The AASM regrets to announce the passing of longtime AASM member and sleep medicine leader Mark Mahowald, MD, on March 18, 2020. He was a world-renowned sleep physician, researcher and educator who had an enormous impact on the field of sleep medicine, particularly in the diagnosis and treatment of parasomnias.

An AASM member since 1984, Dr. Mahowald was the 1992 – 1993 AASM president, recipient of the 1998 Nathaniel Kleitman Distinguished Service Award, and a co-recipient of both the 2003 Mark O. Hatfield Public Policy or Advocacy Award and the 2007 William C. Dement Academic Achievement Award. He also was a co-recipient of the 2010 Sleep Research Society Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award.

Dr. Mahowald was the medical director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center and was a physician leader at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for more than 30 years. He also was a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota and led the department of neurology for many years before his retirement.

He contributed greatly to the education of medical students, residents, and fellows, promoting the concept of a truly multidisciplinary sleep medicine program. His clinical research interests included parasomnias, state dissociation, and forensic sleep medicine, emphasizing the importance of close collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists. He received a medical degree from the University of Minnesota, where he also completed a residency in neurology.

Dr. Mahowald also served on the Neurologic Disorders Advisory Committee, which helped the AASM develop The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD), and he was co-chair of the Parasomnia Task Force, which helped develop the ICSD-2, published by the AASM in 2005. He also was a reviewer for the ICSD-3 and participated on the AASM Scoring Manual Task Force that wrote a review of the scoring of movements in sleep.

Together with his colleague, Carlos Schenck, MD, Dr. Mahowald identified and studied numerous parasomnias, including sleep terrors, sleepwalking, sleep violence, sleep-related eating disorder, and sleep paralysis. He also was a consultant for Sleep Forensics Associates, serving as a resource to the law enforcement and legal communities.

Dr. Mahowald and Dr. Schenck may be best known for their 1986 publication, “Chronic behavioral disorders of human REM sleep: a new category of parasomnia,” which identified REM sleep behavior disorder. In 2002 they published a follow-up article, providing their perspective 16 years after their discovery. Other influential publications co-authored by Dr. Mahowald include, “A review of the literature on sleep related disorders and abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences,” and most recently, “A review of sleep-related violence: the demographics of sleep forensics referrals to a single center.”

Please leave a comment below to share your reflections about the life and legacy of Dr. Mahowald.