Simon Mitchell Receives DAN / Rolex Award

The 2015 winner of the DAN / Rolex Diver of the Year Award - one of the most prestigious honours in scuba diving - has just been announced by Divers Alert Network. For the last quarter of a century DAN has partnered with Rolex to acknowledge excellence in diving and dive safety. This year the prolific work that Associate Professor Simon J Mitchell has done, has been recognised.

Dr Simon Mitchell, Anaesthesiology, University of Auckland, New Zealand, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, DAN Rolex Award, Diver of The Year, Fourth Element, Dr Neal W Pollock, EUROTEK Advanced Diving Conference
Dr Simon Mitchell is an avid tech and rebreather diver Image Credit: Dr Neal W Pollock

This award is given to “an individual who has made significant contributions to dive safety and / or the DAN mission over the past year.” Without a doubt, Simon Mitchell fulfills this criteria.

I first met Dr Mitchell in 2008 when I co-organised the inaugural EUROTEK. During the run up to the event, the late Carl Spencer praised a diving doctor he had heard speak at OZTek. Carl was keen that this hyperbaric expert should also present at our international advanced and technical diving conference. At this time Simon Mitchell’s name was not that well known by northern hemisphere advanced and technical divers.

Simon was only meant to deliver two sessions at EUROTEK.08, a different talk each day, but because another speaker had been unable to attend at the last minute, he willingly stepped into the breach and gave four different talks over two days. I spoke to him on the Sunday night post-conference, and noted he was absolutely exhausted. It was obvious he had given his all, both educating and engaging an audience of European advanced and technical divers. Simon easily fulfills the wording for the DAN / Rolex Diver of the Year Award; “he goes beyond to ensure that all divers prepare smarter through proper dive education…

The diving forums went wild post EUROTEK.08. The northern hemisphere divers loved and appreciated the fact that Simon Mitchell didn’t dumb down decompression theory. Instead he took time to carefully explain quite complex information to them, in a non-patronising manner, communicating it in such a way that everyone in the audience left having learnt something useful.

Simon Mitchell, Decompression Theory, Rebreathers, The ICC, EUROTEK, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, Leigh Bishop, Mark Dixon, The Underwater Marketing Company
Simon Mitchell speaking to a packed hall at EUROTEK Image Credit: Jason Brown

 

Dr Simon Mitchell is a fantastic speaker with a knack of explaining medical information to non medics, yet also keeping the medics engaged.” Mary Sinclair

After attending all of Dr Simon Mitchell’s lectures I feel like I’ve had a crash update in the latest decompression theory.” Sebastian Chander

Simon Mitchell was engaging and funny and has a knack for making complex subjects interesting and easy to understand for the layman.” Howard Payne

Dr Simon Mitchell is a physician with specialist training in anaesthesiology and diving medicine. He is the Head of the Department of Anaesthesiology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and divides his time between the operating theatre, teaching, research and lecturing around the world. Simon holds a medical degree, Diplomas in Occupational Medicine and Diving Medicine, and a PhD in medicine. He is board certified in anesthesiology and hyperbaric medicine.

The DAN / Rolex Diver of the Year Award is given to “an outstanding individual who has devoted their career to making diving safer for all of us.” Simon Mitchell has authored or co-authored 104 publications including books, text book chapters, scientific journal articles and papers, and workshop proceedings. He sits on three editorial boards (Journal for Extracorporeal Technology, Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, and Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine) and is on the Medical Advisory Board for DAN South-east Asia / Pacific and the DAN USA Research Committee.

Since 2008, I have worked with Dr Mitchell on a number of international events. He has spoken at every EUROTEK; 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and he is slated again for 2016. He also talks and lectures throughout the world at many medical and diving conferences and events. He says (when asked) that he loves talking to divers because they are an involved hungry curious audience that absorbs information.

Rebreather Forum 3, RF3, AAUS, DAN, PADI, Dr Richard D Vann, Dr Petar J Denoble, Dr Neal W Pollock, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz LunnIn May 2012 Simon Mitchell beautifully accomplished what many of us on the Rebreather Forum 3 organising team thought to be an unenviable and challenging job, and made it look simple. Simon chaired the final two-hour session at Rebreather Forum 3, the purpose of which was to forge an agreement for consensus recommendations of the meeting. (This three-day safety symposium was hosted and driven by the AAUS, DAN and PADI).

