on sleep research, educational objectives, and innovative initiatives, the ASAA aims to transform the world of sleep. Drobnich says, “The ASAA hopes to break out of the traditional sleep community and help lead the way in developing patient-driven research and educational initiatives.”

Partnerships and New Opportunities

Establishing new partnerships with other groups and healthcare professionals is a significant priority for Drobnich. In addition to already established partnerships with other patient organizations, corporate partners, and medical associations, Drobnich says the group is working with many of the partners they developed as part of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, including the COPD Foundation, Global Health Living Foundation, VGM Group and many others. “People will see us focusing on working with those that are interested in exploring the intersections of sleep health and other medical and patient issues such as diabetes, mental health, and heart disease,” Drobnich says.

In addition, Drobnich says the group will have several exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming year: A new ASAA website will be launched and the logo updated. The ASAA’s programs, content, and offerings to members will be updated as well. Also, the group will focus on expanding its CPAP Assistance Program to provide CPAP and other therapies to low-income patients who may not be able to afford treatment.

A New Vision

With a new presidency comes a renewed vision for the future of the ASAA, and Drobnich is excited to have the opportunity to lead the group in a new direction. Drobnich says the ASAA sees itself as a public health organization, not just a sleep organization, and with a “wonderful team of people…working together to expand our research, educational, and advocacy programs… this is not the same old ASAA.” As part of his new vision for the group, the ASAA will expand its focus beyond sleep apnea to include other sleep issues, such as insomnia, and work with partners to connect the dots between sleep and other comorbid health conditions.

Drobnich says, “We want to build an army of patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, and advocates that want to advocate for greater recognition of sleep as a healthy behavior, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and the mitigation of the consequences of sleep loss in the workplace, classroom, and on the highway.”

Overall, Drobnich’s aim of bringing sleep-related education and awareness to the public will be attained through new initiatives, partnerships, and a renewed vision. Drobnich says, “As the new president of the ASAA, I look forward to working with a great team of staff and volunteers to build dynamic educational programs and research initiatives that will bring sleep into the mainstream of public health.”

Cassandra Perez is associate editor for Sleep Review. CONTACT [email protected]