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Blog Feature

By: Marietta B. Bibbs, BA, RPSGT, CCSH on December 4th, 2017

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Sleep Medicine in Jerusalem—A Lifetime Experience

Pontifical Notre Dame Center of Jerusalem

On October 26-27, 2017, four members of the American Association of Sleep Technologists™ (AAST) participated in the International Palestinian Congress in Sleep Medicine. The congress, entitled “Temporomandibular Disorders and Sleep Apnea”, was held at the Pontifical Notre Dame Center of Jerusalem. This is a beautiful facility that includes a hotel, chapel and educational center, gift shop, restaurants and an auditorium. Workshops were held in the educational center, and the main congress was held at John Paul II Auditorium. The group’s participation was both eventful and memorable.

John Paul II Auditorium at Notre Dame Center

The Planning
Collaborating with the event planners in Jerusalem was not an easy task. Most of our communication was with Dr. Naser Khayat, chairman of the Congress Preparatory Scientific Committee. Language differences and utilizing email for all communications contributed to the many hours of work and re-work. It was difficult to determine the level of sleep medicine practice in Israel and Palestine and how much PAP therapy was actually utilized. Since there was a focus on temporomandibular disorders, we were also unsure about the level of knowledge related to sleep apnea, sleep recordings and data interpretation. Working state-side with Dr. Mustafa Hammad, who has a thriving practice in Panama City, Florida, helped us to clear up questions on the practice of sleep medicine in the country. Dr. Hammad was instrumental in initially contacting Marietta Bibbs and getting AAST involved in this Congress.

AAST President, Rita Brooks and Committee Chair, Marietta Bibbs, worked tirelessly to obtain the right speakers and the appropriate topics for this unprecedented event. The speakers included Jon Atkinson, Marietta Bibbs, Rita Brooks and Byron Jamerson. Initially, the AAST was asked to prepare two full-day sessions of workshops and presentations on “sleep apnea” which were to be presented in both Jerusalem and Jordan. Marietta and Rita developed objectives and topics that focused on recognizing and managing symptoms of sleep apnea, defining best practices for patient safety and adherence to therapy and scoring and interpreting PSG data. The agenda was finalized and submitted to the Congress. The AAST offered Continuing Education Credits (CECs) for all Congress participants.

Changes are a Part of Planning
The Palestinian Congress committee did not receive the level of support they had anticipated and this meant further changes to the agenda. Dr. Khayat informed us that we would be presenting four pre-Congress workshops on “sleep apnea” and four presentations on “sleep apnea during the Congress”. Since he was not specific on topics, Marietta and Rita went back to the drawing board and developed another agenda. The final agenda was submitted and accepted by the Congress committee.

Workshops opened on Thursday afternoon (October 26) at 1:00 PM in the Notre Dame Hotel Education Center. These workshops ran concurrently with temporomandibular workshops, but we still had good attendance. These workshops were presented on the following topics: “Using PAP Downloads to Manage Sleep Apnea Patients” (Bibbs); “Recording and Scoring Polysomnographic Recordings” (Brooks); “Effective CPAP and BPAP Titration: Determining the Best Treatment” (Jamerson); and “Polysomnography Reports—Interpreting the Data” (Atkinson). The workshop audience included medical students, physicians and dentists. Participants asked numerous questions and were very interested and attentive throughout the four-hour workshop period.

Jon Atkinson presenting during Pre-Congress Workshop

Pre-Congress Workshop Presenters and Participants

Congress Day
Attending and presenting during the Congress in the beautiful John Paul II Auditorium was an unforgettable experience. The venue offered the perfect setting for this event.



The Congress opened at 4:30 PM on Thursday, October 26 and continued through the evening followed by a late dinner. Marietta Bibbs was the only American speaker during this session. She presented “Clinical Practice Guidelines for PAP Titration and Management of Sleep Apnea Patients”. Other presenters for the evening hailed from Sweden (Dr. Thomas List) and Italy (Drs. Domenico Ciaverella and Giovanni Mauro).

Marietta Bibbs presenting and receiving Plaque from the Congress Committee  

The opening ceremony occurred prior to dinner. Unfortunately, the entire ceremony was in Arabic, and we did not understand the presenters; however, the entertainment for the evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all.


On Friday, October 27, the Congress session opened with five presentations—one of which included Jon Atkinson’s “Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea”. Other presenters during this session were from Palestine and Germany. All presenters during session three were from Palestine.

Jon Atkinson receiving Plaque from the Congress Committee

Rita Brooks presented during Session Four; “Identifying and Diagnosing Sleep Apnea”. Her session included speakers from Sweden and Palestine.

Rita Brooks receiving Plaque from the Congress Committee

Byron Jamerson presented during Session Five; “Advanced Positive Airway Pressure Titrations—ASV and AVAPS”. Speakers during this session were from Italy, UK and Palestine. The Congress program ended at 7:30 PM and was followed by dinner.

Byron Jamerson receiving Plaque from the Congress Committee

One notable highlight of the Congress was attendance by the Archbishop of Sebastia, Attalla Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church, who spoke during the opening ceremony.

Archbishop Attalla Hanna

The greatest honor for our participation was receiving beautiful plaques, which were presented by the entire congress committee following each presentation. We also received certificates written in Arabic and English. It was a ceremonial toast to us for participating in the Congress.

Plaques received by all speakers during the Congress

Prior to and following the Congress, we were able to tour some of the most notable sites in Israel. We visited old and new Jerusalem. We were very honored to be hosted by Dr. Mustafa Hammad and his wife and son, who took us on an extensive walking tour of the Old City where we saw the Wailing Wall, the Street where Mary grew up, and sampled many foods and flavors of the region. This was followed by an unbelievable dinner. We also visited Nazareth, Capernaum (the Town of Jesus), saw Mount Tabor and the Gospel Trail on the way to the Sea of Galilee, visited the Jordon River and ended the tour with a sighting of a real camel.

Following the Congress, we were able to visit the North District of Bethlehem, saw the birthplace of Jesus and the site of the Star of Bethlehem, visited Shepherd’s Field, viewed the beautiful architecture of the landscape, and ended the day with a wonderful dinner that included entertainment by a dance group.

Scenes from Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jordon River, Sea of Galilee and Bethlehem