Medicine in the wild
By Alex Branch
A group of UNT Health Science Center students are helping classmates and community members learn to survive medical emergencies in the wilderness.
The Wilderness Medicine Student Interest Group has organized camping trips and free weekend workshops at the Fort Worth outdoors store Backwoods to educate the public about everything from treating heat stroke to surviving encounters with mountain lions.
“We try to teach skills for situations people might encounter in Texas on their camping or hiking trips,” said Jordan Torres, a second-year student in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and the organization’s president. “These are practical skills – like how to assemble a first aid kit – that people will actually use.”
Created two years ago, the student organization has already grown to 218 medical, physician assistant, physical therapy, medical sciences and pharmacy students. The organization’s officers have earned Advanced Wilderness Life Support certification, a skill level also achieved by U.S. Army and other military medical personnel.
The advanced certification course teaches students, for example, how to use large sticks to make a chair to evacuate an injured hiker, or how to turn a backpack into a temporary neck brace for someone injured in a fall, said Mary Rosegrant, a second-year TCOM student and the organization’s vice president.
Wilderness medical skills translate into career opportunities for students, who are qualified to work on disaster relief and search-and-rescue teams, or even in impoverished communities without medical resources.
“The medical base on Mount Everest consists of doctors, physician assistants and nurses with wilderness medicine skills,” Torres said. “These skills create opportunities.”
Each fall, the student organization plans a weekend camping trip, mostly recently to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. The trip is not only an opportunity to learn but also to become acquainted with fellow students and relax.
“Every first-year medical student eventually hits a wall, overwhelmed by stress and information,” Torres said. “It feels great to get outdoors and breathe a little.”