Dr. Harch is a hyperbaric medicine, diving, and emergency medicine physician who is a Diplomat of the American Board of Hyperbaric Medicine and the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine of the American Board of Physician Specialties.
Dr. Harch's clinical experience through 2012 spans 28 years in hospital-based emergency medicine and 26 years of hyperbaric medicine.He graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1980 and was awarded Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa status on graduation from college. He has trained in general surgery, radiology, diving, and hyperbaric medicine.
In recognition of his accomplishments in clinical practice, teaching, and research he was awarded fellowship status in the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine in 1997. He also received the Edgar End Award from the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine in 1994 and the Richard A. Neubauer Award for Excellence in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Pediatric Neurology in 2003.
Dr. Harch is the national coordinator and co-principal investigator of HOTFAST (The Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Acute Stroke Trial). In 2001 he completed a study on SPECT brain imaging in toxic brain injury. In the past three years he has made presentations on the application of HBOT to autism and chronic neurological conditions to the U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education and to Representative Dan Burton's Subcommittee on Wellness and Human Rights of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
Dr. Harch is the first President of the International Hyperbaric Medical Association (established in 2001) and President of the International Hyperbaric Medical Association Foundation. He has lectured and presented his work at numerous scientific meetings throughout the U.S. and overseas. In April, 2004 Dr. Harch was nominated and became a semi-finalist for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award.
Dr. Harch currently divides his time between his practice in the New Orleans area facility where he continues to explore the effect of HBOT on neurological disorders, animal and human research, teaching and medical society projects. (The New Orleans facility is a contract site for Charity Hospital of New Orleans, the primary teaching institution of Louisiana State University (LSU) and Tulane University Schools of Medicine, and the VA Hospital of New Orleans). Dr. Harch is also a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the LSU School of Medicine's Hyperbaric Medicine Fellowship Program and Director of the soon to be opened Hyperbaric Medicine Unit at Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans.
Dr. Paul Harch is a board certified hyperbaric and emergency medicine physician who has become one of the foremost authorities in the United States on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and SPECT brain blood flow imaging in neurology. Dr. Harch is a magna cum laude, phi beta kappa graduate of the University of California, Irvine in 1976 and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1980 who has trained in general surgery and radiology. His hyperbaric career began in 1985. He received initial diving accident management training through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and then prolonged instruction and experience under the direction of and in association with one of the world's most noted diving medicine experts, Dr. Keith Van Meter. With the aid of a steady supply of injured divers from the Gulf of Mexico Dr. Harch began an in-depth study of brain decompression illness (DCI) in the late 1980's. As he evaluated divers with brain DCI presenting for primary treatment weeks to months after their accident or with residual brain injury following neurological plateau on the standard U.S. Navy recompression protocol, it became obvious he was treating ischemic (low blood flow) brain injury and not residual gas. This was unequivocally confirmed in 1990 and 1991 with two diving cases, a 43 year old demented commercial diver 7 months after injury and 5 months after U.S. Navy treatment plateau, and a 33 year old demented junior high school math teacher, misdiagnosed and committed to a psychiatric hospital after a diving accident and then aborted suicide attempt. Following a call to Dr. Neubauer in April, 1990, Dr. Harch began treating the first diver and eventually achieved clinical, psychometric, and SPECT brain blood flow improvement. The second diver experienced normalization of his EEG, complete recovery of neurological function and a 22 point recoup of his pre-accident IQ before the end of his treatment protocol. He returned to work and obtained a masters' degree in educational psychology. Today, he is actively employed by the State of New Mexico, testing educationally handicapped children. Dr. Harch reported these cases and subsequent others at scientific meetings (1, 2).
Simultaneously, Drs. Van Meter and Sheldon Gottlieb, a colleague of Dr. Neubauer and director of research at the Baromedical Research Institute of New Orleans, were conducting a trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in brain injured boxers with a small grant from the Hirsch Foundation. Encouraging preliminary results from this study and results from the divers and the small series of chronic traumatic brain injured and stroke patients spawned the Perfusion/Metabolism Encephalopathy Study of Drs. Harch, Gottlieb, Van Meter, and Staab under the auspices of the JoEllen Smith Medical Center Institutional Review Board. This study commenced in 1993, terminated in 1999, and allowed the evaluation and treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy and SPECT brain imaging of a large number of patients with a variety of chronic neurological diseases, including decompression sickness, stroke, traumatic brain injury, carbon monoxide poisoning, cerebral palsy, near-drowning, toxic brain injury, cardiac arrest, static encephalopathy of childhood, autism, and others. The patients were evaluated with SPECT imaging before and after one and then a series of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen treatments. In this group was the first reported North American case of cerebral palsy successfully treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The case was reported in 1994 (3) and then the videos of this case and a second child treated in 1993-4 were combined with a 3rd case of Dr. Neubauer and presented at the International Conference on HBOT in Buenos Aires, Argentina in April, 1996. To date Dr. Harch has treated a very large number of children with cerebral palsy or static encephalopathy of various causes. Some of these videos and the accompanying SPECT brain scans were shown at the First International Symposium on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and the Brain Injured Child in Boca Raton, Florida, July 23-4, 1999.
Dr. Harch has imaging and treatment data on a large number of patients, the publication of which awaits funding, hopefully through the solicitations of this website. As a result of Dr. Neubauer's 22 year and Dr. Harch's 10 year experience in HBOT with acute and chronic stroke, a national pilot trial of HBOT for Acute Stroke (HOTFAST) is under development with Drs. James F. Toole and Paul Harch as the co-principal investigators and Dr. Neubauer as senior honorary consultant In this trial, the three physicians will evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of HBOT in the first 6 hours of stroke. The physicians will attempt to duplicate the published results of Dr. Neubauer and others using a rigorous experimental design. More details will follow below.
Dr. Harch is currently clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Emergency Medicine at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Co-Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Department at St. Charles General Hospital, New Orleans, Clinical and Research Director of the LSU Hyperbaric Medicine Fellowship, and former Director of the JoEllen Smith Hyperbaric Medicine Unit of New Orleans. He is the principal investigator on 2 other LSU IRB-approved studies that are nearing completion, the Rat Open Head Bonk Trial of HBOT in the Treatment of Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury and the Nitrogen Tetroxide/SPECT brain imaging study of heavily exposed individuals in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He stays active in emergency medicine while maintaining a large full-time clinical hyperbaric medicine practice that has become one of the largest past and present experiences of neurological applications of HBOT (see below).
The Harch Hyperbaric Research Foundation (HHRF) is a tax-exempt donor advisor fund of the not-for-profit (501c3) Greater New Orleans Foundation. The HHRF was established to generate and accept tax-exempt monetary and equipment donations to perform primarily neurological hyperbaric research. Current top priority projects include HBOT in cerebral palsy, autism, trauma, carbon monoxide, and stroke. A list of these and other projects is listed at the end of this website. The HHRF is supervised and administered solely by Dr. Harch.
2. Harch PG, et al. The effect of HBOT tailing treatment on neurological residual and SPECT brain images in type II (cerebral) DCI/CAGE. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, 1994;21(Suppl):22-23.
3. Harch PG, et al. HMPAO SPECT brain imaging and low pressure HBOT in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic traumatic, ischemic, hypoxic and anoxic encephalopathies. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, 1994;21(Suppl):30.