NHA’s leadership is comprised of industry professionals and physicians with experience in organizational development, hospital administration, medical insurance, safety and certification, patient advocacy, medical research, veterans initiatives, and non-profit management and fundraising.
NHA Board of Directors
Paul S. Hoffecker, CEO
Mr. Hoffecker has devoted himself to the administration and leadership of the National Hyperbaric Association and its mission.
Mr. Hoffecker’s career spans a history in healthcare administration, commercial and remodeling construction, senior project management, and consulting. Mr. Hoffecker has a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Administration from Eastern University and was a past registered nurse and paramedic.
He was a neurosurgery intern and resident at the University of Washington. During his dedicated research time, he was awarded an American Heart Association Postdoctoral fellowship as well as an Individual National Research Service Award from the NIH. Following his chief residency, he completed his Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Seattle from 2001-2002. In 2002, Dr. Grant fulfilled his commitment with the United States Air Force as part of a Health Professions Scholarship Program.
He was Chief of Neurosurgery at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base Texas. He was the USAF neurosurgical Consultant for Aerospace medicine from 2003-2006. Dr. Grant then deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany and Balad Air Base, Iraq, as Chief of Neurosurgery, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his deployment, Dr. Grant was the Consultant for Neurosurgery, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 30th Med Brigade, US Army and developed the first prospective study in a combat zone on blast concussive injury. The conclusions from this study in part were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. Dr. Grant attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal prior to his separation.
He was then recruited to Duke University as a pediatric neurosurgeon, Director of Neurotraums, and attained the rank of Associate Professor with Tenure. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and is also board certified in Pediatric Neurosurgery by the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery. In 2003, Dr. Grant was recruited back to Stanford University where he is Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Division Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery.
Xavier A. Figueroa, Ph.D., Director
Xavier received his doctoral degree in 2003 from the University of Washington’s Program in Neurobiology & Behavior in the Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology. His doctoral training was followed up by two post-doctoral fellowships within the Department of Bioengineering.
His experience within academic research exposed him to the undercurrents of research politics, both local and national, that silently shape how science is done and how the results are interpreted. This experience made him aware of the need to maintain an open mind and champion deserving and fruitful ideas, such as the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of neurological injuries.
Xavier is currently the owner and Director of Clinical and Scientific Research of Sciencia Incognita Consulting LLC, a consulting and management firm. Sciencia Incognita focuses on providing expert scientific advice on specialty areas of biology, biotechnology, neurobiology and design of clinical trials and basic research experiments.
Dominic D’Agostino, PhD, Director
The primary focus of his laboratory is directed towards understanding the physiological effects of hyperbaric oxygen and developing and testing metabolic-based therapies, including ketogenic diets, ketone supplements and drugs that target specific metabolic pathways.
His research explores the use of these therapies for a broad range of disorders linked pathophysiologically to metabolic dysregulation, including seizures, neurodegenerative diseases, genetic diseases and cancer.
D’Agostino’s laboratory uses in vivo and in vitro techniques to understand the physiological, cellular and molecular mechanism of metabolic therapies. His research is supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Department of Defense (DoD), private organizations and foundations.
Tom Fox, MA, MS, CHT, Director
He has worked in the field of Clinical Hyperbaric Oxygen for the last 22 years. During this time, he has been intimately involved with the implementation and the development of the US Army’s Clinical Hyperbaric Service at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
He has provided its contract hyperbaric services since its inception in 1997. Prior to accepting his current position in Quebec, Canada, Mr. Fox served as the Chief of the Atmospherics Branch of the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine, Fort Rucker Alabama.
In this capacity, he was responsible for hyperbaric/hypobaric operations and training of US and NATO aviators, flight surgeons and flight medics.
Mr. Fox is a senior army aviator and flew twelve years as a Medical Evacuation Pilot for the US Army. Mr. Fox holds a Masters in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master’s of Science in Counseling and Psychology from Troy State University at Dothan.
Mr Fox is also a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College. His experience in the successful integration of clinical hyperbaric oxygen into the medical services of three different countries in three different languages led to his selection as the Vice President for Operations and Training for the American Association for Hyperbaric Awareness (AAHA).
Working in cooperation with Congressional leaders and governmental agencies, AAHA is advancing the understanding of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy within mainstream medicine by demonstrating its value as a therapeutic option.
Dawn Kernagis, PhD, Director
Dr. Dawn Kernagis is a Research Scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), where she is developing new ways to optimize performance and resilience for humans operating in extreme environments, such as undersea divers, high altitude aviators and astronauts.
In 2008, Dawn became the first Predoctoral Award recipient from the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Undersea Medicine Program, while completing her PhD at Duke University.
In addition to working with numerous diving and hyperbaric biomedical projects at Duke, Divers Alert Network, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Dawn conducted research on the mechanisms and role of genetics in traumatic brain injury and other forms of acute brain injury as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke University Medical Center. In 2014, Dawn received a Fellowship Award from the American Heart Association for her research and clinical development of a neuroprotective therapeutic for acute brain injury.
Prior to her biomedical research career, Dawn was a diver and project manager of numerous underwater cave and wreck exploration projects around the world. Dawn is currently a mentor and a member of the Board of Directors for Water Women Inc., founder and director of Project Pink Tank, and a volunteer with the Rubicon Foundation. She is also a member of the Department of Defense’s Genetic and Synthetic Biology Research Advisory Committee.
Based on her career in underwater exploration and diving research, Dawn was been elected as a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.
Cara Mae Melton, Director
In January 2015, Melton acquired Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy . She converted the company to a Benefit Corporation to ensure continued focus on the health and wellbeing of the community and patients the company serves.
