Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Postgraduate Diploma in Aviation Medicine (PGDipAvMed)

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 21 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:gp155
  1. Nomy Ahmed, specialist in aviation medicine and family practice
  1. Emirates Airline, Dubai, UAE Nomy.Ahmed{at}


The courses being offered are via the University of Otago, New Zealand: Contact: Dr Rob Griffiths, academic coordinator (rfgriffiths{at}

Who's it for?

Anyone currently working or wanting to work in aviation medicine. This includes those wanting to join airline medical departments, doing pilot medicals and aeromedical retrievals. It is open even to those not wanting to do the full diploma but wanting courses in certain subjects such as aeromedical emergencies. Papers in occupational medicine are also offered.

Why did you do it?

For three main reasons. Firstly, to gain knowledge to impart to my travelling patients who all seemed to have complicated medical conditions and wanted to travel to exotic locations. Secondly, to be able to cope with the feared “Is there a doctor on board?” announcement while travelling on holiday. Thirdly, as a chance to change careers and join an airline medical department with all the fringe benefits of cheap airline travel.

How much effort did it entail?

Probably similar to other diplomas I had done, such as the diploma in occupational medicine, except that as it was distance learning it took longer. Some aspects of the course, such as aeromedical evacuation, involved a huge learning curve as I had no previous experience, but I found it really interesting. On average it takes about 7-10 hours a week during the semesters. There are two semesters a year each lasting three months, starting in February and ending in November each year.

Is there an exam?

Yes, after each semester. This consists of three assignments up to 2000 words and a written exam for two hours. The pass rate is high. Each semester costs £1500.

Did you go on a course?

Every year there is a residential school lasting about a week. It is in a different part of the world each year. It was in Brazil in 2006, with teaching about travel medicine at Iguazu falls; the year before it was in Hong Kong. This not only gives practical experience—trying out a simulator and emergency evacuation procedures, viewing search and rescue helicopters, and so on—but also develops networking and contacts with the trainers. It has a good mix of general practitioners, occupational doctors, civil and military aviation doctors, and those interested in aeromedical evacuation. The cost depends on location.

Top tip

Tutorials are given every month during the course via VoIP teleconferencing and the course material is sent via a DVD. I would recommend having some computing skills, although Rodney, the information technology chap on the course, is always willing to help. I would also recommend talking to the course organiser, Rob Griffiths, who will answer questions on the courses offered.

Was it worth it?

Definitely. After doing the diploma, I went from working as an inner city GP to working for Emirates Airline and living in sunny Dubai. I use the knowledge gained by doing the course on a daily basis. The cost of doing the diploma, time and money, has been repaid in job satisfaction and career outlook. In fact I enjoyed it so much I have enrolled to do the taught masters in aviation medicine starting in 2007.

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