Simon successfully got the various communities to ratify consensus on 16 safety points. During the session, Simon actively listened and carefully took into consideration every argument delivered from the floor, amalgamating the relevant issues into acceptable form. As a result many recommendations have already been adopted by the worldwide rebreather community in the hope that they will reduce rebreather accidents and fatalities. Simon Mitchell’s action at RF3 demonstrated beautifully he is “a leader in the dive community.”

Inner Space 2014, Divetech, Georgia Hausserman, prebreath, PADI TecRec, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Nancy Easterbrook, rebreather diving
PADI TecRec Consultant Georgia Hausserman doing a pre-breathe during Divetech's Inner Space Image Credit: Rosemary E Lunn

The DAN / Rolex Diver Award is given to “a diver who actively promotes and supports DAN’s mission and dedication to incident prevention, management and protection.” Evidence of this was confirmed by a paper entitled ‘The five minute prebreathe in evaluating carbon dioxide absorption in a closed-circuit rebreather: a randomized single-blind study’ published in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, for which Dr Mitchell was the senior author. He worked with colleagues from various key institutions including Duke University.

This research had been inspired by the rebreather community. This is a ‘hungry for knowledge’ community, and this thirst is partially driven by technology. Equipment continues develop and evolve allowing deeper and / or longer dives to be conducted that just a few years ago we used to consider improbable. At the turn of the century 100 metre / 300 foot technical dives were considered cutting edge. Today these kinds of depths are the norm for many divers. It is of little surprise therefore that extreme divers and explorers are asking quite challenging physiology questions.

In 2014 Simon Mitchell therefore set out to answer a controversial topic - just how effective is the five minute pre-breathe that all rebreather divers undertake prior to entering the water? A minimum pre-breathe period of five minutes is usually prescribed, on the basis this timeframe allows the diver to recognise elevated carbon dioxide levels in the scrubber, ie shortness of breath. Simon, along with Dr Neal W Pollock, devised a research study to confirm whether the five minute prebreathe is an appropriate sensitive test and does reveal CO2 scrubber problems, or whether it is actually a waste of time.

Simon shared this key research with the recreational and technical diving community, presenting it at EUROTEK.2014 and OZTEK.2015.

Simon Mitchell, Pete Mesley, Lust4Rust, Bikini Atoll, Truk Lagoon, AP Diving, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company
Simon Mitchell about to jump in Bikini Image Credit: Pete Mesley

Simon’s current research interests include the pathophysiology and treatment of decompression illness and, in particular, the pathophysiology of inner ear decompression illness. He is also interested in the incorporation of CO2 monitoring in closed circuit rebreathers, and the use of checklists to improve safety in the operating room and during diving.

Simon not only talks diving, he an avid technical diver. He began diving in 1972 and he is still an active current diver today, usually diving a closed-circuit rebreather. He has completed over 6000 recreational, scientific, military, and occupational dives and regularly uses rebreather technology to facilitate the exploration of shipwrecks and deep reefs. Simon's notable underwater achievements include helping to positively identify the SS Cumberland and working with Pete Mesley to identify and then recover the Port Kembla ships bell. He was also part of a team that helped confirm that the wreck of hospital ship AHS Centaur was mis-identified, and is often the diver medic on extreme remote rebreather and technical diving expeditions to Truk and Bikini Atoll.

DANeLogo11“We are very pleased to name Dr Simon Mitchell as this year’s DAN / Rolex Diver of The Year,” said Bill Ziefle, President and CEO, Divers Alert Network. “Simon’s academic and diving achievements are impressive and his accomplishments stood out amongst a field of worthy nominees. His life-long dedication to diving has made a significant impact on safety and has advanced our great sport."

“I am delighted and honored to receive the DAN / Rolex Diver of the Year Award" stated Simon Mitchell. "Like a number of my colleagues who perform similar roles, I enjoy being immersed in the diving community and need little more than this to motivate me. I am deeply appreciative of the recognition this award brings and I are very excited to attend the Beneath the Sea Show and Awards Banquet. My sincere thanks to DAN, Rolex and the selection committee."

