For over 20 years, Athens Limestone has had at least one board certified physician dedicated to specifically improving the function of our lungs as well as the quality of our sleep, and now we have three. One is truly homegrown and an Athens High School graduate, one is from the sub-continent of India, and one is from Peru. As far flung from each other as are their backgrounds and countries of origin, they all share one thing, and that is a passion for radically improving the quality of life of their patients. Their names are Dr. Al Scherff, Dr. Eduardo Bazan, and Dr. Ravali Tarigopula, who goes by “Dr. Tari.” Here is a bit about each of them, and why what they do is so important.
Dr. Al Scherff practices out of a clinic just behind Athens Limestone Hospital on the north side, called North Alabama Pulmonary & Sleep Consultants. It is located at 902 West Hobbs, near the ER parking lot. Dr. Scherff graduated from Athens High School in 1977, got his undergrad degree in chemistry from Auburn, went to medical school at University of South Alabama, and did his internship in Savannah. He did a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at the Medical College of Georgia. He told me he “always wanted to be a doctor,” and finds sleep to be “fascinating.” One thing Dr. Scherff told me, as did Dr. Bazan, is that “no one really understands why we need to sleep.” We know what happens when we don’t get enough sleep, but much of the topic of sleep is still a mystery. “It’s one of the few ‘miracles’ left in medicine,” said Dr. Scherff, and he gets enormous “personal satisfaction out of seeing peoples’ lives change.” Dr. Scherff says that one of the things he strives to do is “educate our patients. We try to be truly patient oriented, and it’s important for them to know what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
Treating sleep disorders is a relatively recently developed specialty, and the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines, used in the treatment of sleep apnea, have greatly evolved since Dr. Scherff began his career. If you have sleep disorders, a CPAP machine may be prescribed for you, or you may just need to learn and practice what Dr. Tari calls “good sleep hygiene,” which I’ll explain in a moment.
Dr. Ravali Tarigopula was born in India, in a city called Bellery (near Hydrabad) in the state of Karnataka. She graduated from Mahadevappa Rampure Medical College, and did her residency in Internal Medicine as well as a fellowship in Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine in New Jersey. She also completed a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in Philadelphia. She is the one who spoke to me about what she calls “good sleep hygiene.” It is important, especially if you are a shift worker sleeping during the day, that you have a room that is dark, quiet, and undisturbed. You need to avoid caffeine close to bedtime, and she may prescribe melatonin (a natural sleep inducing hormone) to help you sleep.
As a female doctor, Dr. Tari is interested in helping women who are having difficulties with sleep that are related to hormonal changes such as menopause. Other complaints such as restless leg syndrome, depression, acute and chronic coughs and asthma can also be associated with sleep disorders. She educates her patients about the need for sunlight during waking hours, as well as embracing a healthy lifestyle. As is the case with Dr. Scherff, Dr. Tari loves what she does because “sleep is a problem that can actually be fixed,” and that is not always the case with other disorders. “Their lives change,” she said. She smiled as she told me, “People become married to their CPAP and tell me they can’t live without it.” Dr. Tari’s office is located in the new medical building just south of the hospital at 101 Fitness Way, Suite 2500.
Dr. Eduardo Bazan is a native of Lima, Peru, and went to medical school at La Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. He did his internship at Metropolitan Hospital Center in New York, his residency in internal medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and his fellowship in sleep medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Dr. Bazan is also a hospitalist, a physician who is trained to help patients who have been admitted to a hospital. His office is at the Sleep Center, which is located at 205 Sanders, just northeast of the hospital. The Sleep Center is where you go when your doctor feels that you need to have a sleep test, and the facility is available to sleep patients 7 days and nights each week.
Dr. Bazan became interested in sleep medicine when he was in Detroit, and finds it particularly interesting because of all the problems that are caused or aggravated by poor sleep.
Some of the conditions the Sleep Center treats are what is known as narcolepsy as well as parasomnias. Narcolepsy is a condition that defined as excessive and uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, and can actually be dangerous if it hits while you are driving or operating machinery. Parasomnias are things such as night terrors, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, and PTSD episodes, sometimes with the patient having no memory of any of it. As is the case with his colleagues, Dr. Bazan also enjoys the fact that sleep disorders can be treated successfully, which makes a big difference in peoples’ lives. Teresa Fields, who is the Sleep Center Manager as well as a technician, says that the sleep physicians “take a lot of time with their patients.”
If you are in need of pulmonary care, treatment of sleep disorders or sleep related conditions, then Dr. Scherff, Dr. Tari and Dr. Bazan are interested in helping you. The Sleep Clinic is rated as one of the country’s best sleep centers, so you will be in excellent hands. Call their offices today for an appointment.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner