Dr. Moon Awarded $2M for Diving Studies

Richard E. Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP, FACP, FCCPDuke Anesthesiology’s Richard Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP(C), FACP, FCCP, has been awarded more than $2 million in funding for diving studies from branches of the United States Navy.

The Office of Naval Research has awarded Moon a three-year, $1,209,589 grant for his project, “Integrated Diaphragmatic Function, Chemosensitivity, Erythrocyte Gas Transport and Endurance in Exercising Divers.”

Moon’s study will determine (1) the effectiveness of breathing carbon monoxide on diaphragm training (his research team has previously shown that low dose carbon monoxide upregulates mitochondrial biogenesis in humans); (2) whether carbon monoxide-enhanced diaphragm training increases endurance in divers during underwater exercise; (3) the degree to which oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange is determined by gas channels in human red blood cells.

Additionally, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has awarded Moon, medical director of Duke’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Environmental Physiology, an $850,502 contract for his project, “Perfluoromethane to Reduce Decompression Sickness after Heliox Dives.” This contract will fund studies in pigs to determine whether perfluoromethane breathing during decompression from a dive reduces decompression sickness.

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Dr. Gasier Awarded Naval Research Grant

Heath Gasier, PhDThe Office of Naval Research has awarded Duke Anesthesiology’s Heath Gasier, PhD, a $227,954 grant to study the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on skeletal muscle calcium regulation and mitochondrial function.

Oxidant production increases with strenuous muscle contractions and has been reported to cause or contribute to fatigue. It is, therefore, probable that intramuscular oxidant production is increased during prolonged and repeated HBO2 exposures and results in damage to organelles and regulatory proteins involved in muscle contraction and bioenergetics.

This research will help Gasier determine the impact of skeletal muscle oxidant production on calcium regulation and mitochondrial function in mice exposed to HBO2, ultimately identifying new approaches for preventing oxygen toxicity and optimizing performance in divers.

In this study, he will implement an innovative combination of biological techniques. His approach allows for real time measurement of total and mitochondrial superoxide and calcium levels, and mitochondrial membrane potential in live muscle fibers ex vivo. Combined with immunoblotting and immunofluorescence, he aims to identify the potential source of muscle fatigue. Gasier’s central hypothesis is that prolonged and repeated HBO2 exposures increase oxidation of RyR1 and STIM1 that increases intracellular and mitochondrial calcium uptake, resulting in impaired mitochondrial function. This hypothesis is based on the synthesis of work by others.

Gasier’s work is expected to discover whether critical targets involved in muscle contraction are influenced by HBO2. Results of this research will have an important and positive impact because they will offer a strong scientific framework for testing specific drugs or antioxidants on muscle and aerobic exercise performance after HBO2.

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Dr. Moon Named Diver of the Year

Richard E. Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP, FACP, FCCPThe Divers Alert Network (DAN) has named Duke Anesthesiology’s Richard Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP(C), FACP, FCCP, the 2021 DAN Rolex Diver of the Year.

Moon is the medical director of the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology and a former medical director of DAN. Throughout his more than 40-year career in dive medicine and research, Moon has worked to gain a better understanding of how the human body functions at environmental extremes. His research focuses on gas exchange and cardiorespiratory function in the body while deep underwater or at high altitude.

Moon earned his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal and completed residency and fellowship training at the University of Toronto and Duke University. He began working at the Duke hyperbaric center in 1979. Throughout his career, Moon has investigated numerous phenomena that affect divers, including immersion pulmonary edema, arterial gas embolism, hypoxia, and decompression sickness. He has also worked to improve the decompression procedures used in altitude diving and has studied the utility of novel breathing gases in decompression. In addition to being a prolific researcher, Moon teaches and practices medicine. He has won multiple awards for teaching and mentoring medical students. And not only has he enhanced the understanding of diving and treatment of injured divers, he has provided hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other medical care, advice, and assistance directly to hundreds of divers who were suffering from diving-related injuries.

Moon’s support for explorers and adventurers goes beyond treating injured people and establishing safety standards and procedures; he also works with divers and climbers prior to travel to help them determine their fitness for diving or ascending to altitude. Beyond working with divers and travelers, Moon also directs care for people with various medical conditions who can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These conditions include carbon monoxide poisoning, wounds that aren’t healing properly, radiation-induced tissue injuries and more.

Moon’s work on the effects of submersion and decompression has benefited countless divers over the years. Through his commitment and significant contributions to dive medicine, Moon has made diving safer for all.

“One of our major tasks as senior people in any field is to help the next generation, and I really love doing that,” says Moon. “If the Rolex award provides more opportunities to do that I’ll be absolutely ecstatic.”

