DAN Intern: Mitchell Mackey

I never knew that Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) offered an internship until I went to DEMA Show 2010. As a young dive instructor and exercise scientist studying at the University of Houston, I felt it was important to attend DEMA to enhance my understanding of the dive industry. I was with another instructor who encouraged me to attend a few of the DAN presentations. I listened attentively to Dr. Petar Denoble's presentation on patent foramen ovale, a subject that had been covered in my Human Structure class just the week before. Prior to this seminar, as a card-carrying DAN Member, a certified provider in all DAN training courses and a reader of Alert Diver, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what DAN did, but I had never realized the breadth of the medical research department.

After the seminar, I asked the DAN representatives for more information and was introduced to Dr. Neal Pollock, the director of the internship program. I wanted to learn more about how he had carved a career in the dive industry as an exercise physiologist, and how I could do something similar when I graduated. We discussed the work the research department was doing and he educated me about the internship program. He then introduced me to the 2010 interns and encouraged me to apply for the 2011 internship. Mary Riddle, one of the interns in the 2010 class, told me about her experience as an intern and how to apply for the program.

I served in the U.S. Navy during my college career, and subsequently followed the path of a nontraditional student, a trend that continued for my DAN internship. Though the program usually runs as a summer internship, I began in September shortly after my college graduation. My first day as an intern I was briefed on DAN's Flying After Diving research project, which is conducted at the Duke Center For Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology. I was even able to participate as a subject to better understand the whole process. Over the next three months, I worked as a chamber tender while learning to use a transthoracic echocardiogram (ultrasound) to look for bubbles in the blood passing through the heart, a possible precursor indication of decompression illness. This hands-on experience was one of the highlights of my internship.

Early on a large portion of my time was dedicated to learning the intricacies of research from technical writing to presentation development. I learned the peer review process of research papers, and often spent many hours at the Duke Medical Library gathering papers for the lead author of DAN research articles. As my internship progressed I was introduced to the breath-hold incident database in which DAN keeps track of all known snorkeling, freediving, spearfishing or other breath-hold related fatalities and accidents. It soon became my responsibility to identify incidents in the news from around the world and enter them into the database. I was also tasked with following up on previously entered cases by requesting investigative and autopsy reports to make the database as complete as possible. This information is then used to better understand the causes behind incidents related to breath-hold activities and how we can help shape safer practices.

After the completion of my internship, I continued to work at DAN, completed all of my DAN instructor certifications and assisted as a volunteer patient for the Dive Medical Technician (DMT) course. Currently, I am working to complete the EMT B course, so I will be more than just a volunteer patient in the next DMT course. I also recently signed on as a Research Associate I in the DAN Research department, a position which will enable me to continue to work on fatality and incident research.

DAN Internships