Today, Mike can be found working as an Advanced Care Paramedic for an indigenous community in Canada. He is also the Education Coordinator, updating paramedic training and clinical care training. Recently, he created the first indigenous rural/remote paramedic education workshop in Canada, entitled “Trauma in the Bush” which is now offered yearly to Canadian paramedics. He also advices and consults on creating new EMS agencies for rural and remote indigenous communities. In addition, Mike spends time in Africa working in disaster management and consulting and helping to expand the network of WMA Instructors there.
Like many others, Mike got to where he is today through chasing interesting opportunities. He originally studied Therapeutic Outdoor Recreation and facilitated court adjudicated youth on wilderness trips. He eventually joined an innovative program in Arizona that trained youth on court advised probation to serve as members of a technical rope search and rescue team, including deployment on SAR missions within Arizona and New Mexico. While Mike had been involved in the outdoor world previously, this role really introduced him to the concept and value of medical first response, particularly wilderness first response.
It was during his time in the U.S. that Mike first encountered WMA International when he took a WEMT course held at Grand Canyon National Park. Soon after, Mike made a career decision to move back to Canada, where WMA had just started operations in the late 90s. Mike had been so impressed with the program that he took an Instructor Training course in Montana in 2000 and started to teach courses shortly thereafter. In 2004, he became the Canadian Director for WMA and held that role until 2014. During this time, he helped with the international growth of the company, aiding in the expansion to Asia, Africa, and South America. With WMA, he helped coordinate the first WFA and WFR ever taught on mainland China. He also was instrumental in re-branding WMA to reflect its growing international role.
Mike has also ventured into many other interesting fields throughout his career. He worked for the World Bank, serving as a Disaster Policy Advisor for remote contexts in low- to middle-resource countries. Mike has also worked with remote low-population communities in the Arctic Circle of northern Canada as well as internationally, assessing community medical needs, to develop an educational curriculum that addresses gaps in medical care, and then conducting community-wide training to help fill those healthcare gaps. Mike was also an Expedition Paramedic in Antarctica, first in 2000 when he helped support an expedition company working on a documentary film about Shackleton. For several years after that, Mike would travel to Antarctica to provide medical and logistical support for the adventure tourism industry. Mike has also set up field hospitals and supervised clinical management of numerous sporting events including obstacle course races like Tough Mudder and numerous wilderness canoe races. In his free time, Mike enjoys paddling, mountain biking, and embarking on wilderness canoe and kayak trips.
WMA: What do you believe are some important characteristics of a wilderness medical professional?
Mike: Working in a more unstructured environment requires a high degree of flexibility and critical thinking skills. This includes critical thinking as it relates to patient care – realizing that in any context where you’re providing patient care things may not necessarily fall within your level of training or within a certain dogma in which you’ve been trained. Critical thinking also requires keeping the concept of wilderness medicine fluid and flexible and being open to engaging in unique opportunities defined by the situation at hand.
WMA: What are some things that have strongly influenced you throughout your career?
Mike: I realized that sometimes when we think about wilderness medicine we apply it within the outdoor recreation and outdoor education communities. But there is far greater value in this, and perhaps a true wilderness environment is where people are living and sustaining themselves with access to few resources. There have been times that I have been involved with a WMA course, particularly with the indigenous communities in Canada and internationally, where I’m teaching the students concepts of things that they see and/or deal with on a daily basis because there is no nurse, there are no doctors, and there are no ambulance or paramedic services. So what we are teaching is having profound life-changing effects on them the very next day.