Harry T. Whelan, M.D.Bleser Professor of Neurology
Medical College of Wisconsin

Dr. Harry Whelan, a Milwaukee native, is the Bleser Endowed Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Hyperbaric Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and is a Captain and a Diving Medical Officer (DMO) in the U.S. Navy and a consultant to the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU). He currently serves as the Senior Undersea Medical Officer for the “Deep Submergence Unit”, which is the Navy’s submarine rescue team, and its deep sea research component.

He began diving in 1968, and developed his interest in cellular metabolism during a National Science Foundation Summer Research Program in biochemistry at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Later, after graduating cum laude in chemistry (biochemistry option) from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, he attended the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, where he received his M.D. degree. He completed pediatrics internship and residency training at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and a neurology fellowship at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Dr. Whelan then joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. While there he developed a laboratory research project involving new types of treatment for brain tumors. For this he received the American Cancer Society’s Clinical Oncology Career Development Award.

Moving back to Milwaukee, he became Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. There he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. He formed research ties with the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit at Medical College of Wisconsin, and the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, FL. There the navy trained him at its dive school to become a Diving Medical Officer. When he was promoted to full Commander, his fellow officer pinned his new rank onto his uniform in an underwater ceremony 190 feet below sea level. He has since been promoted to Captain in the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Whelan continued his research with funding and collaboration from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Using space based light-emitting diode (LED) technologies developed for growing plants on the Space Shuttle, he now has over fifteen years experience conducting studies on the use of near-infrared light for photodynamic therapy of cancer and, in combination with hyperbaric oxygen, for stimulation of human tissue growth and wound healing, during space flight and for patients here on earth. More recently, he has done extensive research on Combat Casualty Care for DARPA as a principle investigator and is currently conducting research on the use of hyperbaric medicine for stroke patients. He currently is Principal Investigator on a grant from the National Institutes of Health, studying near-infrared light therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease.

Dr. Whelan assumed Directorship of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Hyperbaric Unit in 1998. He has over 80 publications including neurology, cancer, laser, LED and diving/hyperbaric studies.


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