Dr. Mary Susan Esther, the 2008-2009 President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), is a leading sleep medicine clinician who is medical director of The Sleep Center at SouthPark, part of Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates in North Carolina, one of the largest multi-specialty ENT practices in the country.
Born in St. Louis, Mo., Esther received her medical degree in 1980 from the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, Mo. She completed residencies in both internal medicine and psychiatry at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Then she remained at Mayo to complete a fellowship in sleep medicine.
Esther earned board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) in 1988 and from the American Board of Sleep Medicine in 1989. In 2007 she passed the subspecialty certification examination in sleep medicine when it was offered for the first time by the ABPN.
Esther has been active in the AASM since becoming a member in 1985, serving as Education Committee Chair and as director of the National Sleep Medicine Course. She was elected to the AASM board of directors in 2004.
She also has held numerous leadership positions in other professional societies and organizations, serving on the board of directors of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, the American Sleep Medicine Foundation, and the Mind Science Foundation; on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine; and as an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry.
Esther previously held academic appointments as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., and as a clinical assistant professor of both neurology and psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, Texas.
As the medical director of an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center and a clinician with more than 20 years of experience practicing sleep medicine, Esther understands the issues that are most important to sleep specialists and to other allied health professionals in the field. Under her direction the AASM will continue to be the leader in setting standards and promoting excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research.
One of the highest priorities for the AASM will be to continue educating public and private insurers about the beneficial effects of diagnosis, treatment and management of sleep disorders by board-certified sleep specialists in AASM-accredited sleep disorders centers and laboratories for sleep-related breathing disorders. By making AASM accreditation a requirement for reimbursement of sleep medicine services, insurance providers help correct competitive inequities in the health-care system and ensure that sleep disorders patients receive the highest quality of medical care.
The AASM also will continue to work directly and closely with local Medicare carriers to develop local coverage determination (LCD) policies for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy that provide an appropriate and comprehensive framework for the use of unattended portable monitoring. A primary objective of the AASM’s efforts is to ensure that the LCD policies incorporate the recommendations of the AASM’s Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Unattended Portable Monitors in the Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adult Patients, which was written by an expert task force and published in the December 15, 2007, issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Having invested in sleep research for more than 30 years, the AASM will remain committed to advancing the scientific study of sleep and sleep disorders and to providing significant funding opportunities for sleep researchers. The AASM recently made a pledge to the American Sleep Medicine Foundation of $2 million, which will fund new grant programs and initiatives such as the AASM Physician Scientist Training Award.
The AASM also will remain committed to extending the reach of academic sleep medicine until there is an independent, interdisciplinary academic unit within every medical school in the U.S. The AASM is working toward this goal through its partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges to incorporate sleep into the curriculum of medical colleges across the country, and through the AASM Comprehensive Academic Sleep Programs of Distinction, an initiative to recognize academic sleep programs that have demonstrated the highest commitment to excellence.
Other issues on which Esther will focus include encouraging growth in the number of sleep medicine training programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, advancing an AASM initiative to incorporate a sleep society in every state, setting evidence-based standards for the field and developing clinical guidelines that promote the “best practices” in sleep medicine, fostering the educational offerings of the Sleep Education Series, and providing the public with accurate information about sleep and sleep disorders.