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Kryger Wins 2019 ATS Distinguished Achievement Award

January 28, 2019
by Julie Parry

Meir Kryger, MD, FRCP, professor of medicine (pulmonary) and clinical professor of nursing, won the 2019 American Thoracic Society (ATS) Distinguished Achievement Award.

“To win this award is an honor,” said Kryger. “I was unaware of the nomination from Dr. Yaggi until I received an email about my win. The ATS International conference was the first medical organization I ever attended, even as a trainee so it is very exciting to receive this recognition. It is going to be a fun experience.”

Kryger is a pioneer in the field of sleep medicine and has seen the field evolve over his 45 plus- year career. His work in this area started before sleep medicine was a recognized medical specialty. In 1973 as a medical resident at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, he diagnosed a patient’s sleep disorder. Afterwards, he wrote a paper on the case which became one of the first documented cases of sleep apnea in North America.

Ultimately, he was drawn to the sleep field because he’s ‘always been a curious person’ and realized that his Montreal patient wasn’t a fluke.

“At the time, there wasn’t much known about sleep disorders, which is what attracted me to the field. There was so much potential in discovering new ways to help people,” explained Kryger.

Kryger created the first textbook for sleep medicine, Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine together with Thomas Roth, PhD and William C. Dement, MD, PhD, and has been its chief editor for 34 years. He is currently working on the book’s seventh edition. Additionally, Kryger authored such other sleep medicine books as A Woman's Guide to Sleep Disorders, Atlas of Clinical Sleep Medicine, and Kryger’s Sleep Medicine Review. Before joining Yale School of Medicine (YSM) in 2011, he worked at the University of Manitoba and established the first clinical laboratory studying patients with sleep breathing problems in Canada.

YSM’s Naftali Kaminski, MD, Boehringer-Ingelheim Endowed Professor of Internal Medicine and chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine praises Kryger for his career contributions.

“Sleep disorders affect every single facet of our health, from cancer, through heart disease, mental health, dementia and even motor vehicle accidents. By increasing awareness of sleep disorders, teaching generations of sleep physicians, and disseminating knowledge through his books, Dr. Kryger has had an impact on many important public issues, as he also did with his continued research. Importantly, while doing this he continues to take care of numerous patients, young and old, making unexpected diagnoses and improving quality of care in our Yale Sleep Centers,” said Kaminski.

Kryger was nominated by YSM colleague Henry Yaggi, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine (pulmonary) and director, Yale Centers for Sleep Medicine.

“Dr. Kryger is a luminary in the field of sleep medicine. ‘Meir’ is a Hebrew name that literally means ‘he who brings light’ which is quite apt for how Dr. Kryger has lived his life,” Yaggi said. “He has brought light in the form of knowledge on many fronts, including through his own research, his teaching, his fostering of an exchange of ideas through his books, and his mentoring of the next generation of sleep researchers and clinicians.”

“I am proud of many things in my career, like my article as a resident in Montreal and my textbooks,” said Kryger. “But I am also very proud of the fellows that I've trained over the years, and several of them have become quite prominent in the field.”

Despite his extensive responsibilities as an editor and researcher, Kryger teaches a course he designed on sleep to Yale undergraduate students. Along with his research and teaching tasks, Kryger sees patients at the Yale Sleep Centers clinic in North Haven.

“Probably the most gratifying part of my career is that I have treated about 40,000 patients, and most of the time, we are able to make them better,” he said.

The award will be presented at a ceremony during the 2019 ATS International Conference in May 2019 in Dallas, TX.

Submitted by Julie Parry on January 25, 2019