Wilderness Medicine - more than just a career choice, it’s a passion

Yosemite Valley

My name is Bruno Perthus and I’m a fourth year medical student in The University of Queensland (UQ) Ochsner Doctor of Medicine program.

I’m interested in pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine and then a fellowship in Wilderness Medicine. My career goal is to one day serve as the base doctor for the Australian Antarctic Program.

I realized that I had a passion for the outdoors when I stood on the top of Half Dome overlooking Yosemite Valley – I was hooked on the vast and beautiful sights nature had to offer me. Naturally, being able to see crystal clear waters on North Stradbroke Island, wild wallabies on Tamborine Mountain, and hundreds of other incredible sights on a 6000km road trip in an old, fixed-up station wagon to the bottom of Tasmania were all a little (massive!) bonus to studying at UQ.

Wineglass bay in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

 

So, what is Wilderness Medicine, you might ask?

It’s an exciting field of medicine and a passion for those healthcare providers involved in it. Wilderness Medicine is characterized by remote and improvised care of patients with routine or exotic illnesses or trauma, limited resources and manpower, and delayed evacuation to definitive care.1

Training in Wilderness Medicine can prepare physicians to treat mountaineers and Sherpas on Everest, serve as directors of national parks, provide medical training and oversight for search and rescue organizations, work in hyperbaric or dive medicine, and provide medical care on expeditions or at remote scientific base camps.

A wilderness medicine physician must not only have knowledge of medical problems that arise in the elements (i.e. acute mountain sickness, hypothermia, lightning strikes, dysbarisms, and envenomation, to name a few), but also how to acutely manage these problems outside of the hospital and often with minimal support.2

Outside of these exciting opportunities, healthcare providers who learn about Wilderness Medicine are more prepared to provide medical care wherever they may be, and to be able to apply a unique, problem-solving approach to all areas of life.

Wilderness medicine is more than just a career choice, it’s about being able to engage with your passion!

There’s many ways that medical students can learn about Wilderness Medicine, and Students for Wilderness and Adventure Medical Practice (SWAMP – a very fitting name for being based out of New Orleans) aims to help students do exactly that. I was the third-year representative of SWAMP and I’m now the current president.

As an interest group we have a variety of events, opportunities, and goals for helping increase engagement with the field of Wilderness Medicine. Some of these goals include:

  1. Provide an environment where students can explore non-traditional medical fields/professions
    1. Introduce options linked to the outdoors including, but not limited, to wilderness, dive, climb, hyperbaric, and survival medicine
    2. Encourage careers in rural and remote locations focusing on the healing and long-term care of underserved populations
  2. Set up volunteer and service activities with an outdoor/wilderness focus
  3. Develop a bond between club members via social activities and outings
  4. Aid in the teaching of minimalist medical skills including point of care treatment
  5. Promote the innovation of knowledge in the field
  6. Serve as a resource to first year students interested in possible rural and wilderness elective options such as Royal Flying Doctor Service, remote hospital locations, Indigenous clinics
  7. Encourage students and physicians to consider the environmental consequences of their actions and future endeavours both inside and out of the hospital
  8. Raise awareness and coordinate Wilderness Medicine conferences both locally and nationally

In the past, SWAMP has led outdoor trips to local wilderness areas, monthly beach cleanups, has held journal club meetings, hosted talks from local physicians involved with wilderness medicine and even arranged a talk on dive medicine from a dive master.

SWAMP monthly beach cleanups

Beyond these things, SWAMP aims to serve as a resource for medical students interested in Wilderness Medicine – whether as a career choice or as an area of academic or personal interest. We always love helping engage more students with the wild side of medicine!

Feel free to check out our social media to get involved:

  1. Our Facebook Page
  2. Our website
  3. The Wilderness Medicine Society website

References:

  1. Sward, D., 2014. Wilderness medicine. World Journal of Emergency Medicine, 5(1), p.5.
  2. Emra.org. 2020. Wilderness Medicine Fellowship. [online] Available at: <https://www.emra.org/books/fellowship-guide-book/30-wilderness-medicine-fellowship/> [Accessed 23 May 2020].

 

Last updated:
19 June 2020