Wilderness Medicine Club hosts “MedWar”

BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine’s Wilderness Medicine Club hosted a “Medical Wilderness Race” last Saturday October, 15.  Fifty-four students from Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences participated as healthcare providers and an additional fifty individuals participated as simulated patients, teaching faculty and volunteers.

Four second year students, Brian Glen, Zachary Barbara, Anna Defrancesco, and Saylor McCartor began planning the race last spring.  Two of the students had participated in a MedWar  (aka outdoor medical competition) previously, and the group had many meetings about the event to plan for it to be beneficial and fun for everyone involved.

“It was fun and sometimes stressful,” said Saylor McCartor, second year medical student.  “Once we realized how big the possibilities were and how much interest we were seeing from our classmates in participating – it was a lot of work – but it was such a rewarding experience in the end.  Seeing all of our club members, professors, and even undergraduate students excited, participating, and coming together that is what makes an event truly successful.”

The conference agenda consisted of five in-classroom instruction sessions in the morning: 

  1. Emergency OBGYN;
  2. Patient Assessment;
  3. Fracture/Hemorrhage Control;
  4. Emergency Airway; and
  5. C-Spine Injuries in the Wild.

In the afternoon, students applied their skills in a “med-war” on the grounds of Keith Hills Country Club.

“The activities were selected based on what we felt would be important and practical for participants to know,” continued McCartor.  “Wilderness medicine is unique in the situations you could find yourself in – it doesn’t necessarily have to be on top of a mountain after a bear attack.  It can be a scenario as practical as an emergency delivery in a grocery store, or, as recent experience has taught us, a hurricane that drastically limits your resources around you.  We tried to take all of this into account so that we gave out practical information, but we still were able to have fun with it and encouraged our volunteers that wrote the scenarios to have fun with it as well.”

“The Medical Wilderness Race was a fantastic opportunity for students of all levels and medical backgrounds to learn how to adapt medical techniques and training to an unpredictable environment,” said second year medical student Shannon Norland.  “It was great to be challenged as a team while encountering a broad range of scenarios. Students were encouraged to rely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness to provide medical care in a wilderness environment.  I was truly impressed with the variety and the realism that each training scenario provided.”

“We put our participants in an unfamiliar situation, with unfamiliar people, with limited resources, and within hours they created a team that I believe could go into a real life situation and take care of a patient.  It is an awesome process to see unfold,” said McCartor. 

“During the race, I watched one group at their first scenario and then on their fourth scenario.  The first scenario everyone was a little frantic and didn’t know quite what to do/expect, but on their fourth rotation – wow what a difference!    As soon as they came on scene, they each picked up a different job, quickly and calmly reacted to the situation, communicated, and within minutes, they had their patient taken care of, diagnosed, and ready to be evacuated.  It was so amazing to see how quickly they turned into a team and how confident they were after just a few scenarios.  This is the entire point of an event like this.   It is an awesome process to see.”

Dr. Martin DeFrancesco, OB/GYN with Encompass Women’s Care in Burlington, North Carolina, was a volunteer faculty member for the event and complimented the student organization of the event.

“The event was well orchestrated, using amazing cutting edge Sim lab teaching aides, and outdoor triage exercises which helped participants to hone skills in life-like outdoor medical emergency scenarios.”

“Anna DeFrancesco, 2nd year Med Student, and more importantly my daughter, recruited me for the event,” said Dr. DeFrancesco. “I found the topic to be fascinating – ‘Emergency Child Birth in the Wild’ – not a routine topic in medical school curricula or conferences, and I learned a few things, too because I have never delivered any of my 4000 plus babies outside of a hospital!”

Dr. DeFrancesco, who supports the Elon University PA Program along with the local hospital, Alamance Regional Medical Center, was happy to be part of the faculty for the conference because he believes that it is incumbent upon senior physicians to share knowledge and wisdom from their practices with the younger generations of physicians and PA’s in training.

“Personally, I find it gratifying to mentor talented and eager medical and PA students, and especially those who are smitten by my specialty. There is nothing like bringing healthy new life into the world, and working with women to maintain health and wellness through medical or surgical intervention. I find that medicine never grows old (except for those middle of the night deliveries), and it is truly life transforming.”

“The quality of the training from the faculty and student instructors was exceptional,” said student doctor Norland. “Overall, the course was very well planned, and I am looking forward to next year’s race!”