Introduction to Undersea Medicine Canada

There are thousands of commercial, scientific, harvesting and aquaculture, and recreational divers across Canada who require medical care by diving physicians. Until recently however, there were no regular diving medicine courses available in Canada outside of the military. Interested physicians generally needed to travel abroad for training, and although many courses are of good quality, they do not address Canadian diving regulations and safety standards, diver medical forms, or focus on the nuances of Canadian diving practices. This reduces the value of such courses to Canadian professionals.

The non-profit educational organization ‘Undersea Medicine Canada’ (UMC) was established in 2016 to offer courses in diving and hyperbaric medicine designed for Canadian physicians. Although physicians are the target audience, hyperbaric nurses and certified hyperbaric technologists (CHTs) will also benefit from these courses. International physicians are also most welcome to attend UMC courses and have greatly enriched previous courses with their knowledge and experience.

Level 1 ‘Introductory Course in Diving Medicine: Fitness to Dive’

Next Level I Course, 18-22 Sept 2023 in Quebec City

Registration Opening 1 May, 2023

More Details to Follow

What: An international faculty of physicians and scientists specializing in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine has been assembled to present the 4th CSA Z275 Level 1 Introductory Course in Diving Medicine: Fitness to Dive. The course schedule and faculty members can be viewed elsewhere on our website.

Where: Quebec City

When: 18 - 22 September, 2023

Prerequisites: A Physics Pre-Instruction Package (PIP) will be sent out to all course registrants approximately two weeks before the beginning of the course. All participants must complete this diving physics package before the beginning of the course. It will be assumed that everyone arrives on the course with knowledge of the package (contents + practice questions). There will be a 1-hr review lesson the first morning of the course for any questions. No previous knowledge in diving medicine is required for the course, although many course participants dive recreationally.

Cost: TBA

Accreditation: Upon successful completion of this course, physicians will qualify as a CSA Z275.2-15 Level 1 Diving Medical Examiner and can have their name listed with the Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC) to conduct commercial divers medicals in Canada. All previous Level 1 courses have been accredited by the Canadian College of Family Physicians as a Group Learning Program qualifying for 35 MAINPRO+ CME credits. Once accreditation for the current course has been received, this website will be updated with the CCFP course ID number.

If you have any future questions, please contact Dr. Debbie Pestell at, or by phone at: (902) 225-8214. Finally, as all lectures will be provided to course participants on a USB data stick, it is strongly recommended that you bring a laptop computer with you for review and study purposes before the course exam.

COVID-19 Safety Protocols

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives forever. This is the 1st course since the beginning of the pandemic that we have been able to hold in person. Holding them virtually through Zoom has not been an option because as occupational medicine courses, 25% of the course content must be ‘hands-on’ (demonstrations, site visits, tours, small group presentations, etc.) Without the live/hands-on component, we would lose our accreditation and CME credits from the College. Although we cannot know what the fall will bring with respect to COVID and restrictions, there will almost certainly be increased cases +/- new variants given that the world is currently experiencing an outbreak of Omicron BA.5.

We cannot risk out an outbreak amongst course participants which would not only lead to cancellation of the rest of the course, but the risk that we would take COVID home to our families, patients and hospitals. As the start date of the Level 1 course approaches, we will follow whatever protocols are required by the Quebec Public Health Dept, as well as any additional steps that may be needed to keep everyone safe. This will likely mean rapid swabbing all course participants and faculty on Day 1 and 2 of the course, as well as masking in the classroom. While snacks and meals have historically been taken in the intimate dining area at the back of the class room, we may need to spread out a bit more this time around. More details will follow as we get closer to the course date.


Next Level 2 course to be held Spring 2024

About Our Directors

Dr Debbie Pestell is the Medical Director for Undersea Medicine Canada. She served in the Royal Canadian Navy for 21 years, the last ten as the Diving and Submarine Medicine Consultant for the Canadian Forces after having completed a fellowship in diving and hyperbaric medicine with the US Air Force and US Navy, and a Master’s Degree in Public Health at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Since retiring from the military in 2011, she has worked in the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, NS and provides medical support to commercial divers and diving operations across the Maritimes. Dr Pestell teaches diving and hyperbaric medicine courses internationally, and is the Past-President of the Canadian Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Association (CUHMA),

Dr Neal Pollock is the Scientific Director for Undersea Medicine Canada. He has long-standing ties to Duke University and Divers Alert Network (DAN), both in Durham, NC. He conducted research at Duke in the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology between 1997 and 2016, and served as DAN Research Director from 2008 to 2016, as well as the continuing medical education course director. His academic training is in zoology, exercise physiology and environmental physiology. His research interests focus on human health and safety in extreme environments, including all forms of diving. He is currently an Associate Professor in Kinesiology at Université Laval in Québec City, QC and is developing research at the Centre de medicine de plongee du Québec, Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis, QC. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Association (CUHMA), on the editorial board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, and as Editor-in-Chief of Wilderness & Environmental Medicine.

If you have any further questions or require additional information, Dr Pestell can be reached at or at (902) 225-8214.

Group Photo

Introductory Course in Diving Medicine – Fitness to Dive, Halifax, Nov 2016