Meet The AAST President-Elect: Rita Brooks
The 2016 election for the AAST Board of Directors came to an end with the largest number of participating voters in history
Newly re-elected, President Elect Rita Brooks shares her thoughts on winning this year's election.
Q. In your own words, tell me about your history as a member and ultimately two-time elected president of the AAST?
I have been a member of the AAST since 1989, very early in my career as a sleep technologist. The AAST has always been my first stop for educational programs and resources. I am proud to have been a member of the AAST Board of Directors since 2007 and appreciate having the opportunity to develop educational resources for technologists of today and the future. As president of the AAST I was fortunate, during my first term, to be involved in the 2013 AAST Summit and the white paper that resulted. That process helped the AAST to develop the strategic plan that is currently in place and serving as a roadmap for the organization to maintain relevancy for the sleep technology profession.
Q. How do you feel about winning the presidency?
I am excited to have another opportunity to lead the AAST into the future. The world is changing rapidly in sleep medicine and technology, as well as in all of healthcare, and I am pleased to be able to lead the AAST as we develop the expanding role we envision that includes higher education and establishment of a professional role for sleep technologists.
Q. What would you like to accomplish during your second term as president?
I would like to move the profession forward to meet the need for a higher level of education for those entering the field. In conjunction with that, I support the development of more bachelor and master degree programs for sleep technologists looking to expand their roles. We need higher education in order to meet the requirements of the expanding roles we seek to develop and fill as well as to educate those who follow us into the future. As our roles continue to change and become more clinical in nature, higher education is a must.
Q. What would you do differently from the last time you were president?
I am not sure that I would do anything differently. My goal during my first term was to make the AAST membership aware of the changes that are affecting our profession, and to establish the educational programs and support needed to expand the role of the sleep technologist. As things continue to change at a rapid pace, I hope to leverage technology to make important information and education available to our membership by developing programs, guidelines and procedures that support our expanding professional roles.
Q. Since sleep technology is an ever-changing profession, talk to me about how the role of a sleep technologist differs from when you were last president and how it is different today.
As technology improves we have moved from analog to digital recording systems, expanded into home sleep apnea testing, developed more sophisticated technology for treating patients with complex sleep related breathing disorders, and moved from simply being night technologists to supporting clinical care and providing sleep education for our patients, the community, and the world. Many of these changes have occurred during and since my first presidency. I believe that the role of the sleep technologist will continue to expand and will demand that we embrace technology, seek higher education, and continue to grow our role into the future. The technologist diagnosing, treating, educating and supporting sleep disorders patients needs to understand our more sophisticated technology and our more complicated patients, and have the ability to manage outcomes. This is a very different role than that we began with as simply the technologist recording patients during sleep.
Q. Between being the president of the AAST and also being a director at Capital Health, how do you manage your time?
I am extremely fortunate to work for an employer that has supported my role as a member of the AAST Board of Directors and as president for a past term as well as a future term. As a director at Capital Health for many years I am responsible for a number of diagnostic departments in addition to the sleep centers. Most of what I do is intertwined with sleep medicine, allowing me to expand sleep services throughout the organization. Much of what I do for the AAST also benefits my sleep centers, sleep physician practice, and other programs within the medical center. I believe my role with the AAST in any capacity improves my performance as a director at Capital Health, and vice versa – the AAST also benefits from my experience as a director. Understandably I am busy in both roles, but I love what I do and so I find time to get most everything done!
Q. Advice for those who would ultimately want to run for president, what should they look out for?
You will never know until you step into the role of president how much responsibility you have taken on. As AAST president, you are the voice of the organization and the face of the profession. This is a great and sobering responsibility, not to be taken lightly. It is important to listen to the members and address the issues affecting them to the best of your ability, develop resources to meet their needs, and to assure the profession remains viable and strong. Be prepared to make difficult decisions!
Q. In your thoughts, from when you first joined as a member to what the AAST is like today, how much has the organization grown?
The AAST has grown tremendously since the early days. Back in the day when I started in sleep technology I looked to the AAST for support and guidance as I learned. I am especially pleased to have been involved with developing the AAST Timeline that is on the website. It is a testament to the growth of our profession. Our early leaders had the vision and foresight to develop a brand new profession and support its growth. I remember many of the milestones that we commemorated in the timeline, and we are fortunate that many of these leaders are still involved in the profession and they continue to support our growth, development and expansion. We are a young profession, and we benefit greatly from the wisdom and experience of our past leaders. Today we continue to break new ground as our profession continues to expand and change.
Q. Is there anything I’m missing that you wanted to add?
I am looking forward to continuing the momentum the AAST has developed toward the expansion of the role of the future sleep professional. I hope to embrace the technology that is now available to make our services available to sleep professionals across the world, strengthen the organization, and continue to expand the collaborative relationships that have been developed over the past few years to the benefit of all sleep practitioners.
Join current President Laura Linley and Rita at the AAST Fall Course in Cleveland in October!