Navy Research Yields New Developments in Undersea Medicine

Subject of upcoming Medical Museum Science Café in Silver Spring

By: Paul Bello, National Museum of Health and Medicine

SILVER SPRING, Md. – Only a small percentage of Americans have to worry about such situations as a submarine rescue, decompression sickness, or how to react after breathing certain gas mixtures under dangerously high pressures or altitudes. That small percentage happens to include members of the U.S. Navy and their safety is of utmost concern to those they protect.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), in conjunction with the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), will shed light on the latest advances in the world of undersea research and emergency preparedness later this month when it hosts its next Medical Museum Science Café entitled "Undersea Medicine Research: Improving Performance Under Pressure." The event is free to the public and will feature a lecture by Navy Capt. David Regis, head of the Undersea Medicine Department, NMRC. The organization is headquartered at the Fort Detrick-Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring, Md.

NMHM's Science Cafés are a regular series of informal talks that connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. NMHM is a DoD museum founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 and moved to its new location in Silver Spring in 2012.

Regis, who is also a diving medical officer, has been involved in undersea medicine research since 2008 when he was first part of the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, Fla. According to him, continued research drives new ways of keeping divers and submariners safe, in addition to the Navy's overall mission in the global community.

"I like what we do here through NMRC. It has a direct effect on how we support our fleet, which can be anywhere in the world," Regis said. "We're scientists at heart. This research can also be applied to commercial or recreational diving. So there is value outside the military spectrum, as well."

For his upcoming discussion, Regis will elaborate on some of the latest research in decompression sickness, diving and submarine rescue. This includes contingency plans and scenarios for bringing people back to the surface from a disabled submarine, as well as methods to decrease the time to decompress divers in an emergency situation or remote location where equipment will be limited.

"No one yet knows the whole picture when it comes to decompression sickness. Though, new research by our lab and others has been promising thus far in shedding further light on the underlying physiology," Regis said. "We study scenarios that occur in unusual situations and in very extreme environments. It is essential we know as much as we can to protect and help those who expose themselves to these situations regularly in service to our country."

Regis' presentation will be held Tuesday, July 22 from 6-7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building inside its Fenton Room. The address is 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring, Md. 20910.