Stephen D. Feren, MD
I speak: English
My gender: Male
Where I practice
Although Georgia is my home, and I have lived here most of my life, I grew up on a sheep ranch in Western Oregon. Actually, that was where I decided to be a doctor. Sheep are good at managing their own affairs, some people are surprised to learn, and actually require very little shepherding. So, as a child tasked with watching the sheep, I spent years being incredibly bored, wandering mostly empty fields with only my thoughts. I would guess that current day shepherds are constantly on YouTube! But back then, as the hours slowly passed, I could only think so much about thistles or the wind. I decided then that instead of a shepherd, I wanted to be a doctor. And every day I feel good about this decision - I get to meet neat, new people who actually need help with their lives.
About my practice
Chances are high you have not yet met a sleep doctor, anywhere. There are not many of us. And you are probably thinking, "What exactly is a sleep doc?" We come from different beginnings, pulmonology or psychiatry for example. I am a neurologist and I trained at the Medical College of Georgia. The first time I went into the hospital there, the first doctor I happened to meet was a sleep medicine specialist, who was also a pediatrician. I did not know what he did, as a doctor, and I learned then about diseases like insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. They are common problems, and he helped people deal with them. I thought that was great, because I liked to sleep (and I was not getting much of it in medical school). But what I had not realized was that poor sleep is a tremendous source of stress. In so many ways, poor sleep affects our health and the quality of our lives. Each night while we sleep, parts of our brain actually speed up. Our brains are very active through the night, and this complicated process of recovery is essential. So sleep disorders are conditions where we cannot get that critical sleep, or our sleep just does not work right. And after nights like that, each day can be a burden and a struggle.
How I thrive
Honestly, I thrive on chocolate and exercise, in roughly equal proportion. I like to work hard. It is probably a habit I picked up from the ranch, and I find a tremendous amount of satisfaction in my work; but what we do at Kaiser Permanente is particularly important to me. When I have a few days off, I love to hike. When all I have is a few minutes to relax, my favorite thing to do is sit quietly and watch the wind push through the trees.