Lawrence W. Raymond

Lawrence W. Raymond

Lawrence Raymond is an engineer turned physician who spent much of his life studying environmental questions:

  • the workplace with its potential toxins and risks from physical agents
  • the world deep undersea, where land-based interlopers must breathe strange gas mixtures in order to function
  • The High Country (Carolina-speak) where at higher altitudes, even normal lungs labor against potential fluid buildup to provide enough oxygen to the heart and other working muscles.

Dr. Raymond’s interest in medicine and physiology arose in strange surroundings: the confined spaces of Esso’s oil refinery pressure vessels in  which welders labor to upgrade process efficiency and enhance the Bottom Line. He and his industrial hygiene partners were loaned a 110-foot distillation column to serve as their “laboratory,” to see how optimizing ventilation might reduce fume and heat levels in the Baton Rouge summer of 1958. The findings were encouraging and shared with others in the refining business. But the welders had other questions whose answers were elusive. Larry Raymond thought medical school could give him the answers, and Esso’s employee scholarship program opened Cornell Medical’s door. It also provided summer-vacation work, letting him help develop and patent the first noise dosimeter.

After internship, the Doctor Draft beckoned and US Navy diving research was an appealing option. Hypothermia was now his challenge, so work on an electric suit prototype won him a place in the Sealab program, a spot as internal medicine resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and a chance to work in the lab of John Severinghaus at Julius Comroe’s CVRI in San Francisco, where he also completed pulmonary training. The latter enabled him to explore the limits of metabolic activity at pressure up to 50 atmospheres, (1600 feet of sea water). To his surprise, work capacity was limited by lung mechanics, rather than respiratory acidosis. Even greater surprise came with the recent revelation that this Navy research was co-sponsored by the CIA! The aim was to enable divers to “lock out” of specially configured submarines, placing listening devices on Russia’s underwater communication cables. All the while, his neighbor Bill Colby -- CIA’s Director -- never gave the least hint as to the real objective of what Larry and his fellow divers were really working to accomplish.

More recent research has been much less furtive but also less exciting. Heat stress is an unsolved problem of much Hazmat work, in which responders wear “Level A” completely encapsulating suits, while wearing breathing apparatus weighing 30-40 pounds. Among first steps, Dr. Raymond modified the usual form of treadmill stress testing to induce core temperatures like those found in field exercises, but achievable in the clinical setting. As family concerns have assumed greater importance in his life, he will probably not pursue these applied physiology interests, nor the use of Transcutaneous Oxygen Measurements (Tcoms) as an early warning of diabetic limb compromise. Perhaps it is time to recall the Spanish proverb, “One cannot both walk in the procession and toll the bell.” But stepping out of the procession, one can motivate students and fellows to answer the bell of research questions which need answers.