The AASM Foundation is committed to growing and supporting the pipeline of sleep scientists by investing in the research careers of new investigators through mentorship and grantsmanship training opportunities through its Sleep Research Program for Advancing Careers (SOAR).

Five SOAR Fellows were selected through a competitive application process and matched with renowned sleep researchers to serve as their mentors for the program. The 2021-2022 SOAR program will start in August 2021 and assist SOAR Fellows in developing their first competitive grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the guidance of their SOAR Mentors. Additionally, SOAR Fellows will participate in monthly webinars on grantsmanship, use discretionary funds for research training activities, attend an exclusive mid-year grant writing retreat and attend the annual SLEEP meeting to present an abstract.

Congratulations to the 2021-2022 SOAR cohort!

Judite Blanc, PhD
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

SOAR Mentor: Daniel J. Buysse, MD

Dr. Blanc is a research assistant professor within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, at the newly created Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences.  She is an International Behavioral Scientist trained in France and Haiti in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology and psychopathology. She has an ethnographical skillset to understand unique stress responses among racial/ethnic/disenfranchised groups. She recently completed a 3-year NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship in population health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where she received extensive training and conducted hands-on research in sleep health and behavioral medicine under the supervision of Drs. Girardin Jean-Louis and Azizi Seixas. Her research focuses specifically on determinants of sleep health, mental health, cardiovascular health, and culturally tailored mind-body medicines among underserved and underrepresented communities. Dr. Blanc currently serves as the scientific director of the DORMIR study, which aims to provide multi-level evidence supporting epidemiological findings of greater rates of insufficient sleep (IS) among Latinx/Hispanics, which may explain their disproportionate burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk. It will also assess whether and why rural and urban differences in IS exist among Latinx/Hispanics and how that may lead to IS-related CVD outcomes. Dr. Blanc plans on applying for a NIH-funded career development award to learn to combine sleep health, circadian knowledge, and psychological resilience data for “real-world” interventions.

Maya Elias, PhD, RN
University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies

SOAR Mentor: Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD

Dr. Elias’ academic training, clinical experience, and research collaborations equipped her with an interdisciplinary background in geriatrics, sleep, cognitive neuropsychology, and critical care. She has served as the Project Director of an NIH-funded randomized controlled trial (R01NR016702), an ICU delirium trial. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded F32 Project (F32NR018585), a prospective, longitudinal cohort study examining the impact of sleep deficiency on cognitive impairment in English- and Spanish-speaking older ICU survivors. Moving forward, her F32 project will inform the design of her NIH K grant application: a randomized controlled trial testing a multimodal intervention to mitigate sleep deficiency and cognitive impairment in older ICU survivors. She looks forward to career development and training to develop her expertise in clinical trial design, biobehavioral sleep interventions and circadian biology. The AASM SOAR Program will provide her with the tailored mentorship necessary to lead sleep intervention trials in older ICU survivors.

Sarah E. Emert, PhD
The University of Arizona

SOAR Mentor: Rachel Manber, PhD

Dr. Emert graduated with her doctorate in clinical psychology in August 2020 from The University of Alabama under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Lichstein. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Arizona under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Taylor. Her broad research interests include behavioral sleep medicine and examining sleep as a function of physical and psychological well-being. Her recent work has focused on the concept of insomnia identity, the conviction that one has insomnia which occurs independently of one’s actual sleep, to better understand nuances associated with the incongruity between insomnia complaint, insomnia identity and quantitatively derived sleep status. Career-wise, she plans to continue research focused on advancing the development of behavioral sleep health-related interventions, including the evaluation, modification and dissemination of evidence-based, personalized, accessible interventions and increasing public awareness for these methodologies, especially within underserved populations.

Anna E. Mullins, PhD, RPSGT
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

SOAR Mentor: Elizabeth B. Klerman, MD, PhD

Dr. Mullins completed her PhD in 2018 at The University of Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. She has a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Psychology from The University of Western Australia and a Diploma in Health Administration from Curtin University. She is also a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) and has worked in sleep, neurology and cardiology since 2003. Her current research activities include investigating the relationship between sleep disruption, sleep apnea, memory and risk of Alzheimer’s disease via brain and biological-based biomarkers. Her general research interests include using complex analysis of sleep/wake physiology to facilitate a deeper understanding of circadian biology and behavior in sleep-disordered populations and neurodegeneration.

Sonja G. Schütz, MD, MS, MSc
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

SOAR Mentor: Neomi Shah, MD, MPH, MSc

Dr. Schütz is an Assistant Professor and physician-scientist at the University of Michigan. She is a board-certified sleep neurologist who completed her training in neurology and clinical neurophysiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, followed by a fellowship in sleep medicine at New York University. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis from the University of Michigan. Dr. Schütz currently serves as principal investigator and co-investigator on several industry-sponsored projects. Her research focuses on cardiovascular consequences of sleep apnea. Specifically, her research goal is to examine the impact of obstructive sleep apnea and its treatment on cardiac pathology in individuals with heart failure.