April 01, 2006

Sleep Apnea Awareness Day (SAAD) 2006 - reflections (part one)

I suspect this happens with many disease-related patient interest organizations... you work hard to accomplish your mission of educating, supporting and advocating all year long, but there comes a moment in the year when attention is focused on your group like a laser beam. The spotlight, if you can manage to grab it, falls on you, your organization and your disease. It is your chance to do something more, something, hopefully, that will carry you to a new plateau in the coming year.

There had been three "National Sleep Apnea Awareness Day" events prior to my becoming the executive director. It was skipped the year I came onboard, the time for it had past by the time I got there and my predecessor was already focusing on her new job and only serving in a caretaking role at the ASAA until her replacement could be found.

Last year, in addition to collaborating with the National Sleep Foundation and having Sleep Apnea Awareness Day be "during National Sleep Awareness Week" (which it had been in prior years, but not designated so - witness the term "National" in the earlier iterations) we did something different - we had a public event - a lecture, which was co-sponsored by the American College of Chest Physicians - Sleep Institute. I had worked on similar events in the past, but this one was the first where I was in charge - heady stuff and plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. The intention of the lecture was to bring together patients, physicians, folks from Congress, Washington association folks and sleep industry representatives to listen and talk together about sleep apnea in the hopes of raising the visibility of the condition to the level it deserves.

SAAD 2005 and the lecture came off well... the targets I had set were ambitious and we did not reach all of them, but, I and others were happy with the results nonethless. The speaker for the lecture was Dr. David Rapoport, who was brilliant and provided a wonderful overiew of the sleep apnea - its pathophysiology, the implications of untreated disease and the treatments available. We also had, as an unexpected guest - Peter Farrell of ResMed Corporation who added his own particular brand of enthusiasm to the proceedings.

One of the unintended results of the lecture was that Apnea Support Forum was born from conversations that followed with Mike Sussman and Linda Druyer who both attended the lecture. There is a lot to say about the forum and at some future date I will, but not today.

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