Joseph B. Martin, Dean of HMS, hailed today's announcement as an historic moment for the school and in the evolution of the field of Sleep Medicine. "This generous and timely support will greatly accelerate advances in sleep and circadian rhythm research. At a time when nearly 40 million Americans suffer with sleep disorders, many find numerous barriers to diagnosis and treatment," said Martin, MD, PhD. "These gifts will enable HMS to take a leading role in this interdisciplinary field, ensuring the advancement of scientific research and the development of new treatments for sleep disorders."
The three chairs are named after the founders and Chairmen of three publicly listed companies that have been innovators in sleep therapy: Dr. Frank Baldino, CEO of Cephalon, Inc., Mr. Gerald E. McGinnis, Board Chairman, of Respironics, and Dr. Peter C. Farrell, CEO of ResMed. Each chair was funded by unrestricted gifts from their companies or themselves.
Recognizing the importance of this scientific discipline, Martin established the Division of Sleep Medicine at HMS in 1997. "The goal of the HMS Division of Sleep Medicine has been to establish sleep disorders medicine as a formally recognized medical discipline, and to forge a path of discovery while providing training for the next generation of national leaders in this discipline," said Martin.
President of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, concurs, "These three chairs will positively impact research and clinical treatments for dangerous and disabling sleep disorders," he said. "The professorships are being created in honor of visionary leaders in the health care industry."
Martin said that the three men whose names will be on these chairs are leaders of an innovative industry that has a number of developing therapeutic tools and treatments in the pipeline. "There is a huge need for collaboration between industry and academic medicine to understand the relationship between sleep and disease," said Martin.
An esteemed professor was appointed to fill one of these chairs yesterday by the President and Fellows of Harvard College upon the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and the trustees of the affiliated hospitals. Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, has been named The Frank Baldino, Jr., PhD Professor of Sleep Medicine, which was the first of these chairs to be fully endowed, through a gift from Cephalon. Czeisler is a Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine appointed in the Department of Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and leads the Division of Sleep Medicine.
" We at Cephalon are committed to helping the division continue its work in revolutionizing the field of sleep medicine. Dr. Czeisler and the team at Harvard Medical School are transforming the ways in which we think about sleep and wakefulness and are influencing the therapies being used to treat sleep disorders. We are proud to support the division by serving on its Executive Council and by taking the lead in establishing endowed professorships in sleep medicine," said Frank Baldino, Jr., PhD, Chairman & CEO of Cephalon.
Czeisler is energized about the implications of these endowments."The creation of these three endowed professorships in sleep medicine at HMS represents an important milestone for the field. The endowment of these three professorships serves to establish sleep medicine permanently within the framework of HMS. The fact that these are professorships of sleep medicine and not within an existing department highlights the interdisciplinary nature of this field and signifies that sleep medicine has finally come of age within academic medicine," he said. Czeisler is also one of the author's of the upcoming study Low Dose, Repeated Caffeine Administration for Circadian-phase Dependent Performance Degradation During Extended Wakefulness, in Sleep, a professional journal, which can be viewed at http://www.
Czeisler's investigative work, which will be accelerated by the new endowment, focuses on understanding the neurobiology of the human circadian pacemaker and applying that knowledge to clinical medicine and occupational health. The neurobiology of circadian photoreception in humans is a primary area of research. Czeisler and his colleagues, for example, discovered the resetting effect of light on the human circadian pacemaker and have shown that among totally blind people who completely lack conscious visual perception, there are a subset who retain normal circadian responsiveness to light. This response is mediated through the eyes and persists even in some subjects who have severe retinal degeneration.
Czeisler and colleagues are also evaluating how circadian and homeostatic processes interact to regulate sleep and neurobiological function during wakefulness. Another area of focus is examination of the role of melatonin in the organization of sleep and circadian rhythms. Ongoing research in his lab also includes functional magnetic imaging, quantitative analysis of sleep and waking EEG, and the influence of sleep loss on the deployment of visual attention.
The Gerald E. McGinnis Professorship of Sleep Medicine was established with a grant from the Respironics Sleep and Respiratory Research Foundation, a private foundation established by Respironics, Inc. The professorship was named in honor of Respironics' founder who has been committed to advancing sleep disorder research and treatments for nearly 30 years. John L. Miclot, President and CEO of Respironics, said, "The possibilities for improved public safety, public health, and personal productivity represent significant opportunities that can be more fully realized with sufficient resources committed to advance sleep research. Harvard Medical School is taking the first step towards fulfilling a long-held objective to create a permanent place at the highest levels of academic medicine for physicians, educators, and researchers to concentrate on sleep."
Associate Professor David P. White, MD, will fill The Gerald E. McGinnis Professorship of Sleep Medicine, established with a grant from The Respironics Sleep and Respiratory Research Foundation. White will also serve in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and as Director of the Clinical Sleep Disorders Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
White looks at the naming of three chairs from several angles. "The establishment of three Chairs at HMS represents a major landmark for the field of Sleep Medicine which has not yet been recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Harvard is making a strong statement regarding its commitment to the evolution and development of this young field that hopefully will serve as an example for other medical schools, thereby advancing the entire field," said White.
The Peter C. Farrell Professorship of Sleep Medicine is established with a gift from Peter C. Farrell, PhD, AM, Chairman and CEO of ResMed, Incorporated. The first incumbent of this chair has not yet been appointed but an international recruitment is underway to bring a top researcher to HMS. Dr. Farrell is a passionate advocate of the discipline. "From my viewpoint, it is time for the medical profession to wake up to sleep," he said. "And it seems that the reason that medicine has been slow to take seriously sleep problems, and sleep-disordered breathing in particular, is that traditional medicine has stopped when the lights go out. This is now about to change; the connection between untreated sleep-disordered breathing and hypertension, stroke, diabetes and heart failure, as well as traffic accidents, is now so abundantly clear that it can no longer be ignored," said Farrell.
Sustained scientific research and new advances in sleep medicine will impact communities of shift-workers who suffer with sleep disorders in many fields such as manufacturing companies, the medical profession, the tourism trade, emergency services personnel, transport industries, and the national security work-force. Addressing sleep disorders has serious implications for public safety, the treatment of disease, and quality of life.
These three new chairs will aid the Division of Sleep Medicine as it provides greater focus on critical sleep disorder issues and helps to inform public policies aimed at decreasing sleep/alertness-related injuries and the costs associated with them. The endowment for each chair when fully funded, $2.75 million each, will greatly expand the capacity of the division to embark on creative avenues of research that might not garner traditional federal support
SUGGESTED LINKS FOR INFORMATION ON SLEEP DISORDERS
National Sleep Foundation http://www.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine http://www.
NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute http://www.