Peter B. Bennett, Ph.D., DSc., Is Named Executive Director of UHMS

9/15/2008 6:34:08 PM

The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society has named Dr. Peter B. Bennett its executive director, effective July 2007. Bennett replaces Don Chandler, who retired earlier this year.

For more than 50 years, Bennett has had a distinguished international career in hyperbaric physiology and medicine. He was a charter member of UHMS at its founding in 1967, an executive committee member 1972-75 and president 1975-76. From 1976 to 1979 he was editor of the UHMS scientific journal Undersea Biomedical Research (now Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine).

In 1975 he was awarded the first UHMS Oceaneering International Inc. award for commercial diving research; in 1983 he received the UHMS premium Albert R. Behnke Award, and, in 1992 he received the UHMS Craig Hoffmann Memorial Award for contributions to dive safety.

From 1953-72, Bennett worked at the Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory in southern England, reaching the position of deputy director. The research involved close association with the U.S. Navy and French diving researchers. His work involved underwater blast injury, inert gas narcosis, oxygen toxicity and submarine escape. During this time, he discovered the high-pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS) and directed a record simulated dive to 1500 feet / 460 meters.

In 1972, Bennett joined the faculty of Duke University Medical Center as a tenured professor in the new Anesthesiology Department. In six months, he became director the new six-chamber hyperbaric laboratory and started a Physiology Department group to study how anesthesia affects humans. After installing two additional chambers, he continued his research on oxygen toxicity, nitrogen narcosis, decompression and HPNS. This included record deep dives to 2,250 feet using his TRIMIX discovery for control of HPNS.

In the 1980s, he spent considerable time in Germany at the GKSS German Underwater Simulator near Hamburg. There he researched the operational use of TRIMIX for deep diving. In the late 1970s he initiated a hyperbaric oxygen therapy division at the Duke hyperbaric facility and was principle investigator of a double-blind crossover study of the effectiveness of HBO as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Bennett has published more than 200 scientific papers and eight books including “The Physiology and Medicine of Diving,” first published in 1969 with Surg. Lt. Cmdr. David Elliott, RN. In addition to the UHMS awards, Bennett has received numerous national and international awards including the following:

  • 1st Prince Tomohito of Mikasa Prize (Japan) for exceptional accomplishments in underwater research;
  • Letter of commendation from President Ronald Reagan in 1981;
  • Foreign Member, Russian Academy of Sciences (1994) (one of only 19);
  • Honorary degree “Dr. Honoris Causa, Univ. of the Mediterranean, France; Pavlov Medal, Russian Academy of Sciences (both in 2001); and
  • Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Life Sciences in North and South Carolina and the Diving Equipment Marketing Association (DEMA) premium award “Reaching Out” (both in 2002).

He is professor of Anesthesiology and senior director of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology at Duke University Medical Center and chairman emeritus of IDAN. This spring he retired from Duke to assume the position of UHMS executive director. The Maryland-based UHMS office will relocate to Durham, N.C.

Dr. Bennett and DAN

In 1977 the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (then Undersea Medical Society) promoted the idea of a national emergency organization (to replace LEOFAST at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas directed by Col. Jefferson Davis, M.D.). Such an organization with qualified medical specialists would receive telephone calls from divers in distress. Specialists would route injured divers to appropriate hyperbaric chambers 24 hours a day.

This organization became a reality in September 1980 when the National Diving Accident Network (NDAN) began, with support from a two-year NOAA and NIOSH grant. Bennett became NDAN’s director. In 1983 as funding support ceased, the organization changed to a membership-supported organization, Divers Accident Network, later Divers Alert Network (DAN). Benefits in the organization included the emergency hotline, advisory services, emergency assistance and access to accident insurance, Alert Diver magazine, training programs and funding for research and UHMS continuing medical education courses.

During more than 25 years, DAN grew, becoming a $16 million non-profit. As of May 1st, 2007, DAN had 149,238 memberships and 87,029 dependents, with a total of 236,267.

In 1990, Bennett created International DAN with DAN Europe (Dr. Alessandro Marroni, director) and DAN Japan (Dr. Yoshihiro Mano, director). Later the organization added DAN Asia/Pacific (John Lippmann, director) and DAN Southern Africa (Dr. Frans Cronjé, director).

DAN research has included flying after diving, diabetes and diving, epidemiology of diving accidents and fatalities, ascent rates, diabetes and diving fitness. DAN’s founder, Bennett retired as president and CEO of DAN in June 2003. <