Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine launched a Wilderness and Austere Medicine selective to teach students how to provide care for individuals injured in resource-limited and diverse environmental conditions.
A unique component of the medical school’s individualized learning is the 25 weeks of “selective” time protected within the first two years of school. Selectives allow students to explore both clinical and research interests. Students benefit from this independence, which allows them to refine their career goals and plans for the future.
The new Wilderness and Austere Medicine selective provides an introduction to delivering medical expertise in rugged environments. The diverse topography and microclimates of Arizona provide an optimal environment for in-depth practical learning of skills and experience in conditions ranging from high-altitude mountain ranges to the Sonoran Desert environment. The students learn basic survival skills, such as how to navigate with a map and compass, how to build a fire and shelter, and how to locate water and edible plants. After the one-week course in the field, students emerge with crucial skills in patient assessment in the wilderness, evacuation decision-making, and diagnosis and treatment of altitude sickness, dehydration and common wilderness injuries, while staying safe in the elements.
Students also explore research opportunities to determine predictors of mountain sickness, the mildest form of altitude sickness.
A similar program is available to students in Rochester focusing on medicine in remote areas such as the Boundary Waters, a wilderness area of over 1 million acres within the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota.
This article originally appeared in Mayo Clinic Magazine.