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Utility Navigation

Diving Program

NOAA Diving Medicine

A physician riding a stationary bicycle and breathing from compressed air as his fellow students watch

A student in the Physicians Training in Diving Medicine class takes an exercise pulmonary function test used to rule out exercise-induced asthma. He is breathing cold dry air from a scuba bottle and cycling while his fellow students observe. A baseline spirometry is obtained, and then serial exams post-exercise, to check for any changes.

The NOAA Diving Program (NDP), through its focus on diving safety, has a strong diving medicine component dedicated to educating and preparing divers and field medical personnel to become first responders in case of emergencies.

Diving Medical Officers Cmdr. Joel Dulaigh and Lt. Gary Montgomery

NOAA Diving Medical Officers (DMOs) CDR Joel Dulaigh (left) and LT Gary Montgomery (right) in front of the 80 in. hyperbaric chamber at the NOAA Diving Center.

The NOAA Diving Program has two full time Diving Medical Officers (DMOs) on staff at its headquarters in Seattle, WA: CAPT Joel Dulaigh and LT Gary Montgomery. These DMOs are employed by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and are detailed to the NDP. They provide training in basic first aid as well in diving-specific maladies and hyperbaric chamber treatments to physicians, Diving Medical Technicians (DMTs), and DMOs that work in the field. They are available to NOAA Divers and diving supervisors to provide advice and recommendations, as well as to examine divers when in Seattle. They actively monitor the diving physicals and annual updates of all NOAA Divers to ensure every diver is fit to dive.

Diving Medical Officers and NOAA Diving Program (NDP) instructors educate and prepare divers and support personnel for diving emergencies. Rapid rescues and appropriate emergency responses are an important part of the NOAA Diver’s basic curriculum and is included throughout all of the diving courses.

NOAA Diving Medical Review Board

The NOAA Diving Program is assisted in its medical determinations by the NOAA Diving Medical Review Board (NDMRB), a panel of five physicians and researchers that are considered to be world leaders in the field of diving medicine. Many of them teach at major, well respected medical universities and have written the text books that are currently in wide use for their respective fields of expertise. Chaired by DMO Cmdr. Joel Dulaigh, the Medical Board convenes only at the request of the NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board (NDCSB) or by request of the Medical Board Chair, mainly to discuss potentially disqualify medical conditions of NOAA Divers. The NDMRB exists only as a consulting body that provides opinions to the NOAA Diving Program for further consideration.

NOAA Diving Medical Manuals

The NOAA Diving Medical Standards and Procedures Manual provides guidance on medical requirements and potentially disqualifying medical conditions for NOAA Divers. It is the medical policy manual for the NOAA Diving Program.

The Operating Standards for NOAA Hyperbaric Chambers provides information on the specific personnel requirements, types of equipment, and methods of operation of hyperbaric chambers at NOAA. 

NOAA Diving Emergencies

In the event of an accident that involves injury to a NOAA Diver requiring medical intervention beyond first aid, personnel at the site should first call 911 and/or arrange for an emergency evacuation. After the patient has been stabilized and/or emergency personnel has been called, a call should be made to the NOAA Diving Medical Officer to notify the NOAA Diving Program of the accident.

A NOAA Diving program DMO can be reached at:

  • 855-UBA-DIVE (855-822-3483)
  • Or (from a satellite phone) 206-526-6986

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Reviewed: December 15, 2020. Contact us with page issues.

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