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.

Level 2 Advanced Course in Diving Medicine: Diagnosis and Treatment’ is now open for registration.

What: An international faculty of physicians and scientists specializing in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine has been assembled to present the 1st CSA Z275 Level 2 Advanced Course in Diving Medicine: Diagnosis and Treatment. The course schedule and faculty members can be viewed elsewhere on our website.

Where: The course will be held on the Halifax Harbour front in the Railside Room of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 located at 1055 Marginal Rd. in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When: This is a 6-day, 45 hour course that will take place from 6-11 May 2019. The course has a maximum course load of 24 participants and will include several occupational tours and site visits.

Prerequisites: Previous successful completion of an Undersea Medicine Canada Level 1 Diving Medicine Course is required to register for this Level 2 course. If you have received equivalent training in diving medicine from another course (eg. Canadian Forces Diving Medicine Basic course, the NOAA Diving Medicine course in Seattle, WA, etc.), please contact Dr. Debbie Pestell at before registering.

Cost: The cost for this course will be $1,950 CDN, which includes 8% GST. All course material, tours/training sessions are included in the fees, as well as accreditation and CME credits (see below). Morning coffee break and snack, as well as catered daily lunches are also included. On the evening of Tues, 7 May 2019, a fully catered Welcome Reception will be held at the Canadian Museum of Immigration immediately following the day’s classes. The Welcome Reception includes a private after-hours tour of this unique and beautiful museum, through which hundreds of thousands of future Canadians arrived upon immigrating to Canada between 1928 and 1971 (including my parents, as I am a proud 1st generation Canadian!).

Accreditation: As with all our previous Level 1 Introductory Courses in Diving Medicine: Fitness to Dive, we are pursuing accreditation for 45 MAINPRO+ CME credits from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. Our Level 1 course has just been re-accredited for the next year for 35 MAINPRO+ CME credits, and while we do not anticipate any problems receiving accreditation for our Level 2 courses, because this is the first time it is being offered, the accreditation process is quite extensive and takes a bit longer. We will send out notification to all registrants as soon as accreditation and CME credits have been confirmed, most likely before the end of February.

Accommodations: As each course participant’s circumstances will differ, we have will not be block-booking rooms at any particular hotel in the region. Some individuals will come from Halifax and come from home each day; others may stay with family or friends. For those staying in hotels, there will be differing preferences with respect to type of facility, location and cost. Therefore, you may wish to consider the following, each with its own pros and cons:

  1. The Westin Nova Scotian – this beautiful 4-star hotel located a 3-min walk from the classroom at Pier 21, offers beautiful rooms, an indoor swimming pool, free WiFi, and is pet friendly! Cost of rooms during the early part of May is approximately $220 per night. It is located next to the Via Rail terminal if you are looking for a unique way to travel to Halifax, and is next door to a grocery store and restaurants right on the water front.
  2. The Waverley Inn – if you are looking for something a little cozier, this 3-star Victorian mansion built in 1876, contains 34 uniquely decorated rooms, each with its own private bath. Breakfast, cable and WiFi are included, and cost of rooms during the early part of May is approximately $109 per night. Upgraded rooms have a sitting area and whirlpool tubs. It is located a 7-min walk to the classroom at Pier 21.
  3. The Courtyard by Marriott – this straightforward 3-star hotel is located across from the waterfront. Rooms feature WiFi, flat screen TVs and mini-fridges; amenities include a spa, indoor swimming pool and fitness centre. Rooms in early May run approximately $179 per night and are a 10+ min walk to the classroom at Pier 21.
  4. The Worthington Place Boutique Hotel – for something completely different, this brand-new boutique hotel with executive European-style suites is located steps from the beautiful new Halifax Central Library in the heart of Halifax’s shopping district with restaurants, shops and cinemas steps away. Each suite includes separate bedroom and bathroom, living room, kitchen, 6 appliances, laundry facilities, WiFi and cable with an on-site gym. Cost in early May is approximately $282 per night, and is located about a 10+ min walk to the Pier 21 classroom.

Course Requirements – Although you do not need to be medically-cleared to dive in order to take this course, if you wish to be pressurized in the chamber at the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit at the QEII Health Sciences Centre during the emergency dive protocols and treatment shams training day on Fri, 10 May 2019, you will require an up-to-date diver medical. Please bring this along with you to the course. Physicians who wish to work at a multi-place hyperbaric facility after successful completion of this course, must be cleared to dive in the event of a chamber emergency during treatment. If you have any future questions with regard to this requirement, 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 study purposes before the course exam.

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