As a sleep specialist I’m thankful that space is not necessarily the “final frontier,” despite what the iconic introduction of the Star Trek TV series would have you believe. Today sleep physicians and scientists have numerous frontiers to explore in an exciting era of genomics, big data, personalized medicine, and patient-centered outcomes. Yet as I reflect on the approaching 40th anniversary of the AASM in 2015, my thoughts keep drifting back to space.
My mind has been preoccupied with space exploration since September, when I laid to rest my father, George W. Morgenthaler, at the age of 87. A past president of the American Astronautical Society, he had been an aerospace educator and leader both during the Space Race and in the decades that followed. His funeral was attended by many colleagues and mentees, each relating stories of the roles they played in the development of space exploration.
Through their friendships and involvement in professional organizations, they cultivated lasting relationships that thrived during the exciting progress of a relatively new field of science. They spoke of evenings spent writing proposals and analyzing data while gathered around dinner tables, some of which I witnessed in our family home. They described memorable meetings and breakthrough achievements, none greater than landing a man on the moon. They had established a solid foundation for their field. Yet they also spoke of unreached frontiers and the need to mentor those who would explore them. Their eyes were on the future.
I am struck by the similarities between the development of my father’s field and my own. From the beginning when the AASM was launched in 1975, our Academy has engaged a membership of clinicians and scientists, just as space exploration required close collaboration between basic science and the applied science of engineering. Much like the race to space, our progress in sleep medicine has been augmented by our collegial relationships, collective achievements and professional involvement.
We too have established a firm foundation for the future of our field. Now let’s explore new frontiers in sleep medicine together – boldly going “where no man has gone before” – as we improve sleep health and promote high quality, patient-centered care. I encourage you to join me on this journey of discovery by renewing your AASM membership today.
Timothy Morgenthaler, MD