THE UNDER WATER MEDICAL BRANCH
With the inception of the Submarine Arm in the late sixties the Navy was introduced to a new dimension of naval warfare. The undersea environment brought to the forefront new and unfamiliar health hazards and it was realised that medical officers would require specialised knowledge and equipment to tackle the new problems that would be faced. A new field, namely "marine medicine", was added to the spectrum of medical specialisations.
The first two medical officers to volunteer for submarine service were Surgeon Lieutenants Abrahaman and Chatterji. Along with the rest of the submarine crew, they underwent training in the Soviet Union in the mid sixties. Following in their footsteps were other medical officers, some of whom were Madhwal, Idiculla and Gokulnath who received training in the United States and the USSR for varying durations on the subject of underwater medicine.
The efforts of these pioneers resulted in marine medicine being accorded the recognition due to it in India. In 1978 a two – year course for a diploma in marine medicine was instituted in Bombay University, and the first two Indian – trained marine medicine specialists were available to the Submarine Arm in 1980. This number has risen considerably since then, and these specialists are engaged in a variety of tasks in submarines, ships, and on shore. They provide support for escape training, maintenance and development of submarine escape and rescue equipment, and for diving operations - all this in addition to their primary function as doctors.
One of the major benefits of continued development in this field was the acceptance of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a means of supportive treatment for various ailments. This facility has been gradually built up at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Bombay where presently a large number of service as well as civilian patients receive treatment.
Human capabilities and technological constraints limit underwater activity for military or commercial purposes. Our marine medicine specialists strive constantly to re-define these limitations and find means of coping with additional stresses as we strive to operate deeper and for longer durations in the ocean depth.