Delaware’s Sandman

Jun 17th, 2013 | By | Category: Alumni Profile, Features

BY Theresa Gawlas Medoff

When Lyron Deputy AS ’99, MSN ’06, first entered Wesley in 1997, he never imagined he would end up where he is today: CEO of Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers, a sleep study provider that serves 5,000 patients annually. He credits his experiences at Wesley with providing the educational background and especially the courage he needed to take the huge step from staff nurse at a hospital to successful nurse entrepreneur.

Deputy came to Wesley knowing that he wanted to be a nurse, but there were plenty of times along the way when he doubted his ability to succeed in the challenging program while also working to pay his tuition. He says that the support he got from the faculty, and in particular from nursing professor Dr. Robert Contino, helped him in myriad ways.

“At Wesley, the faculty and the whole culture really opened my eyes to what my capabilities were,” Deputy says. “Dr. Contino was a major inspiration to me, not only because he was a male nurse back when that was extremely rare, but also because he saw the potential in me before I did. He always knew how to talk to me and keep me on track. He became a mentor back in my early days as a student and he continues as a mentor to this day.”

Wesley’s nursing faculty also opened Deputy’s eyes to the many avenues a nurse’s career could take. After he was in the workforce for several years, they encouraged him to return to Wesley to earn his MSN and obtain certification as an advanced practice nurse.

“If I hadn’t gone to graduate school at Wesley, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he says. “What I learned there about health promotion, the disease process and how to manage patient care is directly applicable to my current business.”

The undergraduate business courses Deputy took also helped to prepare him to manage the business. He later earned an MBA at Wilmington University.

THE BUSINESS OF SLEEP

It was while working the night shift at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover that Deputy recognized a business opportunity. Many post-surgical patients required sleep studies, yet back in the early 2000s, there were only a handful of sleep disorder centers in Delaware. Research told Deputy that the market for sleep studies was large, and that sleep disorders were a serious health concern.

Ten percent of Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Half of those with sleeping disorders have obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition in which a sleeper stops breathing numerous times an hour for seconds or even minutes at a time. Left untreated, it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Other commonly diagnosed sleep disorders— insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, night terrors, and sleepwalking and talking—interrupt normal sleep patterns and leave a person feeling overly tired the next day.

“That’s a huge hazard for people in high-risk professions that require quick reflexes like police, firefighters and truck drivers,” Deputy says. “But sleepiness can cause problems for anyone, particularly while driving.”

Deputy began his business in 2004 as Delmarva Sleep Diagnostics, with one location in Middletown, appropriately enough, on Sleepy Hollow Lane. Within a year it had expanded to two sites. But it was in 2007, when the business merged with a few health care organizations and a group of doctors, that Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers really took off. The group soon opened three additional sites, and now has six sites throughout Delaware.

As CEO, Deputy has an eye on the future of the business, and that future is changing rapidly as health care reform proceeds and the models and capabilities for providing medical care evolves. Thinking both as a nurse and as a business owner, Deputy sees the opportunity for Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers to evolve its model from being primarily a sleep-testing lab to more of a clinical setting. In that model, there would be more focus on education about treatments as well as ongoing follow-up to see how those treatments are working.

“We’re trying to evolve the role of the advanced practice nurse to be able to assist the physicians more with education and follow up, because treatment for sleep disorders is very problematic,” Deputy says. “We’ve been sleeping the same way since birth, for the most part, so it’s definitely a challenge to convince the body to sleep with the device or to sleep at a different time of day.”

WESLEY CONNECTION REMAINS

In addition to running Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers, Deputy has been an adjunct clinical faculty member at Wesley since 2005, working in the clinical skills lab to help students practice and refine their skills. At first he thought of the job as a one-year commitment just to help out the department, but he soon realized that teaching was a calling for him.

“It’s my way of being able to pass the baton on to the next generation,” Deputy says. Just as Contino did for him, Deputy encourages students if they begin to doubt their ability or when they are having difficulty balancing work or family with schooling.

In the clinical lab, Deputy met Brandon Hoskins ’11, who has worked as an emergency trauma RN at Christiana Care since graduating from Wesley.

“Lyron was not only a really good instructor, but he has also become a great mentor to me,” Hoskins says. “Nursing is a rigorous program to study at Wesley, and he made sure that I knew all my skills and became sure of myself. Since then he’s become my friend, but above all I am thankful to have him as a mentor.”

Deputy says that one of the most important lessons he tries to teach students is always care for their patients as they would a family member.

As an alumnus and current faculty member, Deputy is excited about the projected opening in 2014 of Wesley’s new Health Sciences Building. He predicts that the new building and the expanded opportunities that come along with it will attract additional well-qualified students to Wesley.

The new building will increase the nursing department’s space to 30,000 square feet instead of 5,000 and to four classrooms instead of one, notes Contino, who now serves as chair of the nursing department. It will also allow for an expansion of the department’s teaching technology, which is vital in the field today.

Contino has watched Deputy evolve from an undergraduate nursing student to a well-respected figure in Delaware’s medical establishment.

“He’s a leader in this state, not only as a CEO but also as an advocate for nursing,” says Contino, who serves with Deputy on the Delaware Board of Nursing. “When I think of Lyron, I think of the word success not only as a nurse, but as a leader and as a person.”

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