Three faculty receive FEOs for undersea and hyperbaric medicine training

Three Department of Anesthesiology faculty members have received Faculty Enhancement Opportunity (FEO) awards to attend an intensive 2-week undersea and hyperbaric medicine diving course in California, with the goal of expanding treatment for a range of diving- and aviation-related conditions at UF Health.

Doctors Covington, Janelle, and Pitkin

Assistant Professor Derek Covington, MD, Professor Gregory Janelle, MD, and Associate Professor Andrew Pitkin, MBBS, MRCP, FRCA, each received a $6,000 FEO to cover the costs of attending Physicians Training in Diving Medicine organized by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society in La Jolla, California.

The course includes about 40 hours of classroom instruction to train physicians to recognize and manage diving-related illnesses and assess fitness to dive. In addition to that theoretical training, the course includes extensive hands-on simulation/situational training in scientific diving, including exposure to diving equipment as well as rescue and recovery.

The course, which began in 1977 and is recognized internationally by the Diving Medical Advisory Committee, the European Committee for Hyperbaric Medicine, and the European Diving Technology Committee, is the only course of its kind in the United States and will provide the three faculty members with an added qualification.

“We hope to return with new knowledge and skills that will enable us to expand our operations for undersea and hyperbaric medicine at UF and reinitiate our inpatient services,” said Dr. Covington, who directs UF’s Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine Clinic and is fellowship-trained in the subspecialty.

Scuba diver coming out of the water

This expansion would include offering follow-up treatment for diving injuries and medical clearances for commercial, recreational, and scientific divers. UF’s proximity to High Springs, a renowned cave-diving destination that attracts divers from around the world, presents an opportunity and need for a range of hyperbaric medicine services such as treatment of decompression illness, he said.

Ultimately, they hope to establish a multiplace chamber, which enables multiple patients to receive treatment with oxygen therapy at one time. This type of chamber is also large enough to accommodate patients on breathing machines or patients who are connected to infusions.

“We would like to reinvigorate our clinic so we can treat acutely injured people, not only divers,” Dr. Covington said.

Expanding the clinic would also enable UF Health to treat hypobaric conditions suffered during aviation or in space, potentially paving the way for partnerships with NASA or SpaceEx.

“We have an exciting opportunity to expand our clinic to treat a wide range of injuries,” Dr. Covington said.