Bringing together a top-notch team is no easy task, but certified dental lab technician David Gergen has managed to pull it off. He is not an academician or a politician, but his influence is vast.
You may not know the name, but Gergen’s efforts will soon use the celebrity power of the NFL to bolster the cause of sleep medicine nationwide. Prior to co-opting players from America’s favorite game, Gergen presented his first sleep training program in August 2011 in Sonoma, Calif, to a group of 25 doctors. From these humble beginnings, Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab improved every week thanks to a top notch team.
Gergen managed to make each meeting better than the last by covering each topic thoroughly, without trying to extrapolate too many data points. Gergen learned the value of this clarity during a time when he became Arizona’s most successful POP Warner football coach. Specifically, he learned that individual efforts often do not make the grade. Teams produce success.Ultimately, the team that Gergen assembled for the Minnesota 2012 SLEEP show was composed of giants in the field. One standout speaker was the legendary Harold Gelb, DDS, who talked about optimal jaw position and the Gelb 4/7 position, as discussed in his seminal text on the subject: Clinical Management of Head, Neck and TMJ Pain and Dysfunction. Wayne Halstrom, DDS, discussed bruxism, and his approach to treatment using splint therapy and a new titanium attachment designed to withstand the most extreme mouth forces.
Dr. Steve Carstensen’s nocturnal bruxism review kept the momentum going via a comprehensive primer on dental sleep disorders. Next up, Dr. Francisco Eraso took the time to review the Baby Blue arch expansion appliance, which came from the mind of David Gergen. Eraso used his 30 years of orthodontic experience to come up with the first pediatric sleep appliance, which I expect to hear a lot about this year after such a well received and thought provoking presentation.
Dr. Rod Willey reviewed his successful practice-building program with all the edifying detail contained in his “Skip It” program. But all that was just the meeting, so what was the game changer?
Despite all the technical expertise on display, this meeting will be remembered as the first time that retired NFL players used their celebrity to introduce the urgent need for sleep diagnosis and therapy to the general public. Pro Player Health Alliance was created to treat the sleep health needs of retired NFL players, while at the same time raising awareness of sleep apnea as a silent killer.
Only a team player like David Gergen could have pulled this off. Dr. Archie Roberts, cardiologist and retired NFL player, was the keynote speaker, and established the much higher incidence of OSA and heart disease in the general population. The key, as in most medical issues, is early detection and asking the right questions.
Carl Eller, Stu Voight, Mike Haynes, Matt Blair, Chuck Foreman, and Derrek Kennard were all excellent football players, and some have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. All are sleep apnea patients now contributing to the field of sleep medicine and sharing their experiences with the general public. The results are more diagnostic tests, and hopefully, reversing the trend of undiagnosed sleep apnea.
I was there when the Pro Player Health Alliance was launched, and I heard the excitement in the room. I look forward to the successful rollout in all of the NFL cities. David Gergen will remain at the center of this program— building teams, asking hard questions, and doing what he does best. I think the sleep industry will be better for it.
Managing Editor SleepScholar