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HomeATS CommunityWho's Who ▶ Who's Who September 2018: Lynn Baniak, PhD, RN
Who's Who September 2018: Lynn Baniak, PhD, RN

From a young age, Lynn Baniak, PhD, RN was interested in science. With a previous undergraduate degree in biology, Dr. Baniak understood the scientific basis of chronic disease and the underlying mechanisms of therapeutic interventions. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she became interested in utilizing this knowledge to improve the health of her patients. This is when her journey went from that of a clinician to becoming a nurse-scientist.

Dr. Baniak has a unique background that combines nursing and biomedical engineering. During her doctoral studies, she worked as a research assistant in a biomedical research lab at Binghamton University and became interested in using technology to improve patient outcomes. Her dissertation involved the development of an assessment tool using air plethysmography to examine positional neck volume change. She then used that tool to explore the role of the calf muscle pump in the hemodynamics of breathing during sleep. She recently completed a post-doc at the University of Pittsburgh, and joined the faculty. Her time at the University of Pittsburgh has allowed her to take advantage of training opportunities and the university’s extensive mentorship culture, as well as its collaborative environment.

Dr. Baniak’s ability to reframe sleep, respiratory, and cardiovascular physiology from a patient-centered viewpoint uniquely positions her to advance clinical care by identifying physiologically-based interventions that are valued by patients. Her current research consists of finding and implementing pulmonary interventions to improve sleep and reduce sleep apnea, and as a result of such an intervention, to improve frailty outcomes in geriatric patients. She is very excited about the advancements being seen in understanding the effect of sleep on patients with chronic disease, especially as it relates to their quality of life. Research suggests a relationship between frailty and sleep, in which older patients who are experiencing sleep difficulties feel tired during the day and are less likely to exercise. They then can experience a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea as they lose muscle tone and fitness, which further impedes their sleep and physical activity. By breaking that cycle, Dr. Baniak hopes to improve her patients’ overall condition, allowing them to remain active in their communities and reduce hospitalizations.  In the future, Dr. Baniak would like to develop ways to help older adults with CPAP compliance, or to introduce other interventions such as upper airway stimulation surgery, to improve their sleep.

Dr. Baniak’s professional interest in precision medicine makes her an enthusiastic member of the ATS. She particularly values the way the ATS integrates the clinical side with patient-centered approaches. She’s a member of the nursing assembly, and feels that the ATS talks, seminars, and working groups make the annual conference unique among other conferences she’s attended. As in her experience at the University of Pittsburg, the culture of collaboration enhances research, and is amplified within the ATS by bringing together professionals working in different areas of the field. She also appreciates that within the ATS, when people are looking to collaborate, they truly want perspectives from different disciplines on their team.

Living in Pittsburgh is the perfect location for Dr. Baniak, even beyond her professional life. When Dr. Baniak isn’t researching sleep interventions to help her patients, she’s indulging her other passions of traveling, meeting people, and learning about history, all through antiquing. Dr. Baniak enjoys antiquing all over the U.S., finding and collecting treasures to display in her home as a collection, but more importantly as an archive of a piece of American history. Her unique perspective and eye for detail serve her as well at the antique store as it does in the lab.