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.

 

DAN announces their 2013 DEMA Show Talk Schedule

The Research Team at Divers Alert Network America provide a series of free diving lectures at the DEMA Show. If you are attending the Orlando based event next month, this is an invaluable opportunity to get up to speed with the latest thinking in diving medicine. Over the course of four days, fourteen different lectures will be delivered by a team of doctors, researchers and medical experts.

Dr Neal W Pollock, a Research Director at DAN stated, "Our lecture series is a wonderful way for us to reach out to divers from all over the globe. We have found that DEMA Show attendees appreciate hearing in-depth lectures that make you think, on the latest in physiology, diving medicine or safety research. Our audiences are very positive and we often get excellent questions that produce ideas for new presentations and initiatives.

2011 DEMA Show, Orlando, Dr Richard D Vann, Dr Petar J Denoble, Dr Neal W Pollock, DAN Geeks, DAN Research Team, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Scuba diving, DAN speaking schedule, diving medicine
Dr Richard D Vann, Assistant Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology at Duke Dive Medicine and a consultant at DAN, checks out the DAN lecture series at the 2011 DEMA Show

Unfortunately not everyone is able to attend our bi-monthly community diving lectures in Durham, North Carolina, therefore these talks work very well as an informal two-way communication channel. There is such a thirst for knowledge out there, and we often get divers asking questions face-to-face (that they do not wish to discuss in the open sessions), either after a talk or later at the DAN booth (#1427).

This year's talk topics include;
- “Marine life toxicology: What the dive leader should know”
- “Myths & ‘Facts’ in Diving Physiology”
- "PFO & Recreational Diving”
- "What should be in your Emergency Action Plan”
- "Art and Science of Rebreather Diving: Deeper Access & Deeper Trouble”
- "What to Expect from Hyperbaric Treatment and How it Heals DCS”

So far everyone has gone away having learnt something from a DAN talk. I certainly get a kick out of educating divers to be safer or better informed, and what better way than to offer this lecture series. There is no charge to attend and no need to register for talks - simply attend Room S230E at the DEMA Show at the correct time. We look forward to meeting you."

For more information on the DAN Lecture series at the 2013 DEMA Show check out the DAN website or follow @DAN_America on Twitter for highlights and schedule reminders: #DAN13DEMA

Rebreather Forum 3 Lecture; 'Thermal Physiology and Protection'

Rebreather Forum 3 - an international safety conference about rebreathers - was held in May 2012. Over the course of three days a number of presentations were given on many aspects of rebreather diving.

Dr Neal W Pollock, Neal Pollock, diving physiology, thermal physiology, breath hold diving, ice diving, thermal stress, DAN, Duke Dive Medicine, Divers Alert Network, Research Director, Rebreather Forum 3, RF3, Roz Lunn, Rosemary E Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, diving, scuba diving, technical diving, Fourth Element, Antarctic diving, ice diving, drysuit undergarments, thermal underwear, diving health, technical diving, HALO 3D, SITA, SITA Show, 2012 UK Diving Trade Show, Scuba Industries Trade Association

Dr Neal W Pollock, a diving physiologist from Divers Alert Network / Duke University gave a lecture on thermal physiology and protection.

THERMAL PHYSIOLOGY AND PROTECTION
Dr Neal W Pollock
9:15, Friday 18 May 2012, Boca Room III

“Diving is carried out in a wide range of environments and conditions. Thermal stress can be an important issue, particularly for the long exposures often associated with technical diving. Proper preparation can improve comfort, performance and safety. This presentation will discuss thermal stress, thermal protection, and implications for diving health.”

Dr Pollock's biography can be found here.

Photo Credit: Professor Simon J Mitchell