Published July 13, 2021
The UBMD Pediatrics Sleep Medicine Center has received accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), making it Western New York’s only pediatric-dedicated sleep center with this accreditation.
According to the AASM, the accreditation signifies the center has reached “the gold standard by which the medical community and the public evaluate sleep medicine facilities. Achieving AASM accreditation demonstrates a sleep medicine provider’s commitment to high-quality, patient-centered care through adherence to these standards.”
Amanda Hassinger, MD, MS and Alberto Monegro, MD spearheaded the development of the division and its center. Hassinger came into the center fulltime after being inspired during her time as part of UBMD Pediatrics’ critical care team.
“While working in the pediatric intensive care unit, I saw the effects poor sleep and other sleep disorders were having on the patients and their families,” Hassinger said. “I knew sleep interventions could be helpful to avoid these situations and other complications, creating a positive impact on their overall health.”
Hassinger, a board-certified pediatrician and critical care physician, began a fellowship in sleep medicine with the goal of bringing this new specialty service into the area for the children of Western New York. After receiving her third board certification, Hassinger helped launch the center’s sleep lab on July 9, 2020.
“For UBMD Pediatrics, the launch and accreditation of this sleep center was a long-waited dream come true that will help improve the care of children in WNY,” said Geovanny Perez, MD, division chief of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at UBMD Pediatrics and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. “Our center takes a holistic approach to sleep problems and collaborates with different subspecialties to provide the best treatment approach.”
Perez continued, “Sleep is an essential building block for children’s mental and physical health. Insufficient sleep can lead to irritability, lack of focus, learning and behavioral problems. Prolonged sleep issues may indicate an underlying physical or emotional problem that should be evaluated by a medical professional.”
Hassinger, a mother of three, personally knows the toll sleep interruptions can have on not only the children but the family overall.
“If one child is not sleeping well, or barely sleeping at all, the entire family’s sleep is disturbed,” Hassinger said. “It can have an awful consequence for the whole family and lead to other health concerns. Our family-centered focus ensures the development of a care plan that best addresses medical needs while also maximizing wellness and quality of life. A key aspect of sleeping better involves education and support, both of which are key parts of the services we provide.”
With the opening of the center and lab, the team set its eyes on not only caring for patients, but becoming nationally accredited and expanding its sleep lab and service lines. All of which have now been accomplished.
Just this summer, the sleep medicine lab grew from two beds to four beds, allowing the team to double the amount of sleep studies being performed and accommodate the growing demand in the area.
“This makes an incredible difference in what we’re able to do for families,” said Steven Lipshultz, MD, president of UBMD Pediatrics and A. Conger Goodyear Professor and chair of the department in the Jacobs School. “We’re able to see our patients sooner, develop a treatment plan and help our patients and their families start experiencing a better quality of life.”
The center’s team cares for patients from birth through young adulthood, treating a broad range of sleep disorders and managing the effects other complex conditions can have on a patient’s sleep, such as achondroplasia, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy and scoliosis.
“A key advantage of our program is having two sleep medicine physicians with an intensive care background, which allows us to perform complex studies, including for children on home mechanical ventilation or with complex airway diseases,” Perez said.
Seeing a UBMD Pediatrics’ sleep medicine specialist starts with an appointment at one of its two outpatient locations: the Conventus medical office building on the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus or the University Commons plaza in Amherst.
After an assessment and conversation with a pediatric sleep medicine physician, either a treatment plan will be developed or some tests may be recommended, including a sleep study, before creating the plan.
“When people hear ‘sleep study,’ they may be concerned about what it involves, but we try to make the experience as easy and comfortable as possible for both the patients and family members,” said Monegro.
The UBMD Pediatrics’ sleep medicine lab, run in partnership with Sleep & Wellness Centers of WNY, involves an overnight stay at the lab that is attended by a certified sleep technologist using sophisticated software, with a monitoring and integrated video system. Sensors are placed in different areas of the body to monitor neurologic activity, body movement, breathing and both oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Monegro continues, “Not every one of our patients would need a sleep lab test. In our initial meeting with patients, we spend a lot of time assessing what underlying sleep issues there may be, and, together with the family, formulate a personalized diagnostic and treatment plan that is right for them. We don’t automatically send everyone for a sleep study.”
In addition to Hassinger and Monegro, the care team includes sleep technologists, respiratory therapists, nurses and other clinical staff members. Monegro, a critical care and sleep medicine specialist with UBMD Pediatrics, also provides care with UBMD Internal Medicine. Both Hassinger and Monegro are faculty members at the Jacobs School.