David Drees, MD, pursues his work much like his hero, Winston Churchill, did: with great courage, resilience and humility, while having compassion for his fellow man — or kids, in Dr. Drees’ case. It’s evident in his daily mission to help kids win the battle against sleep disorders. He sets kids up for success by first building a trusting relationship, listening to patient needs and working closely with families to develop a personalized plan for victory.
As our newest pediatric sleep medicine physician, Dr. Drees diagnoses and treats kids and teens with sleep problems, such as narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnea, in addition to interpreting sleep studies. In his role, his goal is to push pediatric sleep medicine forward by expanding sleep health awareness, while forming multidisciplinary specialty clinics to introduce new treatments. Specifically, he hopes to develop an insomnia clinic to better serve patients that aren’t responding well to treatment or who have underlying conditions, such as autism.
What’s the best part about being a provider? Victory, of course! Sleep problems not only affect a child’s entire body, but they also often impact a family’s ability to function. So, each time Dr. Drees can help a child come out victorious on the other side, everybody wins.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
Akron Children’s checked all the boxes. I have great opportunity to grow along with the hospital as it experiences tremendous growth in the coming years. Akron Children’s has a great culture and represents the “just-right” size hospital: small enough that everyone treats you like family, yet large enough to offer all the necessary resources for excellent care. Plus, the location is close to my family.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish.
I am a pediatric sleep physician. I see patients with sleep concerns, such as narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnea, and I interpret sleep studies. I hope to expand sleep health awareness and work more closely with our colleagues in primary care, ENT, plastic surgery, bariatric surgery and behavioral health. My goal is to form multidisciplinary specialty clinics involving sleep and introduce new treatment options to our patients, including hypoglossal nerve stimulation to treat sleep apnea.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
I plan to be a jack-of-all-trades sleep medicine physician. However, I would like to develop a complex insomnia clinic for patients who aren’t responding well to treatment, especially for patients suffering from multifaceted syndromes, such as autism. There’s still so much we don’t know about complex insomnia, particularly for special populations. I enjoy learning about each patient and family as individuals, and treating complex insomnia often requires knowing all the details to create a successful personalized plan.
What do you like most about being a provider?
I appreciate the unique window providers get into patients’ and families’ lives, the trusting relationship and teamwork that results, and the impact we can make together. I like the thought of setting a child up for success, building a foundation of healthy habits and diverting their path away from harm. Sleep issues not only affect the entire patient’s body, but often they impact the family’s ability to function, as well. It’s nice to see the benefits of our sleep interventions with everyone involved.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I want my patients and their families to feel heard. I want them to know that I will listen and work with them to create a plan that fits their personalized situation. I also hope that my patients know our appointments are just the start of our relationship, and I will continue to be a partner for wellness after they leave my clinic.
How does your personality fit your role?
I see myself as calm and easy-going. I love to laugh and use humor to lighten the mood. I think it helps me connect with patients and their families by breaking some of the stigma surrounding the white coat. I want families to know I can relate to many of their sleeping issues.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever happened to you as a provider?
As an intern during my residency training program, we had to evacuate the nursery full of brand-new babies after a septic line exploded. It spewed the worst smelling poo and leaked all over our main hallway!
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m most looking forward to growing with Akron Children’s. The sleep department is planning to double in size over the next few years, which will bring about exciting new challenges and opportunities. This will allow us to reduce wait times, make better connections with our community of referring providers, and open up bandwidth for ground-breaking research and comprehensive multidisciplinary clinics that will help us better serve our patients and push the field of pediatric sleep medicine forward.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
We have 2 girls: Lucy is 3 years old and Eleanor is 1. My wife, Nicole, is a hematologist at Akron Children’s. We also have a dog named Darla and a cat named Lilo Ravioli (our toddler named her). Our dog is a giant Newfoundland, the same dog as Nana in Peter Pan, and our cat is a Bengal.
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
As an outdoor enthusiast, I would love to travel to New Zealand to see all the beautiful beaches, hike and ski in the mountains. It would be amazing to see the Milford Track in person.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I love to explore and hike around the nearby parks with my family. I also golf, hunt, and I hope to start bowling in a league this winter.
Who are your heroes and why?
Winston Churchill is one of my biggest heroes. He is famous for leading the British to victory through the worst of World War II and advocated strongly for the D-Day attack on Normandy beaches. However, much of his success came after hitting rock bottom earlier in his career when he served as head of the British Navy during World War I. Prior to WW II, he was infamous for a massively unsuccessful attack in Gallipoli. His story is one of great resilience, humility, courage and humanism — values that resonate in my life.