Students and faculty participate in wilderness medicine conference

BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – CUSOM Students and Faculty participated in the WellSpan York Hospital’s 9th Annual Wilderness Medicine & Survival Skills Conference (WildMed).

Held in The Woods of Hannover, Pennsylvania, the conference is hailed as “one of the most unique Wilderness Medicine Conferences on the East Coast”.  The course is entirely outdoors, is sponsored by the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS), and supports the Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM).  The founding members of Wilderness Medicine recognized a need to develop a specialty that would educate and foster research in locations where medicine was practiced in austere environments.  Conferences such as WildMed provide the education and tools needed to function effectively as a physician in unexpected scenarios when resources are scarce.

“The field of Wilderness Medicine was created over 30 years ago, in 1983, when the idea for the Wilderness Medical Society was conceived,” said Dr. Andrew Martin, CUSOM Wilderness Medicine Club faculty advisor.  “This is the second year the CUSOM Wilderness Medicine Club has attended the WildMed Conference and students have commented on how unique and valuable the Conference is to their education – it helps ignite their passion for lifelong learning in the field of Wilderness Medicine.”

CUSOM students spent the weekend with medical students from PCOM, University of Maryland, Penn State, LECOM, University of Pittsburgh, learning survival skills, disaster assistance and bioterrorism reaction skill in the following scenarios:

  • How to assist malaria and Dengue Fever patients in the field;
  • Wound care, including gunshot victims;
  • How to perform an emergency cricotomy with limited supplies;
  • How to ventilate and protect airways with limited supplies;
  • How to set up traps to catch prey if stranded;
  • Primitive fire starting skills;
  • Water purification techniques;
  • Search and rescue operations;
  • Gun safety and how to operate different types of guns;
  • How to pack a survival kit;
  • How to treating heat strokes, altitude sickness, and other exertional related illness.

“It was a great experience!” said third year medical student Priyanka Kailash.  “The conference was definitely designed for people that like the outdoors. We spent the entire weekend outside – we slept outside in tents, ate our food outside by a bonfire, and even our lectures were all outdoors. The most challenging event was trying to start a fire using the bow and drill sticks. Jonathan and Russell were the only two in our group that got the fire going. The most valuable experience for me was learning about search and rescue missions.”

“There is a lot of value in learning medicine in an austere setting because I plan on having outdoor adventures as part of my life, and I want to make certain I, as a future physician, am capable of helping those around me in dire situations,” said second year medical student, Nick May.  “We learned about traps, snares, and tracking from Scott Kuipers – a world renowned survival expert who has appeared on the discovery channel a few times.  They also brought ballistic gel, and shot it with a few different rounds of ammunition to demonstrate what happens when a bullet enters a human body.  The most valuable part of the experience was talking to the many physicians at the conference and hearing about their life experiences of using medicine outside of the office.”