Pediatric Year in Review Will Address Key Issues Impacting Children with Sleep and Breathing Disorders


Children experience many of the same health conditions that adults do, including COVID-19 and insomnia; however, they may manifest in different ways and require innovative approaches to diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, children from underrepresented communities face health disparities that have yet to be adequately addressed by the medical field at large. 

Theresa Laguna, MD, MSCS, Division Head, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine;
Terri A. Laguna, MD, MSci

The Pediatric Year in Review will focus on these important facets of the pediatric pulmonology and sleep fields that have a profound impact on the lives of children everywhere. The session, 2:15-3:45 p.m. PT on Monday, May 16, in Room 2002/2004 (West Building, Level 2), Moscone Center, will also address the shortage of pediatric pulmonology doctors, which impacts the accessibility of specialists when they are needed by patients.

Session co-chairs Terri A. Laguna, MD, MSci, division head for pulmonary and sleep medicine and director of the Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Center of Excellence at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Benjamin T. Kopp, MD, MPH, ATSF, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aim to present pediatric content relevant to the current times and sought out dynamic speakers who are leaders in the field.

“We have four speakers, all of whom are women, and three of whom are from underrepresented minority groups,” Dr. Laguna said. “I’m very proud to have this group of powerful, brilliant women.”

Olufunke Afolabi-Brown, MD, an attending physician in the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will present an update on pediatric sleep medicine.

“Dr. Afolabi-Brown will highlight how children are different from adults and the main issues that pediatric sleep doctors have dealt with, especially in the middle of the pandemic when a lot of kids developed insomnia and mental health issues. It really is a timely discussion of how children’s sleep has been affected,” Dr. Laguna said.

Jennifer A. Rama, MD, MEd, assistant professor of pediatrics, pediatric pulmonology at Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, will provide an update on the status of the pediatric pulmonology workforce and discuss strategies to increase the interest of medical students and residents specializing in the field.

“Pediatric pulmonologists are a rare breed among physicians, and underrepresented minority (URM) physicians are even harder to recruit and retain in the field of academic medicine,” Dr. Laguna said. “It is important that we develop mentorship and sponsorship programs to adequately support all our URM trainees and faculty members. The Pediatric Year in Review will address both of those issues.”

Lael Yonker, MD, co-director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center, the Cystic Fibrosis Therapeutic Development Center, and the Pulmonary Genetics Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, will give an overview of the impact of COVID-19 on children.

Drs. Laguna and Kopp decided to feature this topic even before the Omicron variant surge, mainly because COVID-19 impacts children much differently than adults.

Dr. Yonker will discuss the disease’s impact on the lungs and other systems, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, an inflammatory response that can affect the entire body.

“It’s rare, but it’s a big problem when it happens. It lands kids in the ICU, and it affects their hearts,” Dr. Laguna said. “There is a lot more research now that shows how it is affecting children, both when they get the actual infection and then the long-term side effects and complications, which can include significant mental health issues.”

Beverley J. Sheares, MD, MS, associate professor of pediatrics, program director of the Pediatric Pulmonary Fellowship, medical director of the Pediatric Aerodigestive Center, and leader of the Health Equity Thread at Yale University School of Medicine, will discuss disparities in pediatric respiratory disease. Recent studies show that nearly all pulmonary diseases affect minority children differently than other children.

“Name your disease, and there are health care disparities,” Dr. Laguna said. “There’s been a lot more emphasis — finally — on studying children from black and brown communities and how asthma affects them, how being born prematurely affects them, how having cystic fibrosis negatively impacts them, to name just a few. There still is so much work that needs to be done.”

Register for ATS 2023

Register today for the ATS 2023 International Conference! Don’t miss this opportunity to take part in the in-person conference, May 19-24 in Washington, DC. Join your colleagues to learn about the latest developments in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine.