Featured Member - Julio Fernandez-Mendoza PhD, CBSM, DBSM

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 started my pre-doctoral training in both clinical psychology and psychobiology in Spain. I had my first experience working in a sleep lab with Antonio Vela-Bueno who supervised my doctoral dissertation together with Maria Jose Ramos-Platon. At the same time, I did most of my clinical internship in the sleep unit of a military hospital in Madrid. Vela-Bueno’s long-term collaboration with Penn State and a pre-doctoral scholarship took me to Hershey, PA. That experience led to a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Alexandros Vgontzas and Edward Bixler. Specializing in BSM and becoming certified (CBSM) and a diplomate (DBSM) was a natural progression in my career as a psychologist and sleep specialist. It is an honor to practice BSM in Hershey, a sleep research & treatment center with a long history dating back to the 1970s.

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE FIELD IN 10 YEARS? DO YOU HAVE ANY INSIGHT FOR US ABOUT HOW YOU SEE THE SBSM EVOLVING TO PROMOTE BSM?

I would like to see the sleep field promote the integration of all disciplines and specialties. With the BSM field pursuing a higher standard of certification with continuing education requirements (DBSM), I hope it will attract more people to the field. SBSM should continue to strive for recognition as a society, while pursuing joint ventures with other professional sleep societies. SBSM can play a defining role in shaping BSM routes of scientific meetings, in providing postgraduate courses and in the dissemination of evidence-based assessments and treatments through BSM manuals. From a clinical standpoint, I would like to see stepped-care approaches implemented in primary care and, at least, one BSM provider in all accredited sleep centers.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO EARLY CAREER INDIVIDUALS, OR THOSE RE-SPECIALIZING INTO BEHAVIORAL SLEEP MEDICINE SHARE YOUR BSM WISDOM WITH OUR YOUNGER MEMBERS TO LEARN FROM YOU TO INSPIRE THEIR PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE.

My advice is to gain broad sleep experience before specializing in BSM. An excellent BSM provider is not solely trained in CBT-I and is able to conceptualize other sleep disorders outside of insomnia. As researchers, young members may want to have a narrower focus but as clinicians they need to have a broader understanding of circadian/sleep physiology and behavior. Those already advanced in their career who seek to specialize in BSM should obtain supervision or consultation from those working in integrated sleep centers.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP THAT YOU PLAN ON TAKING EITHER IN YOUR RESEARCH PROGRAM OR CLINICAL PRACTICE?

My clinical priority is gaining accreditation for our BSM program in Hershey, which includes APA-accredited psychology interns and also postdoctoral fellows. Our BSM program is unique in that it includes pediatric and adult clinical care, with next steps to include more faculty/attendings. Research-wise I am currently focused on following up the Penn State Child Cohort (PSCC) thanks to funding from NHLBI. This 5-year study of a large sample of young adults includes a return visit to the sleep lab and comprehensive physical exams, psychometric evals, and biomarker measures among many other biological and behavioral domains. I am also looking forward to starting a NIMH-funded study in the coming months that will require fine-grained analyses of the sleep EEG in the Cohort.