Physician Spotlight: Rachel Salas

Meet Dr. Rachel Salas

Dr. Rachel Salas is a sleep neurologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep and Wellness. She has practiced for well over a decade and has developed a personalized approach to better serve her patients.

She recognized early on that patients had sleep concerns that didn’t always fit within current diagnostic paradigms. As a tertiary care referral center, they started seeing more treatment-resistant RLS and insomnia. Dr. Salas quickly realized that she needed to find something to offer to patients that went beyond standard interventions as many of her patients had already tried and failed these therapies. She tells me that there are many sleep centers within the Hopkins umbrella but they each offer unique services. Her center is a comprehensive sleep center that specializes in all sleep disorders but often, she focuses on patients with complex forms of RLS and insomnia.

She learned about Clifton Strengths and became a certified Strengths coach. She started using this to help her explore her patients’ strengths and then use these to create unique solutions for her specific patient. She is an early adopter of personalized medicine and teaches her students about both the science of sleep as well as the importance of patient advocacy.

She is involved in health professions education at the Director for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice for the School of Medicine where she works with leads from the Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health to teach learners about working as a team to provide high value care. She also offers education for her colleagues via her podcast The Neurologist is In via the Neurology Learning Network. She has also been a guest on a number of other podcasts and plans to create yet another one for her sleep center.

“The art of medicine is something that really resonated with me” says Dr. Salas. She enjoys connecting with her patients and tells me that her practice has changed significantly over the past five years. She engages with her patients to optimize their sleep. She encourages her patients to keep a gratitude journal and to partner with wellness and life coaches since they can offer yet another perspective and she finds that her patients enjoy having a coach.

She incorporates non-traditional approaches such as gently challenging her patients to experiment with the timing of their sleep, their preferred sleeping position, using cranioelectrical stimulation treatment for insomnia, and also encouraging her patients to critically examine their sleep environments. She routinely recommends weighted blankets and asks questions that I personally have never thought to ask such as the frequency of washing bed linens. She recommends massages/percussion massagers for her patients with RLS in addition to standard recommendations. She is able to weave together medicine and lifestyle changes while recognizing the abundance of available products that aim to improve our sleep. She embraces consumer sleep technology as well as low tech solutions such as being mindful of choosing the right bedsheets and curtains. Dr. Salas has created a patient-centered experience where she not only provides a diagnosis but delves into a patient’s strengths and uses these to further their shared goal of improving sleep.

Most recently, Dr. Salas was part of the second-place team in the AASM Change Agents competition. Her team was challenged to re-imagine the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. They created a vision where the patient is in the center and has control over the entire journey – from education and symptoms evaluation to a clinical visit, testing, treatment, and follow up. My Sleep Village has raised eyebrows and interest from venture capitalists as well as patient-advocacy organizations.

As the public continues to embrace the importance of a good night’s sleep, clinicians like Dr. Salas will help them to achieve their optimal sleep performance which should result in better days. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Salas, please call 1-800-WE-SLEEP (937-5337).