May 22, 2006

On the road to ATS - San Diego II

Exhibiting at medical conferences is something the ASAA has done for a long time. It is one of the best ways to get our patient education material into the hands of the physicians who treat sleep apnea patients. It is also a way to make them aware of the other ways the ASAA is there to help patients who are already diagnosed - through the A.W.A.K.E. Network of support groups.

Of the three sleep-related conferences I attend - this one, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (now know as Sleep) and the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) - I am always most impressed with the presentations at ATS.

While sleep related disorders forms a small part of the overall areas of interest to the physicians who are participate in ATS - these physicians tend to be more involved in research than in clinical care. The presentations at the ACCP meeting, on the other hand, tend to more oriented to clinical care. The Sleep meeting, of course, has both aspects in their program.

May 22nd was the first day of the general session and the exhibit hall. The day starts pretty early here. At 8:15 there was a scientific symposium entitled - Sleep Apnea Pathogensis: The Various Pieces. The first presentation after a tribute Dr. James Skatrud was on the role of the Pre-Boetzinger Complex in sleep disorder breathing. This basic research presented looked at this system in the brain responsible controlling breathing and the possibility that damage to this center could related sleep apnea. Heady stuff - there was an news item last summer that talked about this (, but here was a presentation of the next steps in the research being done by Dr. Feldman.

The other part of attending these meetings is the exhibit hall. It is here where I join the dozen and dozens of other, mostly commercial interests (i.e. drug companies, instrument manufacturers and CPAP companies) and hawk our wears.

ATS was the first medical conference I attended as the executive director of ASAA. I had been on the job exactly six weeks. There I was going toe to toe with pulmonologists about sleep apnea... sharing with the wealth of information the association has for their patients. It was fun then and still fun now.

Visitors to our booth fall into two distinct catagories: the curious and the curious-ier.

The curious are those doctors who are getting into sleep medicine and need educational material for their patients. They are pleased find our patient education bulletins that have no commerical brand connected with them. Given that a number of the participants in the conference are from other countries I am always getting the question - is this available in X (pick your language) and usually it is Spanish. I am now pleased to say that it will be, thanks to Dr.Servin and that the Apnea Support Forum will have a Spanish language section as well.

The curious-ier ones are the ones that have sleep apnea themselves and are looking for an insight that perhaps they missed. There are still others who have a bone to pick with someone and we are the ones they choose to pick it with. There was one physician who worked with very young children (less than 2 years old) who have sleep apnea and his comment was that there were no masks available to fit their faces in the US. There some available in Austrialia, but not here. We mentioned that ResMed had recently had a approved a CPAP machine and mask approved by the FDA. I could not tell if he had heard of it or not, only that he had a bone to pick.

Working the exhibit hall is great, in spite of the bonepickers, but it is long hours and can, especially if the conference is not well attended, get boring - waiting for the attendees to come around. During these intervals I get the chance to visit with other exhibitors, which is always educational.

Next - the ATS wrapup.

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