In 1963, the initial chamber for Hypo-Hyperbaric research was installed at Duke. Construction of the F.G. Hall Laboratory, named after Frank Gregory Hall and now part of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology, was completed in 1968. Six large chambers were installed, which allowed the center to simulate depths of 1000 feet of seawater (fsw) and up to 100,000 feet of altitude. Dr. Herbert Saltzman was named Director of the Laboratory, and, under his direction, program investigators emphasized studies of cardiopulmonary, hematologic, and neurologic consequences of exposure to substantially high or low atmospheric pressure.
In 1978, two additional chambers were installed to extend the range of studies involving increased pressure. These chambers permit both human and animal studies at simulated depths up to 3600 fsw. Four deep manned dives (up to 69.5 ATA) were conducted in these chambers between 1978 and 1984 (Atlantis dive series) under the directorship of Dr. Peter B. Bennett. In 1986, the F. G. Hall Laboratory became a University Center, and, in 1990, Dr. Claude A. Piantadosi became the Director. In 1998, the facility was designated the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology.
Today, the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology is the Southeast's regional referral center for Hyperbaric Medicine. It is a multi-place, critical care-oriented, hyperbaric facility available 24 hours a day. The center faculty are comprised of the physicians and staff of Duke Dive Medicine, a medical practice specializing in the physiology of human exposure to extreme environments. The facility is internationally recognized for its research in the areas of carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, oxygen toxicity, the adverse effects of radiation, and is the advisory center for DiveAssure, diving insurance specifically for divers. The Center also serves as the backup facility in the area for the treatment of diving injuries for the United States Armed Forces, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and local police, fire, and rescue agencies.
Overall, more than 1000 scientific publications have come from the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology since 1963, which represents a truly interdisciplinary approach involving scientists from the Departments of Anesthesiology, Medicine, Physiology, Surgery, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Pediatrics, Mechanical Engineering, and the Duke Marine Laboratory. One of the primary goals of today's program is to preserve and strengthen this tradition of interdisciplinary research.
The Duke University Medical Center Archives holds the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology Records. This archival collection documents the first few decades of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and includes lantern slides from work done with NASA for the Apollo Missions (1961-1975), photographs from the Atlantis dives series (1978-1984), images of staff and the chambers, clippings about the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and its work, as well as a Center for Hyperbaric Medicine calendar, artwork, and sketches most like created by staff. There is also a small amount of 35mm slides taken during the filming of Brainstorm, a 1983 American science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull, and starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood (in her final film role), Louise Fletcher, and Cliff Robertson.
Stay tuned to learn more about the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology in future blog posts.
To learn more or view the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology materials held by the Duke University Medical Center Archives contact the archives staff or visit the finding aid for the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology Records.
This blog post was contributed by Medical Center Archives Assistant Director Lucy Waldrop.