Featured Member - Melanie Leggett

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE FIELD IN 10 YEARS?

First and foremost, I would love to see every sleep lab/sleep medicine practice affiliated with a behavioral sleep medicine provider. The continued growth and oversight of accredited training programs in BSM is crucial to the development of our discipline. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has developed an impressive and highly successful training program for nationwide dissemination of CBTI. Not surprisingly, many of these skilled CBT providers have developed an interest in learning behavioral sleep medicine, but there is no established mechanism for doing so. Creating avenues for BSM consultation/training for established providers both within and outside VHA is needed. Additionally, I am hoping as a discipline, we can continue to educate other health care providers, patients, and the public about behavioral sleep medicine and dispel common misconceptions. I would like to see more diversity in leadership and training programs. Finally, as we continue to cultivate evidence-based behavioral interventions for sleep disorders, we have so much to learn about creating culturally competent care.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO SPECIALIZE IN BHEHAVIOR SLEEP MEDICINE (WHAT GOT YOU STARTED, WHO DID YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH ALONG THE WAY)?

For me, specializing in behavioral sleep medicine was not an explicit decision but rather a manifestation of a career progression that began 30 years ago.

As a college graduate in psychology, I stumbled into a research tech position at a VA sleep lab in California. Working for a psychiatrist (Dr. Irwin Feinberg) who had done marijuana and sleep research in the 1970’s sounded pretty darn intriguing to me. Although at the time, his research team was conducting delta amplitude studies (which sounded markedly less intriguing to me), I was fortunate enough to have superb mentors passionate about electroencephalography (Drs. Tom Maloney and Fred Travis). That experience launched my 4 yr. career as a polysomnographic technologist. Eventually tiring of shift work, I schemed to find a way to blend my interests in psychology and sleep. In the wee hours of the night at the sleep lab, once the patients were on CPAP and quietly REM rebounding, I scoured the AASM membership directory for members with “PhD” after their names. I wrote letters to each school affiliated with these members to inquire about the availability of sleep training within a psychology graduate program. That was how I ended up training with Dr. Kenneth Lichstein at the University of Memphis and then interning with Dr. Jack Edinger at the Durham VA Medical Center. Dr. Edinger supported my early career development, helping to carve out a thriving behavioral sleep medicine clinic at the Durham VA and strong research affiliations with Duke University Medical Center.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO EARLY CAREER INDIVIDUALS, OR THOSE RE-SPECIALIZING INTO BEHAVIORAL SLEEP MEDICINE?

Be persistent, open to new experiences, and ask questions. Find good mentorship and build collaborative relationships. Take advantage of educational opportunities such as the SBSM webinars, journal clubs, and conferences. If you are considering a behavioral sleep medicine career in VHA, training in PTSD will be advantageous. VHA has wonderful sleep training/education opportunities in their Evidence Based Psychotherapy program, Talent Management System, and Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes program.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SLEEP RESOURCE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO BE MADE AWARE OF?

The Path to Better Sleep Course is a free web-based CBT-Insomnia program developed for U.S. Veterans (https://www.veterantraining.va.gov/apps/insomnia/index.html).

The project was funded and developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services. Original content was created by my colleague, Christi Ulmer, PhD, CBSM, DBSM who also served as primary subject matter expert throughout course development (Dr. Carolyn Greene with VACO MHS was the project lead, and Drs. Leah Farrell-Carnahan, Ph.D., and Margaret-Anne Mackintosh, Ph.D. served as secondary subject matter experts). This is an awesome resource to our Veterans suffering from insomnia!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITY THINGS TO DO AWAY FROM THE OFFICE?

Just about anything that involves unplugging from technology. If it includes being outdoors with my husband, an ocean, sand, paddleboards, and a hammock, I’m all set. North Carolina has some beautiful coastline, but one of the best things about moving here from the west coast is accessibility to the Caribbean.