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Scottsbluff business helps put health worries to bed

Mark Schultz of Western Sleep Medicine

For their friends and neighbors, they're the perfect solution for a good night's sleep.  Never mind the work they do also can improve health and save lives.

Since 2006, Western Sleep Medicine, the SBA's Nebraska 3rd Congressional District Small Business of the Year for 2012, has provided polysomnographic services to aid physicians in identifying and treating sleep disorders in hundreds of patients. 

The business was nominated for the honor by Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) Scottsbluff Director Ingrid Battershell.

The SBA Nebraska District Office names one outstanding small business to represent each of the state’s three congressional districts based on staying power; growth in number of employees; an increase in sales and unit volume; current and past financial performance; innovativeness of product or service offered; response to adversity; and, contributions to community-oriented projects.

Fast growth fit a critical need

With exceptional patient care as its foundation, Western Sleep Medicine’s net income grew from just below $300,000 in 2007 to more than $1.2 million by 2010, and now employs 17 people.

Now with nine laboratories in western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and southwest South Dakota, including two independent sleep labs, and partnerships with seven critical access hospitals in the region, Mark Schultz (pictured above), a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT), and co-owner Dr. Gerald Amundsen offer the experience of years of clinical and administrative experience to improve the health of patients of all ages through the identification and treatment of sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.  Estimates say one in three who suffer from hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea; treating apnea also has proven to lessen the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and mood disorders.

Amundsen is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and is a board certified family physician.

Schultz completed a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wyoming and master’s degree from the University of Louisville, achieving national recognition for rural arts development and earning a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts Locals Program before returning to Scottsbluff in 1994. 

Mark Schultz (left) chats with Scottsbluff KHUB-AM news director Kevin Mooney (right).

Mark Schultz (left) chats with Scottsbluff KHUB-AM news director Kevin Mooney (right) about his selection as the 3rd Congressional District Small Business of the Year for 2012.

Suffering from severe apnea himself, Schultz consulted Michael Kearns, who helped diagnose Schultz’s condition.  The two developed a good friendship as professional colleagues in the sleep lab at Regional West Medical Center. 

Schultz’ successful treatment of his apnea with an auto titrating continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device inspired him to visit Ingrid Battershell, Scottsbluff director of the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) to put together a business plan for an independent sleep lab in Scottsbluff.  The goal of Schultz, and his partners, Kearns and Amundsen, was to reduce the four-to-six week turnaround time for sleep services and to perform sleep diagnostics and therapy in a single visit to a sleep lab, saving patients time and money. 

In Oct. 2006, Dr. Norman K. Imes of Oklahoma City, Okla., a pioneer in the field of sleep medicine, joined Western Sleep Medicine as medical director.

Branched out to sell equipment

Seeing the need for high-quality follow up services for sleep apnea treatment, the partners formed Western CPAP Supply to purchase and sell equipment for sleep disorder treatment.  Both companies secured licensing from the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services in 2007; two years later, both were accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Healthcare.

In 2011, after playing an important role in business growth but suffering from declining health, Kearns sold his share of the business to Schultz and Amundsen. NBDC again proved to be an excellent resource by providing cash flow projections and a business valuation to aid the sale to his partners.  Before he passed away, Kearns continued to provide exceptional patient care by mentoring sleep technologists, scoring sleep studies and managing the company staff. 

With a desire to help their friends and neighbors in the three-state region, Western Sleep Medicine offers presentations on sleep health to the general public, corporate and government employers and students. Programs include information on sleep disorders, safety, productivity and good sleep habits.