Stephen Frink, Beneath The Sea, Secaucus, New Jersey, Dr Neal W Pollock, Dr Simon J Mitchell, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Jean-Michel Cousteau, DAN Rolex Diver Of The Year Award
Dr Simon Mitchell with Dr Neal Pollock and Rosemary (Roz) Lunn at 2015 Beneath The Sea Gala Dinner Image Credit: Stephen Frink

Dr Simon Mitchell received his award at the 2015 Beneath the Sea Dive Show in Secaucus, New Jersey. He was presented with an Oyster Perpetual Rolex Dive Watch and a commemorative wall plaque. In addition, Rolex donated $15,000 to DAN to support essential safety initiatives such as medical research, safety education and first aid training.

Auckland Based Diver? Take Part In A CO2 Prebreathe Study This July

Dr Simon J Mitchell, Dr Neal W Pollock, EUROTEK.2014, TEKDiveUSA, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, rebreather prebreathe, rebreather safety, diving physiology study, scuba diving safety, Rebreather Forum 3, top diving speakers, diving physiology, CO2, diving research
Dr Simon Mitchell and Dr Neal Pollock will be presenting their research at EUROTEK.2014

Are you an Auckland based diver, or live near Auckland, New Zealand? Are you available on Saturday 19th or Sunday 20th July 2014? Do you dive a rebreather or are thinking of becoming a rebreather diver? If you answer 'yes' to these questions, Dr Simon Mitchell and Dr Neal Pollock need your help. They are conducting a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Prebreathe Study and need volunteers to assist in this incredibly useful research.

We are delighted to report that the findings from this study will be announced at EUROTEK.2014 in September.

What is the purpose of this research?

Rebreathers which recycle exhaled gas after removing carbon dioxide (CO2) are becoming increasingly popular in recreational diving because they offer advantages such as the conservation of breathing gas. However, they are more complex than normal scuba equipment, and there is potential for operator error in their use. These errors may lead to accidents and death. Several of these potential operator errors relate to the use of the CO2 absorbent (or the CO2 “scrubber”). If there is failure of CO2 removal from the expired breath, the diver will re-inhale CO2 and this may result in hypercapnia (commonly referred to as CO2 toxicity). Rebreather divers are taught about this during their rebreather dive training. CO2 toxicity may cause progressive shortness of breath, headache, anxiety, panic, and ultimately unconsciousness. In addition, CO2 toxicity enhances the adverse effects or toxicity of other gases such as nitrogen and oxygen. There have been many deaths during the use of rebreathers in which CO2 toxicity is thought to have contributed, though this is often difficult to prove.

The absorbent material used in CO2 scrubbers must be replaced periodically. Related errors include failing to replace the absorbent material, incorrect packing of the absorbent material into the scrubber canister, and incorrect installation of the canister in the rebreather (or forgetting to install it entirely). Most rebreather units do not monitor CO2, and so rebreather divers are taught to conduct a 5 minute “pre-breathe” of their unit just before entering the water. A prebreathe involves preparing the unit for diving, and then sitting quietly breathing on the rebreather loop. If the CO2 scrubber is absent or faulty the diver will rebreathe CO2 and, in theory, should notice the early symptoms of CO2 toxicity such as shortness of breath or headache.

Divers assume that symptoms of CO2 toxicity will occur reliably and be noted during a 5 minute prebreathe. However, this has never been formally tested. This study aims to measure the proportion of subjects who can identify the absence of an effective scrubber during a 5 minute prebreathe on a rebreather circuit. The detection of a partial scrubber failure may also be evaluated.

If you want to be part of this important study please email Pete Mesley as soon as possible to get booked in. You will be need for no more than 2 hours during the course of the weekend.

 

TEKDiveUSA.2014 Attendees To Receive A PADI Rebreather Checklist

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has today confirmed that TEKDiveUSA.2014 attendees will receive a 'Type T' rebreather checklist in their conference bag.

