Featured Member: Michael Nadorff, PhD

Dr Nadorff is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Mississippi State University, and a licensed psychologist in the state of Mississippi.  In addition to doing research and clinical work in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, and serves as the director of MSU’s doctoral program in clinical psychology and suicide prevention program.  Michael is the recipient of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine’s Art Spielman  Early Career Distinguished Achievement Award for 2017. 

How did you decide to specialize in behavioral sleep medicine (what got you started, who did you decide to work with along the way)

 I did not plan on doing sleep work when I started graduate school, but that quickly changed early in my training.  The seminal moment was while working with Dr. Amy Fiske’s BSM clinical team at West Virginia University I saw a client who had been forced into early retirement due in large part to insomnia.  The client responded very well to treatment, and was able to return to work after treatment.  The experience blew me away, and I decided I had to start incorporating sleep into my suicide research.  I was also fortunate to be at the right place at the right time throughout my training, and I got to work with incredible mentors.  At WVU I had the opportunity to be in the research labs of both Dr. Amy Fiske and Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs.  Both were tremendous mentors who taught me a great amount about the field, and how to do behavioral sleep medicine research, and clinical work.  When I decided to do a dissertation on Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, Dr. Anne Germain was extremely generous to allow me to come up to Pittsburgh and train with her and her team on IRT.  On internship, I was fortunate to go to Baylor College of Medicine, which provided me the opportunity to train in a sleep lab for the first time, getting to work with Dr. Mary Rose who made a special trip over to the VA every week so I could have the experience.  Lastly, I ended up at Mississippi State, only about 1.5 hours from Dr. Ken Lichstein at Alabama.  Dr. Lichstein provided a great deal of mentorship and feedback on my early grant proposals, and was a tremendous resource for me as a junior faculty member.  It truly took a village to mentor me in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, and I am so grateful to all of my mentors who contributed so much in my BSM training. 

What is your advice to early career individuals, or those respecializing into behavioral sleep medicine?  

My advice to early career individuals, or those who are respecializing, is to consistently seek out mentors in the field whom you admire.  I have found our field to be very generous in being willing to mentor the next generation, and I have learned something different from each mentor I have had throughout the years.  Also, be aware of mentorship wherever it is being offered.  As odd as this may sound, I have learned a tremendous amount from the editors and reviewers from SLEEP, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, and Behavioral Sleep Medicine.  The process of publishing my master’s thesis at SLEEP immediately comes to mind.  I was still rather new in the field, as I suspect was obvious to the editor and reviewers.  Although it would have been easy for them to dismiss me and my thesis, they felt almost like collaborators, helping instruct me in ways to make the paper better, which led to a much stronger product.  I learned a great deal about sleep, as well as how to be a reviewer through that process.  Returning to the topic at hand, although it is difficult, try to be open to the feedback anytime you have your work critiqued, whether it be teaching, research, clinical work, or something different, and try to take some lesson from it, even if the lesson is what not to do when you are on the other side. 

Where would you like to see the field in 10 years? 

We are so fortunate in our field to have tremendous treatments at our disposal.  However, these treatments are tremendously under-utilized, in part due to how few people practice BSM.  For instance, if you look at the SBSM provider list, I am the only provider in Mississippi!  Perhaps even more shocking, there aren’t any providers listed in Louisiana.  Take a peek at the roster for your state, as well as the states around you, https://www.behavioralsleep.org/index.php/united-states-sbsm-members.  I would love to see in 10 years that there be at least one provider for every million people in every state.  This is still not nearly enough providers, but it would also be a tremendous increase from where we are in many states.  My personal goal is that I hope our training program at MSU produces at least 10 of those providers in the next 10 years.

Check back with me in 2027 and we will see how we did!