Dear colleagues and friends,

We are in challenging and unprecedented times as the nation continues to see the devastating consequences related to increasing COVID-19 cases in addition to other ongoing, active issues such as racism, health care disparities and inequity. What do we do as a sleep community? How do we cope with this uncertainty?  During moments of crisis, we can either continue to despair and bemoan the situation we are in, or we can grasp these challenges as opportunities to be effective leaders working to inspire change that will improve the situation. Never before has the calling been more prominent for all of us to show up at the forefront. We all are leaders, and we have it within us to display those skills, behaviors, and attitude. Therefore, each one of us has a choice to make either to continue to despair, or lead the way, and I am positive you will make the right one.

Leadership during a pandemic is not easy, as there is no guidebook to tell us how best to persevere during a crisis. And yet, we have some among us who are displaying outstanding leadership in this current situation. We can learn from them and adapt to implement similar strategies in our own areas.  I would encourage you to share these stories and lessons by sending them to me at so that we can post them on our website for the sleep community to benefit.

My daughter recently told me a story about a pack of crows flying over dry land. They were thirsty and found a barrel of water on the ground. Unfortunately, they quickly realized that their beaks were not long enough to reach the water at the bottom of the bucket. Most of the crows gave up, while a few rose to the challenge and came up with a brilliant idea of throwing rocks into the bucket to raise the water to a level that they could reach to quench their thirst. We all can rise to the current challenge by being innovative and creative!

It is not easy to remain positive during a crisis, and even more difficult to advise others to do the same, particularly during financial hardships and insecurity about the future. We could start with small acts of gratitude, recognition of folks at meetings/gatherings on things well done, genuine praises of kind acts. Similarly, we can further build trust among our colleagues and staff at work by being transparent. Each of us can demonstrate these small changes as part of the routine way of doing work.

Let me highlight a few initiatives that the AASM leadership is doing to rise to the COVID-19 challenges. The COVID-19 Task Force is in the process of developing a pulse survey to hear about how COVID-19 is affecting you all. I also plan to hold a town hall meeting to discuss relevant topics. More details will be announced soon. This will help us to develop more supportive strategies moving forward. The board will also revisit priorities related to our strategic goals in light of the current situation. The Advocacy Committee and the Telemedicine Presidential Committee are already taking steps to advocate for maintaining the current CMS telehealth waivers. The AASM is also providing relief funding for state and regional sleep societies, and the AASM Foundation is providing relief for research study award recipients whose efforts were disrupted by COVID-19.

Taking the time to listen to others, increasing our own self and situational awareness, being curious to learn and adapt, are some of the behaviors we can cultivate and enhance further. Similarly, diving deeper to understand our own purpose/meaning in life will significantly help. I am reminded of a quote from Sir Winston Churchill during World War II, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” I would like to see generations of people who follow to say the same about us. We do not need to set out to be a leader. These actions, done with the intent of improving our situation, will bring out the leader in us. Let us all do it!

Kannan Ramar, MD