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Sleep Medicine Expert D’Ambrosio Returns to Yale

August 30, 2021
by Jane E. Dee

Carolyn D’Ambrosio, MD, FCCP, returned to Yale School of Medicine on July 1, 2021, as vice chief for fellowship training and the pulmonary, critical care fellowship program director in the section of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine (Yale-PCCSM). Twenty-two years earlier, she had been a Yale fellow herself.

During the intervening years, D’Ambrosio was an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the director of the pulmonary disease and critical care medicine fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

At Yale-PCCSM, she will share her experience with a program that has rapidly grown in recent years, and which currently has 24 traditional pulmonary, critical care fellows (six a year), four sleep fellows, four critical care fellows and one interventional pulmonary fellow.

“I had a great experience at Yale when I was here in 1999, and many of the faculty with whom I will be working are former faculty when I was there as a trainee, and some were my trainees when I was faculty in Boston, so it's all people I know,” she said.

Of course, Yale-PCCSM now is also very different. “There were approximately 25 faculty when she was here; now there are 70,” said Naftali Kaminski, MD, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Professor of Medicine (pulmonary) and section chief, Yale-PCCSM. Also, the MICU has grown from 20 beds to close 60; the six-room Winchester Clinic moved in March, 2021 to a state-of-the art, 30-room Winchester Center for Lung Disease in North Haven.

“The clinical, research, and educational opportunities are infinitely more diverse,” D’Ambrosio noted. “The section has grown and developed, but the feeling of camaraderie has stayed much the same.“

D’Ambrosio plans on continuing the development of all fellowship programs, implementing novel educational approaches, and to focus on wellness and innovation while pursuing initiatives to augment the diversity of the fellows. “This is an opportunity to participate in shaping the immediate future of our discipline,”she said. “I’m very excited about it!”

D’Ambrosio is a nationally recognized expert in medical education, sleep medicine, critical care, and women’s health. She received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine with distinction in research. She completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Rochester Strong Memorial Hospital and was the chief medical resident there as well, followed by a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at Yale New Haven Hospital. She is board certified in critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and sleep medicine.

D’Ambrosio also has many years’ experience in medical ethics, having been a senior ethics consultant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Before that she was chair of the ethics committee at Tufts Medical Center. Her interest in ethics stems from challenges faced as a critical care physician, she said.

She has received numerous Distinguished CHEST Educator awards from the American College of Chest Physicians and is a member of the CHEST Foundation Board of Trustees. In addition to teaching and clinical work, D’Ambrosio has conducted research on sleep and menopause, and sleep and breathing in infants. She has participated as the sleep medicine expert in two systemic reviews on home sleep apnea testing and fixed versus auto-titrating CPAP. She recently co-authored a book "Comfort the Kid!" on infant sleep and parent bonding.

While a Yale fellow, D’Ambrosio focused on pediatric sleep research. She met her husband, Eliot S. Katz, MD, at a conference when he was a pediatric sleep fellow at Johns Hopkins University. In January, 2021, she and Katz co-authored the book, “Comfort the Kid! Infant Sleep, Parent-Child Bonding, and the Perils of Cry it Out.” The book is based on their expertise in sleep medicine, and their parenting of three children, a 18-year-old, and 16-year-old twins.

“My interest in infant sleep happened here at Yale 20-plus years ago, and here I am 20 years later, not just returning to Yale, but in the same year that I finally wrote a book on infant sleep,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s really interesting to me how that coincided.”

As a new parent, D’Ambrosio said she realized that the recommendation to leave a newborn or an infant in a “dark and scary,” room to cry themselves to sleep “just felt wrong,” she explained. “It's been a 17-, 18-year process where we've talked to parents and other experts, we've looked at the data and research, and we’ve concluded that there's really nothing to support those recommendations,” she said.

The cry-it-out method started in the 1970s when greater numbers of women began entering the workforce. “People were saying that babies can cry and self-soothe without actually having studied it,” she said. “And they're right. If you leave a baby without attending to them in the middle of the night, several nights in a row, the baby will stop crying. But our book shows that that doesn't mean the problem's gone away, and, in fact, it causes undue stress,” she added.

“We know that solitary confinement isn't good for anybody, right? It's not good for adults, it's not good for teenagers, and it absolutely isn't good for infants,” she said. “Comforting the baby, using eye contact, touch, and smell, is super important for brain development. And so to me, solitary confinement for a baby, which is basically what letting them cry is, is awful!”

D’Ambrosio is planning a second book about sleep for teenagers. “We think there’s a very high need for a book that teenagers themselves will read, that addresses some of their questions, like, ‘Why are my parents yelling at me to go to sleep when I'm not sleepy?’” she said.

In her new position, she is sure to field more of these questions – and many others – from Yale-PCCSM’s fellows, and to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to the fellows as they juggle child care and their medical responsibilities – a balancing act she is very familiar with in her own career.

The Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine is one of the eleven sections within YSM’s Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about Yale-PCCSM, visit PCCSM’s website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Submitted by Jane E. Dee on August 30, 2021