"A series of unfortunate events led to the downward turn for the clinic, however this should not affect our patients' continuity of care," states Dr. Simmons. “I will simply extend my other sleep program, Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates (CSMA), into The Woodlands and Conroe areas. I have negotiated a temporary lease and we are looking at the best options to ensure we have a healthy practice."
Dr. Simmons, a neurologist who is triple board-certified in epilepsy and sleep, was recruited, in 1999, by the Sadler Clinic, leaving a faculty position at UCLA in Los Angeles, to develop a state-of-the art sleep disorders center in Montgomery County. “When I was considering the transition from my academic career; moving my family to Houston, and joining the clinic, I knew that I could provide a level of care beyond that of other centers in the Houston area. Which is why I structured my agreement with the Sadler Clinic so I could setup sleep programs outside of Montgomery County, as long as I did so in a fashion that was mutually beneficial and not in competition with the clinic,” said Dr. Simmons. The Sadler Clinic had 11 locations, all in Montgomery County, when it closed.
It didn’t take Dr. Simmons long to venture out. In 2001 he started REST Technologies, which infrastructured the sleep center at Memorial Hermann Fort Bend Hospital which, in 2006, relocated its infrastructure to a new Memorial Hermann, Sugar Land Hospital, where he designed and setup their sleep center. Not one to waste time, that same year he founded a private sleep medicine practice, CSMA, in Houston located in the internationally recognized Texas Medical Center area.
The sudden shut-down of Sadler Clinic is not only devastating to the community but also to all the doctors who now have to quickly figure out how to establish a medical practice and take on new business responsibilities, something that would typically be planned over many months or years, not weeks.
In Dr. Simmons’ case, he has seen professional challenges before; in 2008 the sleep lab at the Memorial Hermann, Sugar Land Hospital gave him a 30-day notice-of-termination, when the hospital eliminated the sub-contractor technical services contract. “Losing a number of my staff to the hospital, and quickly finding new space for a sleep lab and finding office space for all that staff, while continuing to provide care all-the-while holding down my SCSDC practice was an extremely difficult time for me. I suppose, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and I can say while we didn't enjoy the times it made my company and my staff more resilient and cohesive,” stressed Dr. Simmons.
“Believing that I can provide a higher level of care for patients with sleep disorders than what most patients are receiving these days by most centers, pushes me to enhance my practice. Now four years after being cut off from the hospital sleep center in Sugar Land that I created, this April CSMA opened a free standing Five-star state-of-the-art sleep center in Sugar Land,” states Dr. Simmons. “I want to use this center to reach out to the community, so I have included a 2000 square feet conference room, in the building, that can function as a class room to educate the community on sleep disorders medicine. I came to the Sadler Clinic as a faculty member at UCLA and it’s really important to me to share the knowledge that I have amassed over my career. I know that if we focus on the positive then the negative things around us will be over in time.”
Former SCSDC patients can also focus on the positive changes. “We will now have four locations in the greater Houston area under CSMA. I take things in stride, and know that this difficult time with Sadler Clinic closing will result in CSMA having a stronger more cohesive program. I need my patients to understand the strength of my group and my practice," Dr. Simmons emphasized.
Quick changes are what the previous Sadler patients must deal with now. Some patients show up to see their former Sadler doctor and the offices are closed. Dr. Simmons patients can still come to his clinic in The Woodlands. “When my husband and I showed up to see Dr. Simmons today I hadn’t heard the news that Sadler had closed but I noticed it wasn’t as busy as it usually is. When Dr. Simmons told me about Sadler closing I wanted to cry. I guess we are afraid of the changes, but I’m so happy that he can continue providing care to us under CSMA and we won’t have to find a new doctor,” stated Alicia Gonzalez.
Mark Wilkerson, MD an Ophthalmologist whose father was one of the original founding three physicians of the Sadler Clinic is another of the Gonzalez’s doctors stated, “Dr. Simmons is a renowned expert in Sleep Medicine. He was an integral part of Sadler Clinic for many years and was able to develop a center of excellence. He is an energetic innovator who constantly reexamines how to improve the care for patients who suffer from sleep disorders." Dr. Wilkerson has also worked-out a temporary lease and is trying to stay in the same office to maintain a stable environment for his staff and his patients. Alicia Gonzalez stated that she is happy to learn that two of her doctors will still provide care for her and her husband in The Woodlands and hopefully in the same office space. In fact, Gonzalez and her husband have been with the clinic for years and have created relationships with several doctors over those years. Their primary care doctor, Christopher Robertson, left the clinic two-years ago, and is still their primary-care physician.
With the rapid changes that happened at Sadler Clinic many have been left without answers and to help with this, Dr. Simmons’ staff has set up a web page, http://www.sadlerdoctors.com, because while Sadler Clinic may be gone, the teachings, beliefs and legacy of Sadler Clinic are still at the core of many who worked for decades at this clinic. In fact the following; developed by Dr. Peter Bigler and is from the employee handbook:
- Sadler Clinic is committed to delivering superior healthcare by partnering with our patients, families, employees, and the community we serve. We will achieve this goal by delivering exceptional care through Service, Accountability, being Dynamic, Leadership, Excellence, and Respect. Our guiding vision is to be the best multi-specialty clinic in the country for patients, employees, and providers.
As the old adage goes there really is no good time for bad news and the timing for this change presents challenges for most and Dr. Simmons is no exception. He is scheduled to present several significant research studies, next week at the annual national sleep disorders conference (APSS - SLEEP 2012) in Boston. “It’s really important that I still present the findings of our research. The work I have been fortunate to do at both my Sadler and CSMA sleep centers has led to cutting-edge methods that will help patients with sleep disturbances. It would be tragic if these recent events with Sadler prevent me from sharing with colleagues from around the globe what we are finding with our clinical research. I’m proud that my centers use enhanced methods of measuring patients’ sleep that most of my peers have not been able to implement in a similar fashion. One focus of my research that I will be presenting at the conference involves new methods for acclimating patients to treatment devices such as CPAP and another study I am presenting is how many patients with symptoms of fatigue and or sleepiness go untreated because the current guidelines used by most laboratories are not sensitive enough to tabulate the problem. Our study shows that over 80% of the patients we treated, who would have gone untreated based on the standard guidelines, improved with our treatment. I can’t miss this meeting. This data needs to be presented and hopefully the guidelines will change and more patients will get proper treatment," said Dr. Simmons.
As one part of Dr. Simmons professional life comes to a close he is optimistic in the care that he and the great team he has built will now be able to function more cohesively and focused, caring for the patient in ways that most sleep centers can’t. Most sleep labs limit their focus to typical obstructive sleep apnea and snoring, since it is so common. However, CSMA excels in a broader scope of sleep related conditions that include:
ADD / ADHD,
Jaw pain and teeth grinding (bruxism),
Seizures during sleep,
Restless Legs Syndrome
"I think that by bringing all of my centers under one management system and eliminating the obstacles I was presented by functioning within the Sadler system my clinical research efforts can become enhanced. As a result, we will make more strides on better approaches to treat complicated cases. This will be an exciting time in my career and I look forward to the challenges ahead," states Dr. Simmons.
To contact Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates the new number for The Woodlands and Conroe locations, not affiliated with Sadler, is 281-407-6222 in Houston in the Medical Center 713-668-4100 and in Sugar Land 281-240-3773. Another way to find out more is to go to the web at http://www.HoustonSleep.net where an online sleep questionnaire can be filled out for review to determine how to best undergo an evaluation and treatment of difficulties with sleep.