Robert Gelfand, Institute for Environmental Medicine

caption: Bob GelfandRobert (Bob) Gelfand, senior investigator, engineering supervisor and assistant director of core systems at Penn’s Institute for Environmental Medicine (IFEM) in the Perelman School of Medicine, died August 26. He was 90.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Mr. Gelfand joined the US Navy in 1946 and trained as an electronic technician. He served in the reserves 1948-1953 while attending Yale, where he received his BA in engineering in 1952 and his master’s in electrical engineering in 1954.

Mr. Gelfand worked at Penn for 59 years. He was hired in 1954 by Christian J. Lambertsen, professor of medicine and pioneer in undersea and aerospace research, to help develop the hyperbaric chamber system. Dr. Lambertsen and Mr. Gelfand designed the chamber system that was used in a pioneering study of the effects of oxygen at hyperbaric pressures on the lung function of human volunteers. The Institute for Environmental Medicine (IFEM) was established to oversee chamber operations, and Mr. Gelfand’s University appointment was changed from pharmacology to the IFEM.

Mr. Gelfand began his career at Penn as an instrument designer at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering (now SEAS). Mr. Gelfand went on to serve as an assistant instructor, then instructor, and finally associate in pharmacology. He was the assistant director for bioengineering of the IFEM 1969-1986, and he served as assistant director/core systems of the IFEM 1986-2012. He held positions as IFEM’s engineering supervisor and a senior investigator with the Institute; a principal investigator for National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and a collaborating investigator for NASA Research Project and for the US Navy Hyperoxia Research Program. Mr. Gelfand participated in the ongoing research of the IFEM,  authoring or co-authoring 40 published papers and more than 70 abstracts and scientific presentations.

Mr. Gelfand remained an important member of the hyperbaric chamber supervisory team following transfer of the Hyperbaric Oxygen Program from the IFEM to emergency medicine in January 2013. Although he stopped actively working later that year due to his health, he continued to consult with his IFEM colleagues.

Mr. Gelfand is survived by his wife, Mildred; brother, Samuel; sister, Miriam; son, Martin (C’84); daughters, Lois (C’88; G’04), and Karen (C’93; M’01); and two grandchildren.