Oct 28

My SMTI students will appreciate this Dearly Departed profile since our classes are held on Saturdays, a day traditionally reserved for sleeping in and long, lazy brunches.

While I didn’t know William Dement, a physician and medical professor at Stanford University who passed away on June 17, 2020, I have a deep appreciation for his life’s work. He spent his career educating people on the dangers of not getting enough sleep. It seems a lack of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, heart disease and other health issues.

Dr. Dement opened what he called the first sleep disorders clinic in the world at Stanford in 1970. Over the years, his research led to more than 500 scientific articles and several books, and eventually to the establishment of a new board-certified medical specialty. His work was ground-breaking and offered medical treatment and relief to people suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea and general sleep deprivation. His advice was simple: “Sleepiness is a signal to go to bed.”

It’s worth noting that Dr. Dement never dreamed of becoming America’s sleep doctor. He wanted to be a psychoanalyst. While attending graduate school at the University of Chicago, he met a physiologist, Nathaniel Kleitman, and a graduate student, Eugene Aserinsky, and worked with them on a study on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the phase most associated with dreams. He remained at the University of Chicago, earning a medical degree and a PhD in neurophysiology.

While a research fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Dr. Dement’s sleep studies included a rather interesting test group, the Radio City Rockettes dance troupe. He ran EEG tests to chart brain activity during sleep. I can only imagine the Rockettes were a lively test group!

Dr. Dement must have followed his own advice; he lived to the ripe age of 91. Kudos to you, sir! Learn more about this Dearly Departed here.

Dearly Departed profiles are the musings of SC Innovates’ Director and SmartState Endowed Chair Laura B. Cardinal. Dr. Cardinal teaches a series of courses in Strategic Management of Technology + Innovation, wherein each course adds to the unique fusion of innovation, business strategy, science, and technology. Her courses are offered through the UofSC Darla Moore School of Business Professional MBA Program.

Laura B. Cardinal, PhD