Wilderness Medicine is a field dedicated to providing the best possible medical care in austere environments with extremely limited resources, where definitive care is hours, days, or weeks away. Care of patients is often complicated by difficult access, extremes of weather and terrain, and limited equipment or weight restrictions. A practitioner must be fluent in the medical considerations of high altitudes and underwater environments, caves, aerospace, desert, disaster, as well as wartime, mass casualty, infectious disease and other medical disciplines. He or she must stay up-to-date on the latest science and treatment guidelines, and must continually practice his or her skills to safely and competently treat patients.
Aside from medical considerations, Wilderness Medicine emphasizes training for rescue and extraction of stranded individuals. Removal of an injured person(s) from exposure to their environment is usually one of the first steps to medical care in the wilderness, but is often also the most challenging aspect. This necessitates that wilderness providers can use and service rescue and climbing equipment, as well as maintain a level of physical fitness not required in other disciplines.
Avoidance of preventable injury and exposure is also central to wilderness medical training. Preparation of medical providers, group members, and efficient equipment selection can prevent manageable medical concerns from occurring, or at least from becoming catastrophes. Wilderness medicine also involves the training of non-medical personnel in basic competencies to ensure safety of a expedition group as a whole.
While Wilderness Medicine is one of the most broad and challenging medical disciplines, it is also one of the most rewarding. It is the practice of medicine in the most beautiful, pristine, and untouched settings that the world has to offer. It’s practitioners have a broad and useful skillset that enable them to safely help people who would otherwise not get help when and where they need it the most.
ARMC Wilderness Medicine
Founded by Dr. Greg Fenati, a Fellow of the Wilderness Medical Society, ARMC’s Wilderness Medicine program provides opportunities for emergency medicine (and other specialty) residents and students to learn critical skills in a hands-on, down-in-the-dirt (and water) style for the broad range of environments encountered in Southern and Central California. Hands-on expeditions have been completed by the program’s participants in multiple wilderness medicine environments:
- High altitude and snow rescue training at nearly 10,000 ft on Mt. Baldy
- Desert medicine training in the high deserts of Southern California
- High-angle rescue and climbing fundamentals
- Beach rescue with LA Fire Department Baywatch
- Ocean dive rescue
- Hyperbaric medicine at the Catalina Island Hyperbaric Chamber
- Land Navigation in the Angeles National Forest
- The cumulative “final” of the course – a three day trip to the Eastern Sierras to practice all of the skills they learn and extract a simulated patient from deep in the wilderness
In the future, components of the program may include national conferences, international trips, or a designated fellowship. The program continues to expand rapidly and we will continually seek out new expeditions and adventures to provide the most in-depth and unique wilderness medical program that we can!