Source: Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society awards program announcement (June 2021)

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Dr. Nicoara Awarded Mid-Career Grant

Alina Nicoara, MD, FASEThe Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists (SCA) has awarded Duke Anesthesiology’s Alina Nicoara, MD, FASE, a two-year, $100,000 SCA 2021 Mid-Career Grant for her project, titled “Right Ventricle Adaptive Changes in Patients Undergoing Left Ventricular Assist Device Implantation.”

According to Nicoara, while left ventricular assist device (LVAD) technology has advanced remarkably, ongoing lack of reliable predictors of right heart failure (RHF) significantly hinders care optimization. Through her work using 3D echocardiography, she expects to provide novel insights into right ventricle functional adaptations after LVAD implantation, advance the ability to identify patients at risk for developing RHF after LVAD implantation, and add to the work done by other investigators at Duke.

“As with everything else, this could not have been accomplished without the help of a village; encouragement from Drs. Joseph Mathew, Mihai Podgoreanu and Carmelo Milano, critical but friendly eyes from Drs. Anne Cherry and Jorn Karhausen, patience from Christopher Allen and Bonita Funk, and help throughout the years from mentors Drs. Madhav Swaminathan and Mark Stafford-Smith,” says Nicoara, associate professor of anesthesiology. “I would also like to thank all of our adult cardiothoracic anesthesiology and critical care medicine fellows. Although by the time they arrive at Duke, most projects have been fleshed out, they instill vital energy and enthusiasm into driving these projects to completion.”

Nicoara received the award virtually at the SCA’s 43rd Annual Meeting and Workshops on April 26.

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Dr. Achanta Earns Young Investigator Award

Satya Achanta, DVM, PhD, DABTDuke Anesthesiology’s Satya Achanta, DVM, PhD, DABT, has received the Young Investigator Award from the Society of Toxicology, sponsored by the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin. Each year, one award is given to applicants of Indian origin who make outstanding contributions in the field of toxicology. The applicant must have 15 years or less of experience since obtaining the highest degree at the time of application.

“It is a great honor and privilege to receive this prestigious award,” says Achanta, assistant professor in anesthesiology and member of the department’s Center for Translational Pain Medicine. “The award recognizes my significant contributions to the field of transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels and medical countermeasures research in the last nine years.”

Achanta is a North Carolina state-licensed and a United States Department of Agriculture accredited category II veterinarian with extensive experience in directing research studies in small and large animal models. He is also a board-certified diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. Achanta’s overall research interests are to protect the biologic barrier from chemical injuries by targeting TRP ion channels; and by activating the mediators of the resolution phase of the inflammation pathway to restore architecture and function. He has been associated with Dr. Sven-Eric Jordt’s Chemical Sensing, Pain and Inflammation Research Laboratory since 2012.

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Duke Anesthesiology Ranks #4 in the Nation Among Specialties

Duke Anesthesiology Ranks #4 in the Nation Among SpecialtiesDuke University School of Medicine vaulted to No. 3 for research among 122 medical schools in the nation – tying its highest ranking in history – in the US News & World Report annual ranking of graduate programs released today. It was also ranked third in 2001.

The magazine’s research rankings are based on numerous indicators, including assessment by deans and residency directors (reputation), as well as faculty-student ratio, student admissions statistics such as MCAT, GPA and acceptance rates, and total federal research activity.

In addition to the research ranking, seven specialty programs in the School of Medicine placed in the top 10:

  • Surgery – second
  • Anesthesiology – fourth
  • Internal Medicine – fifth
  • Radiology – sixth
  • Pediatrics – seventh, tied
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology – eighth
  • Psychiatry – tenth

“These rankings recognize our outstanding faculty, staff and students and their unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional patient care, groundbreaking research and inspired teaching,” said Mary E. Klotman, MD, dean of Duke University School of Medicine. “I am especially proud and grateful to our entire School of Medicine community for never losing sight of our core missions during this most challenging year.”

For the first time this year, the magazine also published four new rankings to measure how medical schools are performing on key health care issues, including the diversity of graduates and how many newly trained physicians plan to practice primary care, establish practices in rural areas, and work in health professional shortage areas.

Among those new measures, Duke tied for 20th nationally among 118 medical schools for the diversity of its graduates. The ranking is based on two indicators: the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students enrolled in the school and the ratio of the school’s URM students to state and national numbers, both based on data from fall 2020. Public institutions’ URM enrollment were compared with its respective state URM percentage, and private institutions’ URM were compared with national figures.

“At Duke, we know that diversity is a key metric for excellence,” Klotman said. “Our diverse classes of students are here because they have demonstrated academic achievement, as well as noble character and the potential to be leaders and make a positive impact on our world.”

This past year, Duke’s School of Medicine has also placed highly in other national assessments, including: 

  • 3rd place among allopathic medical schools, by the Student Doctor Network;
  • 10th place for funding from the National Institutes of Health, by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research;
  • 16th place internationally among medical schools, by QS World University Rankings.

Source: Duke University School of Medicine’s Med School Blog (Durham, NC – March 30, 2021)

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