>My experience in the clinical lab and interests in wilderness and dive medicine brought me to DAN headquarters as a summer research intern. After a week of orientation, I flew to Grand Cayman as part of the DAN field research team conducting a study on technical rebreather divers. Trained in phlebotomy, my responsibilities were primarily to draw blood on subjects to support a biomarker study based at the University of Pennsylvania. I also collected depth-time dive profile and diver health data, assisted with anthropometric data entry and observed the rest of the team conducting cardiac ultrasound scans. We obtained these transthoracic echo (TTE) scans to look at bubbles traveling through the subjects' hearts as a result of decompression stress. Although not a definitive indication as to whether or not a diver will obtain symptoms of decompression sickness, observing bubbles is one of the few tools we have to compare risks while diving. After a week on Grand Cayman, I returned to Durham, N.C., to continue the internship.
>The DAN research department stays busy with myriad studies and projects and I had the chance to help with a few of them. I worked on developing DAN's Institutional Review Board, essentially a committee that ensures research involving human subjects follows ethical guidelines. I also learned about designing research that follows these rules. I practiced reviewing journal articles on diving and hyperbaric medicine, tracked breath-hold accidents and fatalities and had the privilege of sitting in on a Dive Medical Technician
course, playing patient as needed for medical scenarios.
>Collaborating with Duke University's Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology, I participated in the Flying After Diving study which took me on a simulated dive and then a simulated flight in the chamber, following a designated surface interval. As the summer progressed, I developed TTE skills and assisted during the flight portion of the study as an ultrasound technician. Utilizing my ultrasound skills, I accompanied Dr. Neal Pollock, my mentor and supervisor, on a liveaboard trip out of Pensacola, Fla., where I not only drew blood, but also recorded ultrasound scans on subjects conducting technical dives.
>At the culmination of my internship, I was offered a full-time position with DAN in the research department, continuing some of the projects I started as an intern as well as developing new ones. Being a DAN intern helped confirm my desire to pursue a medically-focused career, and I hope to take with me the experiences and knowledge I acquired as an intern as I progress professionally.