Educating family physicians about sleep & sleep disorders



By Doug Dusik
Monday, June 4, 2012

Alon Avidan, MD, MPH is working to bring sleep medicine principles to family physicians by offering continuing medical education (CME) programs online. A grant from the ASMF is helping to make it all possible.

Dr. Avidan received an ASMF Educational Projects Award in 2010 for his “Sleep DOVE” (Distant Online Virtual Education) program. Since that time, Dr. Avidan has taken the learning materials from an extension program at UCLA, where he is a neurologist specializing in sleep medicine, and adapted them into an online course.

“The course is ready to be launched and ready to be tested,” he said. “Our goal is to create an online course that meets the demands of family physicians. They are the first to see patients with sleep complaints and screen for sleep disorders.”

The ASMF Educational Projects Award supports initiatives to improve awareness about sleep and its disorders among the public and all levels of health care providers, including physicians in training and those pursuing CME.

Sleep education is often delivered to primary care physicians via CME courses, grand rounds and symposia, Dr. Avidan said. These events tend to take place in major cities, occur infrequently, may not be convenient for easy travel, and are associated with relatively high costs. In contrast, online courses are delivered to any computer or wireless device, at a low cost and with widely available software.

Dr. Avidan has been working to raise awareness about sleep medicine in public schools and medical schools since his days as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. He developed educational resources, curriculum and CME.

“I recognized the importance of sleep education very early on,” he said. “I also learned that CME is an opportune venue during which primary physicians learn how to screen for sleep disorders. This is unfortunate. The number of sleep physicians currently in practice is not sufficient to screen for all the people out there with sleep disorders.”

Dr. Avidan moved to UCLA in 2006 and has been creating CME sleep programs while at Michigan and at UCLA for the past decade. He’s found distinct advantages to offering courses online, including the interaction available between participants and instructors, as well as between participants and cohorts. Online education also has the potential for reaching a larger audience in other countries, where there may be a lack of expert teachers in the sleep field.