The Divers Alert Network and Rolex announced that Dr. David Wilkinson has been selected as the 2019 DAN/Rolex Diver of the Year.
The award was presented April 13 at the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society 45th Annual Awards Program in New York.
Wilkinson is a senior staff specialist in anesthesiology and the medical director of the hyperbaric medicine unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia. A researcher and educator, he is also a clinical lecturer at the University of Adelaide and a fellow of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. He became captivated by hyperbaric medicine one day while working in the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s intensive care unit. When a colleague was taking a patient to the hyperbaric department, Wilkinson asked if he could accompany them, and he was completely fascinated by the chamber.
“There was an element of frontier medicine about it. It took my fancy.”
Wilkinson has since dedicated his career not only to diving medicine but to treating many of the ailments that can be improved with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. And rather than being content with the accepted limitations of hyperbaric medicine, Wilkinson has pushed the envelope of its utility, studying its effectiveness in treating even more conditions, including diabetes and the side effects of radiation therapy. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to hyperbaric medicine.
An advanced nitrox and decompression diver, Wilkinson sits on the board of directors of the Australasian Diving Safety Foundation/DAN Asia-Pacific Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing dive safety throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Physicians in the hyperbaric medicine unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (and in recent years, other Australian hospitals) operate Australia’s Diving Emergency Service (DES) hotline. The DES hotline is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide medical guidance to injured divers in need. DAN World fully funds the hotline’s toll-free number, and the doctors who take these calls are unpaid volunteers. More than 20 years ago, Wilkinson took over as coordinator of the DES hotline and has personally fielded the majority of the calls that have come in since then. Currently the hotline receives about 400 calls each year.
Bill Ziefle, DAN president and CEO, said:
“David’s commitment to hyperbaric medicine and his volunteer work with the Diving Emergency Service hotline have helped thousands of divers get the care or practical medical guidance they needed when they needed it most. The dedication he has shown to the dive community in the last two decades is truly inspirational, and we’re thrilled to honor him as the 2019 Diver of the Year.”