Our Team

Michael R. Kaufman

Since 2008, Michael Roy Kaufman has been actively involved in developing and implementing adaptive scuba programming working with different organizations promoting scuba as a modality to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. He is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and first received his adaptive scuba instructor certification with the Handicapped SCUBA Association (HSA) in 2008 and received his adaptive instructor trainer (AIT) credential from Diveheart in 2014. He has trained and made hundreds of dives with individuals with a variety of disabilities including those suffering from severe physical impairments due to spinal cord injuries, amputations, brain disorders, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, blindness and other medical conditions.

Michael R Kaufman has over 54 years of diving experience. He is also a veteran trial attorney who has been practicing in the South Florida area for over 40 years. He received his MBA in 1976 and his Juris Doctorate in 1980. His legal career has exclusively dealt with representing individuals suffering disabilities caused by the wrongful conduct of others. During his professional career , he acquired extensive medical knowledge regarding many different types of debilitating medical conditions and related therapeutic life care plans. Michael R Kaufman's combined experience and credentialing in scuba and his medical related legal career makes him uniquely qualified to teach, consult and train individuals whom have an interest in adaptive scuba.

In 2010, Michael became a board member of Diveheart, a 501(c)3 organization specifically dedicated to creating awareness  for the therapeutic powers of adaptive scuba and promoting scuba training for individuals with disabilities, as well as, specialty training for adaptive dive buddies.

In 2013, Mike agreed to collaborate with Jim Elliott, Pres. and founder of Diveheart, to help the organization become an adaptive scuba-training agency and to develop the required curriculum and course materials. In furthering that objective, Michael R Kaufman created new and improved protocols, guidelines, and standards for adaptive scuba. He was the principal author of the two training manuals, that serves as the course materials for Diveheart’s adaptive scuba training courses. Diveheart is now an industry leader and internationally recognized in adaptive scuba for those not qualified to receive conventional scuba certifications.

Mike served on Diveheart’s Board of Directors for approximately 10 years and is a founding board member of DiveBar, a Voluntary Bar Association and 501(c) organization composed of legal professionals promoting education and awareness for marine conservation through diving and philanthropic activities. Among other adaptive programming, Mike Kaufman sponsored, formulated and initiated the ROOT Project (Restore Our Oceans Together), a pilot program specifically designed to get veterans with disabilities involved in adaptive scuba and coral restoration projects.  

He has served as a guest lecturer presenting adaptive scuba topics at different organizations including the VA, Shake-A-Leg Foundation, DEMA, Florida International University, Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo and Our World Underwater Trade Show. His current focus is on developing adaptive scuba and scuba therapy programs with university based Recreational Therapy Departments to promote scuba therapy curriculum, therapeutic scuba internships, labs, research, special events and RT clinical services. In December 2018, Mike received a faculty appointment at Florida International University as an adjunct instructor to teach adaptive scuba/scuba therapy.

In 2020, Michael R Kaufman, founded and organized the Therapeutic Scuba Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)3,  dedicated to adaptive scuba programs facilitating scuba experiences, scuba therapy, education, safety and research.

David W. McMillan

David W. McMillan is Assistant Professor at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine's Department of Neurological Surgery where he works at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. For over a decade has been using science to learn about the health impacts of spinal cord injury and disease. David holds a B.S. (CSU San Marcos), M.S. (CSU Los Angeles), and a Ph.D. (University of Miami), and he is currently a study team member on various human studies and clinical trials ranging in topics from characterizations of disordered sleep and satiety, pragmatic interventions for neuropathic pain, and surgical implantation of devices such as nerve stimulators and brain-computer interfaces.

David was raised in Hawaii and Southern California where he developed a love for the ocean. He was a collegiate water polo and aquatic athlete, instilling in him further aquatic confidence. Though always in the water/ocean, he never considered pursuing scuba until moving to Florida in 2015. Since then, David has obtained dive certifications from SSI, PADI, and HSA and now has multiple years of experience organizing and facilitating adaptive dives in SE Florida.

With T.S.I. David looks forward to facilitating adaptive diving at various levels. He is a keen dive buddy, and aims to use his photography and videography experience to document adaptive dives in a manner that generates content for educational and advocacy media. He also aims to leverage his academic proclivities to facilitate adaptive diving through more abstract means: by generating knowledge (research) and translating the understanding into practice (education/training).

Tania Santiago Perez

Tania Santiago Perez is a Recreational Therapist (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, CTRS) with a passion for helping others through leisure and recreation activities. Her favorite recreation therapy modalities are adaptive sports and adaptive recreation including adaptive scuba. Tania currently works as an instructor and program leader for the Recreational Therapy undergraduate program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, where she has worked to introduce adaptive scuba to the recreational therapy curriculum.

Tania holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and a master’s degree in Recreational Therapy (Florida International University). She is currently pursuing a PhD in Recreational Therapy (Clemson University). Among her research interests are the biopsychosocial benefits of scuba diving for people with disabilities. Primarily, she is interested in how scuba diving can help improve the health-related quality of life of people living with disabilities. Tania’s ultimate goal is to develop scuba diving as an evidence-based recreational therapy modality.

Tania is PADI Open Water Certified and is working on her certifications to become an  adaptive support diver.

Subscribe for more insights!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.