Introductions to the members of our Research Team, their specialisms and credentials
Research Director - Dr Gary Smerdon
Gary completed his first degree (BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences) and PhD (yeast biotechnology) at the University of Exeter in Devon. In 1991 he moved to the Plymouth Marine Laboratory where he spent 13 years as a molecular biologist developing research into oceanography and coastal shelf science. He learnt to dive at Fort Bovisand in Plymouth in 1996 and in 2003 he was appointed as Research Director at what was then called the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC), to coordinate and develop the research.
Research at the centre ranges from clinical trials to investigations of cellular responses to hyperbaric oxygen, in parallel with diving research involvingpsychology and general health studies. The goal is to fully understand the impact and uses of altered pressure and altered gas environments, and to maximise their therapeutic potential for improving health.
Together with Senior Nurse Ali Bishop, he set up the DDRC Healthcare subsidiary company Plymouth Wound Care in 2011, through which further research avenues will be developed. In November 2012 he also took on the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the charity.
Researcher - Marguerite St Leger Dowse
Marguerite learnt to dive at Plymouth's Fort Bovisand, is well known within the diving community and has dived worldwide. She joined DDRC in 1989, working inside the chamber with sick divers and non-diving patients. In the early 1990s she led the fundraising of £84,000 in 12 months to enable the purchase of the Krug multi-place chamber which remains the mainstay of our treatment facilities in Plymouth. She was awarded the BSAC Duke of Edinburgh Prize for research in 1994 and again in 2006, being the only woman to be awarded the accolade twice. In 1999 she became an inaugural member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and in 2006 received the European Underwater and Baromedical Society (EUBS) Zetterstrom Award.
Marguerite's research specialises in field data real world information from divers and until 2006 focussed on the effects of diving on women. Other diving studies have included diving and asthma, diving with diabetes, reverse dive profiles and flying after treatment for decompression illness (DCI). More recent research projects include studies into the general health of divers looking at illicit drug use, and also alcohol use. A separate study investigated the reasons for delay in seeking help and treatment for decompression illness. In 2010 Marguerite co-edited, with Caroline Fife, the book “Women and Pressure: Diving and Altitude”.
Research Nurse - Alexandra (Ali) Bishop
Ali completed her first degree at the University of Hertfordshire, obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Nursing and RN (Adult). An experienced intensive care nurse, she joined DDRC in 2005 and quickly developed her role to include research in additon to nursing at the centre. In 2009 Ali took on the role of Senior Clinical Nurse. As well as coordinating clinical trials at DDRC, she has completed her own project on diabetic foot ulcers treated with hyperbaric oxygen. This formed the dissertation for her MSc in Wound Healing and Tissue Repair at Cardiff University for which she was awarded a distinction. Ali was instrumental in the setting up of one of the DDRC Healthcare subsidiary companies Plymouth Wound Care of which she is a Director and through which further research initiatives will be progressed in addition to wound care of the highest quality.
Research Nurse - Sarah Witts
Sarah completed a Diploma in Nursing and RN (Adult) at the University of Exeter. She joined DDRC in 2007 as a hyperbaric nurse, later completing a degree module in tissue viability and leg ulcer care at Plymouth University.
Sarah continues to work as a hyperbaric nurse and in addition has joined the team at Plymouth Wound Care as a tissue viability nurse. Sarah’s role has also developed to include research at DDRC Healthcare, helping to coordinate clinical trials. She has attended recent national and international conferences presenting work to promote DDRC Healthcare and Plymouth Wound Care.