In 2014, Melton founded the non-profit, Heal the Warriors to provide a platform for treatment and change for injured warriors, first responders and their family caregivers suffering from service-related traumatic brain injury.Before Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy, Melton was the COO for America’s Mighty Warriors, a veteran-centric non-profit (2013-14).
Prior to AMW, in 2010, Melton founded CareConscious, LLC. CareConscious still remains a free online resource for family caregivers around the country. Melton ran LawInfo.com, Inc. (now a Thompson-Reuters company) as the Chief Operating Officer and later VP of Business Development from 2001-2009.
Melton served in the US Navy from 1995-2000 and was trained as a Naval Instructor. She holds a BS in Business Management, attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and held real estate licenses in New York and Virginia. Melton remains a passionate advocate and change agent for caregivers, our troops and the industry of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Ben Richards, Director
After five years of traditional “standard model of care” treatment for TBI and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that did little to improve his condition or functionality, Ben received Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (100% oxygen at 1.5 atmospheres of pressure) pro bono from one of the many HBOT clinics committed to helping veterans. The treatment substantially improved his condition to the extent that he can now join the hundreds of other TBI survivors treated with HBOT in saying that he “has gotten his life back.”
Ben is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and has a Master of Arts degree from Georgetown University. In addition to the National Hyperbaric Association, he works with several other non-profit organizations dedicated to improving treatment for military service members and veterans with TBI and PTSD.
Dr. Scott Sherr, Director
He graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a BA in History and BS in Psychobiology. He then attended University of Maryland Medical School and Residency Program where he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the former with Alpha Omega Alpha Distinction.
Dr. Sherr is a member of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society as well as the Society of Hospitalist Medicine. He is one of the few medical doctors in the country using an integrative approach to hyperbaric treatment (with targeted lab work, diet, supplementation, and both mental and physical exercise) to further advance HBOT’s ability to heal wounds and optimize physiology.
Dr. Sherr also has a special interest in the use of HBOT for traumatic brain injury, stroke, and optimal performance (physical and cognitive).
Captain Matthew Smothermon, Director
In 2011 as a platoon leader his mission was to seek out and eliminate the threat of improvised explosive devices. While deployed, Captain Smothermon’s vehicle was struck by three very large IEDs, all in the span of about a month. Miraculously he walked away from each event, although he was hospitalized and ultimately taken off the front lines as a result of his injuries.
While he suffered a variety of physical injuries, perhaps the most debilitating side-effect of the blasts was his traumatic brain injury. In the immediate aftermath, Captain Smothermon could barely concentrate enough to read a piece of paper, and he could hardly sleep through the night.
And while there was a natural recovery period for his TBI, as his brain adapted to its newfound roadblocks and failures, the recovery process eventually plateaued. Upon returning home, his brain injury began to take root, and it affected everything he did to the point that it changed who he was.
In 2012, Captain Smothermon learned of a medical research study being conducted by Oklahoma State University. Within two weeks of beginning daily one-hour sessions, he found himself sleeping through the night.
Within twenty sessions, the static gears of his mental machinery began spinning back to life. By the time he had undergone 40 sessions, what had once been a dense mental fog had given way to clarity for the first time in well over a year.
Not only could he think clearly again, but he returned to law school. By the time Captain Smothermon had completed the full 80 sessions of hyperbaric treatment, not only had he returned to full capacity as a soldier and leader, but he had taken over as the company commander of his deploying unit.
Today, Captain Smothermon can safely say that he has recovered from his traumatic brain injury. A full year after he returned from war, his wife looked at him with tears in her eyes and said, “It’s good to have you back.”
Lee is an entrepreneur whose diverse background encompasses computer programming and hardware design, marketing consulting, advertising and electronic payment systems. As the founder and chief strategist behind successful businesses in both the U.S. and Canada, Lee and his companies have received national media exposure that included coverage in the New York Times and the front page of PC Week (now eWeek).
Having witnessed firsthand the remarkable transformation of technology in the last 25 years, Lee is known for his unique ability to put high-tech concepts into application. Some of his inventions have included the first color digital scanners for PCs and MAC’s, PC fax cards, and POS terminals for Internet credit and debit transactions. He has worked alternately in digital imaging, banking and transactions, as well as the computer industry in general. During his professional career, he has founded and built a number of successful businesses in the United States and Canada.
In 1983, Lee launched his technology career with SpectraFAX Corp., a manufacturer and marketer of color image processing products for office automation, computer graphics and desktop publishing applications. SpectraFAX digital scanners were designed to convert color or black-and-white photographic images and text into a digital format that could be entered into, and stored on, a personal computer. Also while at SpectraFAX, Mr. Lee conceptualized and supervised the development of a PC-based facsimile circuit board. The FAXcard consisted of a PC-based board and software that allowed PCs to send scanned images and text to Group III facsimile machines, as well as to receive transmissions from fax machines for storage, display and printing. Mr. Lee used the prototype of the FAXcard to successfully close joint venture development contracts for the technology with a Japanese multi-national company and a major domestic manufacturer.
Prior to founding SpectraFAX Corp. in 1983, Lee had served as a graphics consultant to Xerox Corp. of Canada, conducting extensive research into competitive image processing techniques, and creating and producing various marketing and sales support materials from those studies for the company.
He attended school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and also completed various computer- programming courses in Toronto. His experience with computers ranged from IBM and Honeywell mainframes, to microcomputers made by Radio Shack/Tandy, IBM and Apple. His working knowledge of computer languages includes Cobol, Fortran, Basic and C.
Robert currently lives and works in Seattle, WA.