The South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (SPUMS) arose out of informal discussions between two doctors in the cluttered shed which served as the Royal Australian Navy School of Underwater Medicine. They decided to create a medical society with a focus on matters significant to recreational divers. Being Australian, they opted to be both flippant and accurate and called it the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. SPUMS was founded in the wardroom of HMAS Penguin on Monday, 03 March 1971.

The purposes of the Society have not changed since its inception. These are:

  • to promote and facilitate the study of all aspects of underwater and hyperbaric medicine;​
  • to provide information on underwater and hyperbaric medicine;
  • to promote communication between members and to publish a journal;
  • to convene members annually at a scientific conference and to hold meetings and other activities to inform, and to develop fellowship and friendship amongst members.

The first issue of The South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society newsletter appeared within three months of the Society's foundation. This emphasis on education through the Journal has continued without a break till today, later as the SPUMS Journal and now as Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine (DHM). Since 2008, it has been the academic mouthpiece of both SPUMS and the European Underwater and Baromedical Society. Indexed on Medline, DHM is published quarterly and is one of, if not the, leading publication in this field of medicine. The Journal contains peer-reviewed original articles, review articles, case reports and is focused both on clinical research and practical medical advice for all health practitioners interested in diving and hyperbaric medicine.

The first SPUMS Annual Scientific Meeting was held on Heron Island in June of 1972.  SPUMS has convened an ASM every year since, traveling to oceanic paradises throughout the Indo-Pacific. Traditionally the conference begins each morning underwater, exploring practical aspects of scuba diving, followed by an afternoon of lectures and workshops on diving and hyperbaric medical issues. Invited speakers are selected for their in-depth knowledge of a diving-related topic and many themes have been covered over the years.

SPUMS plays a pivotal role in diving safety in Australia as an NGO, advising on State and Federal legislation and is represented on several Australian Standards committees. Perhaps its most valuable contribution is the SPUMS recreational diving medical, advised for all divers undertaking initial dive training and then every five years for those 45 years or older. The SPUMS website provides a readily accessible list of doctors trained to perform recreational and commercial diving medicals. SPUMS through its subcommittee, the Australian and New Zealand Hyperbaric Medicine Group runs an internationally highly regarded two-week course in diving and hyperbaric medicine for physicians. The SPUMS Diploma in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine is one of very few post-graduate qualifications in this field, recognised internationally. Members of SPUMS also work closely with the Divers Alert Network to offer a 24 hour hotline with expert medical advice available to anyone who has a diving-related medical issue.

From its humble beginnings, SPUMS has a membership of between 350 and 450, including physicians working in hyperbaric units, navy diving medical officers, emergency, ear nose throat and respiratory specialists, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, general practitioners who perform diving medicals, hyperbaric technicians and nurses, diving instructors, commercial, scientific and technical divers, marine biologists and recreational divers with an interest in diving medicine. The founding tenets of fellowship and friendship remain strong and we invite all those who share our passion for the medical aspects of the ocean and its environments to join our Society.

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