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​​​​​​​​​​​​​The BScMedScHons (Underwater Medicine) degree programme

This programme is presented over a 2-year period for part-time students and over a 1-year period for full-time students.  Successful completion of the degree programme enables you to register diving medicine with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as an additional qualification (like one would do with a diploma in anaesthetics).  The entry requirement for the course is the MBChB (or equivalent) degree.  For the purposes of practical training the candidate also need to have a certificate of fitness for hyperbaric exposures.

The course consists of different modules, each of which you are able to do separately.  Some modules however require previous modules as entry level.

Practical training (where applicable) will take place in Cape Town or Durban, depending on the availability of instructors and practical training facilities at the time.   We envisage that various institutions around the world would be accredited in the coming years and the contact time (thus the whole course) may be decentralized at a later stage.

The following modules are presented in the programme:

1.    Basic Underwater Medicine:

This module has a distance training element (provided via the Webstudies platform), as well as contact time of four days.  Practical training in the techniques of examining divers will also form part of this module. 

The exit outcome for this module is equivalent to the Diving Medical Advisorty Committee (DMAC)/ European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC) level 1, which is a diving medical examiner.  It is accredited with various international institutions and successful candidates will be able to practice diving medicine in various countries - provided that they are able to register in the country as a medical practitioner. 

Practitioners registered in South Africa are able to register with the Department of Labour as a Designated Medical Practitioner (as an examiner of commercial divers).

2.   Operational Underwater Medicine:

This module's outcome is equivalent to the DMAC/ EDTC level IIa (competence in diving medicine), which is a person that could work for a diving company and is employing detailed underwater medicine knowledge.  This course will again have a distance training element, contact time and more practical training.  Training in hyperbaric chambers and their application in the treatment of divers is thoroughly addressed, including saturation diving.  The person could thus render operational diving medical backup to any company or group of divers.  This module is also accredited internationally.

3.   Advanced Underwater Medicine:

This module "takes it to the next level".  Complicated medical issues regarding the underwater environment are addressed and the cutting-edge research issues are put on the table.  The candidate completing this module will have expert knowledge in the field of Underwater Medicine and can act as a consultant.  The unexplained underwater issues can then be further addressed in research projects.  The candidate gets an introduction to research methodology in the next module. 

Note: This module is NOT equivalent to the EDTC level III person.  We do not cover the Hyperbaric Medicine components in detail.  These are addressed in the BScMedScHons (Hyperbaric Medicine) programme.

4.   Research Methodology:

This module serves to introduce the candidate to basic research methodology (Epidemiology and Biostatistics).  The person would be able to critically appraise any research documents that they read and they will practice the basic research methodology by presenting a small research project (The purpose is to show mastering of the basic research methodology and not necessarily the answering of a specific research question – for this purpose the candidates are advised to limit their project to a descriptive study, rather than analytic). 

The MSc (Baromedical Sciences) degree programme

This programme is a research-based Master's Degree.  The candidate can take the initial research project for the BScMedScHons degree further to the level of a Masters’ degree, or do a completely different research project.  The research project should be analytical in design.  This serves to further the field of the Baromedical Sciences academically as well as answering some of the important questions we still have. 

Articulation with other programmes

The Research Methodology module can be used for any other research-related programmes/ projects, as much of the information is generic in nature.  The Research Methodology module is shared with the BScMedScHons (Hyperbaric Medicine) programme.  The last-mentioned course focuses purely on the evidence-based treatment of medical and surgical conditions with hyperbaric oxygen.  See for more details!

(FAQ: How does this programme differ from "hyperbaric medicine"?  In diving medicine the focus of the programme is on HEALTHY persons (e.g. divers), for whom occupational health support is provided for them to do their work.  In hyperbaric medicine the focus is on ILL persons (e.g. carbon monoxide poisoning, diabetic wounds, irradiation injuries, etc.).  The approaches to these are thus totally different and we have opted to split these programmes.)

​Refresher courses

Some candidates may require refresher training (e.g. every four years for Designated Medical Examiners of divers according to the South African Diving Regulations).  Refresher courses are in place for all modules.  Students may need to apply for Recognition of Prior Learning if the initial training (to be refreshed) was not received at the Stellenbosch University. 

Recognition for Prior Learning (RPL)

Grandfathering and RPL is done as follows:

You need to contact the Programme Coordinator, Dr Jack Meintjes (, who will direct you through the process.  The application needs to be forwarded to the Secretary of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Stellenbosch University (Mr Coetzer).  He will forward the relevant documentation to the department, who will consider the candidate’s prior training.

All of the policies and procedures regarding RPL will be forwarded to candidates upon request.