Paragon Awards                           Presented By

Peter G. Wernicki, M.D.

American Red Cross

2015 Paragon Award / Aquatic Safety


To paraphrase Mark Twain, everybody talks about water safety, but very few do much about it. One man who does a whole lot about it is Peter G. Wernicki, M. D. For over 30 years, Dr. Wernicki has contributed his expertise to medical and non-medical aspects of lifeguarding and water safety around the world.


Dr. Wernicki currently serves as the Aquatics Chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, the Medical Committee Chair for the International Lifesaving Federation, and is the Medical Advisor of the United States Lifesaving Association.


Growing up on the New Jersey shore, Dr. Wernicki worked as a lifeguard for 12 summers. He held leadership positions within the guards, served as a water safety and lifeguard instructor, and both organized and competed in numerous ocean lifeguarding events.


Dr. Wernicki graduated from the University of Virginia and earned his medical degree from Rutgers Medical School. He went on to complete an orthopedic surgery residency in Baltimore at several institutions including the Johns Hopkins and Union Memorial Hospitals. He also completed fellowships in sports medicine and arthroscopy, and he currently specializes in sports medicine. To keep busy, he teaches Orthopedic Surgery at Florida State College of Medicine. For the past 11 years, Dr. Wernicki has been chosen by his peers as a “top physician” in Orthopedic Surgery.


If all this weren’t enough, Dr. Wernicki continues to contribute to global aquatic medicine and water safety through significant leadership efforts. He is an Executive Board member of the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), a position he has held for the past 25 years. He has served as the US team physician and coach at numerous International Rescue Championships, he was co-chairman of the first ILS Medical Rescue Conference, held in 1997, and he was the keynote speaker at the 2011 World Conference on Drowning Prevention. He is also the ILS liaison to the World Anti-Doping Agency where he monitors athlete drug testing.


In 2006, the American Red Cross chose Dr. Wernicki to be a member of the organization’s National Scientific Advisory Council. The council is the scientific arm of the organization; it gathers, analyzes, and presents important evidence-based studies and data. The council’s authoritative statements guide all of the American Red Cross Health and Safety Programs. As a result, Dr. Wernicki was presented with the Chairman’s Award in 2012 for his “exceptional contributions toward saving lives.”


From 2010-2012, Dr. Wernicki served as a Co-Chair of the US Lifeguard Standards Coalition. This was a groundbreaking, joint effort among the American Red Cross, the YMCA, and the USLA. The large initiative was the first public safety effort to apply evidence-based science in the development of standards for open water and pool lifeguarding. Praised internationally, the published results are setting the standard for all future studies and improvements in global lifesaving.


Dr. Wernicki writes and publishes extensively on aquatics and water safety. He authored multiple chapters in the last two editions of the World Handbook on Drowning. A chapter in the “Science of Beach Lifeguarding” exhibits his insistence on rigorous evidence-based research. He has been published numerous times in the International Journal of Aquatics, the Physician and Sports Medicine, Anesthesiology, and many other scientific journals. In the lay press, Dr. Wernicki’s expertise is often quoted in publications such as Men’s Health, RedBook, New York Times, and the Washington Post.

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