Barely a month on the job at UBC Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Clinic and Dr. Cheryl Laratta met a patient she won’t soon forget. It’s not because of anything he said. It’s what he didn’t say.
“We were talking and then he, well, he just fell asleep in his chair,” she says. The patient’s exhaustion spoke for itself.
“I’ve met people who are suffering and they don’t always understand why,” she says, “but if you can help a patient put a label on it, you can begin to give control back to the patient, and I want to be part of that.”
Dr. Laratta will have the opportunity to do just that and more. As the first sleep medicine Fellow in training at UBC Hospital (UBCH) — and in all of BC — she’s helping to advance the field of sleep medicine.
Earlier this year the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada granted the UBCH Sleep Disorders Program a singular distinction.
“Ours was the first fellowship in sleep medicine to be formally recognized at the national level,” says Dr. John Fleetham, program co-director and Dr. Laratta’s principal supervisor.
Already responsible for much of BC’s sleep medicine education, the program’s fellowship marks an important milestone. “Establishing this fellowship will support patients today and help us meet the growing demand for treatment. With every graduating Fellow, there’s one more person with nationally recognized training working in Canada,” Dr. Fleetham explains.
For Dr. Laratta, who specializes in internal medicine and respirology, the one-year fellowship is the next logical step in her clinical training.
“The more I practice internal medicine, the more I appreciate how sleep apnea and other sleep disorders relate to heart disease, chronic kidney disease and other serious conditions,” she says. “Sleep disorders can manifest in many ways, even decreasing life expectancy, but there’s hope.”
At the Sleep Disorders Clinic and Lab, Dr. Laratta and the program’s multidisciplinary team diagnose and treat patients with complex sleep disorders from across BC.
“I’ve seen patients who’ve experienced a complete reversal in their wake-sleep pattern, and others who are fearful of sleeping because of how they act out in their sleep. They worry about what they’ll do to themselves and others.”
As a Fellow, she’s also working in a research program at the forefront of sleep medicine. The program is currently participating in a number of Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) trials, and is a member of the CIHR Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Network
“Based on publications and citations, our research in some aspects of sleep disordered breathing was recently ranked number one in the world by Elsevier’s SciVal
,” says Dr. Fleetham.
For a new Fellow, the work is exciting and the career potential even more so. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about the patient.
“My most rewarding days,” says Dr. Laratta, “are the ones I see people who lacked energy and quality of life receive the education and treatment they need.”