Q: How do I become more involved & gain experience

How do I become more involved & gain experience?

Q: I’m a first year medical student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I am looking to become more involved in Wilderness Medicine and gain more experience.

I have taken AWLS course and am a member of the WMS. Very few of the faculty in my school are involved/interested in Wilderness Medicine, so I have had difficulty finding local opportunities to get involved.

What is the best way to get involved…should I become a Wilderness EMT? I don’t think I have enough clinical experience to teach Wilderness Medicine (though I foresee it in my future)…is there a way I can volunteer/ help out? Any ideas?

Thanks for your help

There are a variety of ways to get involved. What is it that you would like to do? You could teach, deliver care, consult, and conduct research, locally or in other parts of the world on your own, as part of a project or during an elective.

Joining the Wilderness Medical Society (www.wms.org) is a great first step. Attending their meetings will put you in contact with other like-minded people. They and other organizations conduct medical student electives around the US and in Canada. Maybe you ought to consider trying to organize one yourself.

There are also many wonderful role models like doctors Luanne Freer and Peter Hackett. In their own ways, both have been able to take their passions for medicine and the outdoors and turn them into lifetime work.
You may not think that your school’s faculty is “…involved/interested in Wilderness Medicine” but I bet there are physiologists who are interested in the impact of environmental extremes and infectious disease specialist focused on tropical diseases and the challenges of epidemiology, prevention and treatment. These folks are always looking for people with ideas and energy.

Duluth is located in a wonderfully rich environment with a great outdoor community. You might consider connecting with a local college or university outing group, an adventure tripping company, or even ski patrol. But be patient and learn what they do and how they do it. No one wants a doctor or any other expert who is not technically proficient in the environment. All would welcome and benefit from the kind of expertise that you are trying to develop.

Perhaps your definition of wilderness medicine is not broad enough. If you are thinking in terms of problems limited to travel in the mountains, on rivers and in the woods, have a look in our FAQ section and see what we think wilderness medicine encompasses. The truth is, wilderness medicine is what you want to make of it and there are many avenues open to you. For me, it is the lack of boundaries that make wilderness medicine so exciting.

Good luck, DJ

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