Docs Gone Wild: The Risks and Rewards of Wilderness Medicine

Association of American Medical Colleges (04/02/19) Jaret, Peter

Physicians are training in a relatively new subspecialty known as wilderness medicine to treat injuries and illnesses that outdoorspersons suffer, combining experience in emergency medicine, environmental medicine, travel medicine, and sports medicine. Wilderness medicine usually includes training in environmental emergencies such as frostbite, high altitude sickness, and hyper- or hypothermia, in addition to education in stabilizing and evacuating sick or injured patients, and improvising under austere environmental conditions and severe time constraints. Fifteen medical schools currently offer wilderness medicine fellowship programs, while others offer electives in aspects of wilderness medicine. The Wilderness Medicine Society sponsors accredited continuing medical education (CME) conferences, and it works with the Advanced Wilderness Life Support organization, which offers diverse wilderness medicine CME courses worldwide. Among the rewards that wilderness medicine provides is being part of a close-knit community, without the limitations of a hospital hierarchy. Additionally, Christopher Davis, MD, who directs the fellowship program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at Anschutz Medical Campus, notes, "It's medicine at its most basic. There's adventure, and a real sense of connecting with other people who love being outdoors, in the natural world."

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