Alberto Ramos, MD, MSPH and Azizi Seixas, PhD, made history by being the first underrepresented minority sleep scientists to co-chair the Young Investigators Research Forum in 2019. Read more about their involvement in AASM Foundation programs aimed at growing the pipeline of early career investigators.

The year 2019 is an important one for the Young Investigators Research Forum (YIRF), as it celebrated its 11th year and found a new home with the AASM Foundation’s successful award programs. This move represents the AASM Foundation’s commitment to growing the pipeline of sleep scientists. The YIRF is a unique gathering of individuals who are interested in clinical and translational sleep medicine research. The research forum is designed to provide a comprehensive boot camp for individuals passionate about advancing the science of sleep medicine by working collaboratively with other physicians and scientists. The program places a priority on mentoring by introducing new investigators to experienced researchers to discuss the nuts and bolts of career preparation that are necessary for turning research interests into fundable projects.

For the first time, the YIRF was co-chaired by underrepresented minority sleep scientists: Alberto Ramos, MD, MSPH, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, and Azizi Seixas, PhD, an assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine.  Both Ramos and Seixas are successful sleep scientists who have secured funding from the National Institutes of Health. Ramos’s research evaluates the intersection between sleep and neurocognitive aging and cerebrovascular health in population-based studies, while Seixas’s work focuses on translating artificial/augmented intelligence into precision and personalized medicine approaches to increase and optimize health behaviors.

Ramos and Seixas are heavily involved in the careers of early career sleep scientists. “Investing in the next generation of clinicians and scientists is key to meeting the challenges of today’s healthcare system,” said Seixas. Having programs like the YIRF are vital for increasing the pipeline of sleep investigators positioned to solve the national crisis of poor sleep and sleep disorders.

“Keeping a robust pipeline of sleep and circadian researchers that will attend the evolving challenges of sleep research and improve society’s sleep health is of great importance,” Ramos adds, “and the YIRF allows sleep research to be a viable and interesting career to pursue for early career investigators.”

Early career sleep researchers have a unique set of challenges and their participation is important in addressing the health problems present in the sleep community. Both Ramos and Seixas recognize the challenge of developing a network or ecosystem of researchers early in your career.  This can be solved by mentorship and pipeline programs such as the YIRF and the AASM Foundation’s new initiative for developing a year-long research fellowship program that supports the growth of early career investigators.

This new initiative is led by the AASM Foundation Research Fellowship Committee, which both Ramos and Seixas are actively involved with. My hope is to identify promising early stage researchers and jump start their careers into sleep and circadian research by providing the skills, network and mentorship necessary to implement their research program and successfully compete for research funds,” said Ramos.

As for the YIRF 2020, it will take place on April 1-3, in Bethesda, Maryland, under the leadership of Seixas. “I am excited to continue the great work of my predecessor, Dr. Ramos, to cultivate enriching training opportunity and create a larger ecosystem of sleep medicine providers and scientists,” said Seixas. This upcoming year’s program will boast a new venue and activities. Successful applicants will be selected based on past research productivity and future promise in sleep medicine research. Visit our YIRF webpage for more information.