Honoring Eric Kindwall, MD
During his life, former executive director of the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine (ACHM) and hyperbaric medicine pioneer Dr. Eric Kindwall made considerable contributions to hyperbaric medicine in both education and publication. Kindwall managed to be both educated and down-to-earth. The man sometimes called the father of hyperbaric medicine, credited with more than 90 articles and book chapters, fluent in seven languages, was known to walk about in mismatched socks.
He discovered his interest in diving and hyperbaric pressure as a teenager at Wauwatosa High School. The inspiration was a book Kindwall got from the Wauwatosa Public Library by Navy salvage expert Edward Ellsberg, author of such classics as “Thirty Fathoms Deep” and “Men Under the Sea.” He and childhood friend Norm Feige went diving in quarries. They pooled together $250 and sent away to a California company for an aqualung, a portable breathing device for divers. Together the young men founded the Wauwatosa Diving and Salvage Co.
At 18, Kindwall became a merchant marine, sailing off the coasts of Sweden, Denmark, England and Canada. He majored in zoology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and in 1960 graduated from the Yale University School of Medicine. He went on to study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, interned at University of Virginia and completed a residency at Harvard. After his studies were complete, he worked at his own psychiatric practice in Boston. During the Vietnam War, Kindwall went into the Navy, serving on the nuclear submarine the USS Robert E. Lee. He was a medical officer and taught diving to the other sailors. In the mid-1970s, after leaving the Navy, Kindwall returned to the Milwaukee area and began working at St. Luke’s Hospital as chief of the Department of Hyperbaric Medicine.