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Vahid Mohsenin, MD: What happens when sleep goes south

December 31, 2006

Each year more than 2,000 people spend a night at the Yale Center for Sleep Medicine. There, with electrodes attached to their bodies and under the gaze of video cameras, they sleep so doctors and scientists can figure out why restful slumber eludes them. The causes of sleep disorders, says Vahid Mohsenin, MD, the center’s director and founder, fall into one of four major categories—medical problems such as heart disease, respiratory disorders, stroke or obesity; neurological problems such as movement disorders or narcolepsy; parasomnia, which includes sleepwalking and acting out of dreams; and troubled sleep due to environmental conditions, such as working a night shift.

Mohsenin came to the study of sleep disorders through an interest in pulmonary medicine as a fellow at Yale in the 1970s. A decade later, at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Mohsenin began seeing many patients with either stroke or pulmonary disorders who were having problems with oxygenation at night. “Based on my previous experience in physiology, I set up a sleep laboratory and started to monitor these individuals in a more formal way,” he says.

Mohsenin and faculty members at the center are pursuing how sleep apnea contributes to heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.

More about Dr. Mohsenin

Name: Vahid Mohsenin, MD

Title: Professor of medicine (pulmonary and critical care); director, Yale Center for Sleep Medicine.

Area of expertise: Sleep apnea associated with hypertension; pulmonary disorders; critical care.

Place of birth: Tehran, Iran.

Age: 56

College and med school: Pahlavi University.

Training: Internal medicine at Pahlavi University Medical Center, Moffitt Hospital, University of California San Francisco and Hospital of St. Raphael; pulmonary critical care fellowship at YNHH.

What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? Balancing patient care, education and research. It is becoming more and more challenging in terms of time constraints. You also have to balance your academic life with your personal life.

What is most rewarding? Patient care in an academic environment is extremely exciting. You are constantly being stimulated to learn and to teach.

Personal interests or pastimes:Mountaineering, skiing, scuba diving, polo.

Family: Married to Shahla Mohsenin, a psychiatrist. Two children, son Amir, 28, and daughter Neda, 25.

Last book read: The Assassin’s Gate by George Packer.

What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? Streamline the process of getting patients into our practice and make sure they are satisfied with their care and the interactions they have at all levels, from the secretary to medical technicians to physicians. It’s important that they don’t feel like they’re going to an institution, but to individuals who care about them. It can be easily done, just by training your staff and putting them in your patients’ shoes.

Submitted by Mark Santore on October 21, 2013