PADI_Rebreather Checklist_RF3_Rebreather Forum 3_Dr Drew Richardson_Christian McDonald_AAUS_DAN_Dr Petar Denoble_Dr Neal W Pollock_Dr Richard D Vann_Rosemary E Lunn_Roz Lunn_The Underwater Marketing Company_TEKDiveUSA_EUROTEK_RF3 Consensus Statements_safety_rebreathers_checklists_Mark Caney_Karl Shreeves_scuba diving
PADI 'Type T' Rebreather / CCR Checklist

Two years ago this month PADI, along with the AAUS and DAN, hosted Rebreather Forum 3. This three day safety symposium was convened to address major issues surrounding rebreather technology, and its application in commercial, media, military, scientific, sport and technical diving. Experts, manufactures, instructor trainers, training agencies and divers from all over the world discussed this technology and shared information.

The programme included dedicated sessions covering topics such as medicine and physiology, closed circuit rebreather (CCR) orientation, business and operations, CCR familiarization, training, design and testing, and incident analysis.

Associate Professor Simon J Mitchell chaired the final session at RF3 and, as a result, 16 key consensus statements were agreed and ratified by the global rebreather community. You can hear this presentation by clicking here.

Two of the 16 consensus statements agreed at Rebreather Forum 3 concerned the use of checklists. RF3 acknowledged the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the efficacy of checklists in preventing errors and two recommendations were made. These are listed below.

REBREATHER FORUM 3 CONSENSUS STATEMENTS

CHECKLISTS:

The forum acknowledged the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the efficacy of checklists in preventing errors in parallel fields that share similar technical complexity. Two recommendations regarding checklists were consequently agreed:

1. CHECKLISTS

The forum recommends that rebreather manufacturers produce carefully designed checklists, which may be written and / or electronic, for use in the pre-dive preparation  (unit assembly and immediate pre-dive) and post-dive management of their rebreathers.

– Written checklists should be provided in a weatherproof or waterproof form.

– The current version of these checklists annotated with the most recent revision date should be published on the manufacturer’s website

2. CHECKLISTS

The forum recommends that training agencies and their instructors embrace the crucial leadership role in fostering a safety culture in which the use of checklists by rebreather divers becomes second nature.

 

TRAINING AND OPERATIONS:

1. TRAINING AND OPERATIONS

The forum applauds and endorses the release of pooled data describing numbers of rebreather certifications by training agencies, and encourages other agencies to join ANDI, IANTD, and TDI in this initiative

2. TRAINING AND OPERATIONS

The forum endorses the concept of making minimum rebreather training standards available in the public arena.

3. TRAINING AND OPERATIONS

The forum endorses the concept of a currency requirement for rebreather instructors. We recommend that training agencies give consideration to currency standards in respect of diving activity, class numbers, and unit specificity for their instructors.

4. TRAINING AND OPERATIONS

The forum recognizes and endorses the industry and training agency initiative to characterize “recreational” and “technical” streams of sport rebreather diver training. These groups will have different operational, training and equipment needs.

 

ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

1. ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

The forum recommends that training agencies provide rebreather divers  with a simple list of instructions that will mitigate common errors in evidence preservation after a serious incident or rebreather fatality.

– These instructions will be developed under the auspices of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Diving Committee in consultation with the relevant RF3 presenters.

2. ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

The forum endorses the concept of a widely notified centralized “on-call” consultation service to help investigators in avoiding errors or omissions in the early stages of a rebreather accident investigation, and to facilitate referral to expert investigative services.

3. ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

The forum recommends that in investigating a rebreather fatality the principal accident investigator invite the manufacturer of the incident rebreather (or other relevant equipment) to assist with its evaluation (including the crucial task of data download) as early as is practicable.

4. ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

The forum endorses the DAN worldwide initiative to provide a means of on-line incident reporting with subsequent analysis and publication of incident root causes.

 

DESIGN AND TESTING

1. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum recommends that all rebreathers incorporate data logging systems which record functional parameters relevant to the particular unit and dive data, and which allow download of these data. Diagnostic reconstruction of dives with as many relevant parameters as possible is the goal of this initiative.

– Footnote: An ideal goal would be to incorporate redundancy in data logging systems, and as much as practical, to standardize the data to be collected

2. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum endorses the need for third party pre-market testing to establish that rebreathers are fit for purpose. Results of a uniform suite of practically important unmanned testing parameters such as canister duration, and work of breathing (qualified by clear statements of experimental parameters) should be reported publicly. Ideally, this testing should be to an internationally recognized standard.

3. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum acknowledges recent survey data indicating a poor understanding of rebreather operational limits in relation to depth and carbon dioxide scrubber duration among trained users, and therefore recommends:

1. that training organizations emphasize these parameters in training courses.

2. that manufacturers display these parameters in places of prominence in device documentation and on websites.

4. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum strongly endorses industry initiatives to improve oxygen measurement technologies, and advocates consideration of potentially beneficial emerging strategies such as dynamic validation of cell readings and alternatives to galvanic fuel cells.

4. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum identifies as a research question the issue of whether a mouthpiece retaining strap would provide protection of the airway in an unconscious rebreather diver.

6. DESIGN AND TESTING

The forum identifies as a research question the efficacy of a full face masks for use with sport rebreathers.

 

Dr. Richard D. Vann to be awarded prestigious NOGI

Dr Richard D Vann_Rebreather Forum 3_RF3_NOGI Award for Science_Rosemary E Lunn_Roz Lunn_The Underwater Marketing Company_flying after diving reserach_Dr Neal W Pollock_diving physiology
Dr. Richard Vann gave a number of safety and physiology talks at the 2013 DEMA Show
Photo Copyright: Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company

The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences has announced that Dr. Richard D. Vann has been selected for induction into the 2014 Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (AUAS) Fellow Program.

Dr. Vann’s work and lifetime dedication to dive science earns him a place alongside industry icons.

This coveted award is widely recognised as the oldest and most prestigious in the diving industry. The NOGI has been awarded on an annual basis since 1960 to a select group of divers and undersea visionaries who rank at the top of their fields in arts, science, sports / education, environment, and distinguished service. In 1993 the AUAS was created to administer the NOGI award.

Dr. Vann, Vice President of Research for Divers Alert Network (DAN) (1990-2010), current consultant to DAN and Assistant Professor Emeritus at Duke University Medical Center will be inducted into the AUAS in the Science category and will receive a NOGI Award for his efforts and contributions to the underwater world.

Dr. Vann’s work in diving and environmental physiology spans nearly 50 years with Ocean Systems, Inc., US Navy Underwater Demolition Team-12, Duke Hyperbaric Center and Divers Alert Network. His work includes accomplishments such as the Johnson Space Center’s Group Achievement Award from NASA in 2011, and the Albert R. Behnke Award from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. Dr. Vann was awarded this in 2012 for outstanding scientific contributions to undersea biomedical activity. His most recent work was on Rebreather Forum 3. Dr. Vann was one of key drivers behind this safety symposium and he is the lead editor on the subsequent conference proceedings. These are due to be published shortly.

“Receiving a NOGI is exciting and quite an honor,” said Dr. Vann. “Understanding diving safety, particularly fatalities and decompression sickness, has been my major professional interest. I am most pleased by this recognition.”

This NOGI award will be presented to Dr. Vann at the 54th Annual NOGI Awards Gala held during the DEMA Show in November 2014.

“DAN is proud to have one of our own inducted into this elite group of dive industry professionals,” said Bill Ziefle, President and CEO of Divers Alert Network. “Dr. Vann has spent a lifetime advancing dive safety research and it is exciting to see him receive this great honour. His scientific contributions have made a significant impact in our sport.”

Associate Professor Simon J Mitchell stated, “Dr. Vann has devoted much of the latter part of his career to identifying unresolved issues of substantial practical importance to the diving community, and has set about resolving them. Frequently this has involved the exhausting task of organising and orchestrating workshops to weigh evidence and generate consensus. It is unquestionably fair to say that no individual in the diving science community has contributed more time and effort in this regard than Dr. Vann. I believe our community owes this archetypal ‘scholar and gentleman’ a huge debt of gratitude and I am thrilled to see him recognised in this way.”

The Academy Fellowship and the Underwater Society of America are responsible for the nomination and selection of all NOGI Award winners. Each year, AUAS invites Academy fellows to recommend nominees for a prestigious NOGI Award. To recommend future NOGI recipients, simply explore the roster of NOGI Fellows on the AUAS website (www.auas-nogi.org) to determine the most appropriate contact person.

Joining Dr. Vann are four other NOGI Awardees: Lad Handelman (Distinguished Service); Richard Ellis (Arts), Bill Macdonald, (Environment), and Mike Hollis, Sports & Education.