Imagine being stuck in the wilderness, in need of medical attention that was more than an hour away. This isn’t the premise for a new reality TV show, but a situation that one of UC Davis‘ newest clubs – the Wilderness Medicine club – hopes to attend to.
Emphasizing the ideas of preparedness and awareness, the Wilderness Medicine club seeks to spread knowledge of basic skills and important safety measures one might need in the backcountry.
Club president and senior exercise biology major Rebecca Backer said that the idea of backcountry medicine first originated in the 1970s and 1980s with a group of doctors. Their desire to fuse medical practice with a wilderness setting led to the development of this medical concept and the establishment of the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS).
The Wilderness Medicine club at UC Davis seeks to continue the mission and goals of the WMS. This club offers membership to undergraduates from all majors in the hopes of preparing them for obstacles that can occur in the backcountry.
According to Backer, backcountry medicine is defined by three things: extreme conditions, improvisation and finding oneself an hour away from typical medical services.
“Wilderness medicine just takes it all to the next step and asks what you can do without the medical tools available in the clinical and urban setting,” said Chris Ritthaler, club officer and senior psychology and biological sciences major. “Improvisation is the key.“
This improvisation the club refers to is what you can do with the limited resources you have in the wilderness. The Wilderness Medicine club wants to educate members on everything from preparing a proper first aid kit to making a splint.
“Everyone should have the skills, the knowledge and the know-how,” Backer said.
The club offers students classes, guest speakers and workshops all geared toward being prepared and preventative in the backcountry. Founder and past president of the WMS, Paul Auerbach, spoke at the club’s first meeting to a packed room of students.
“We had 60 people come, which is more than we ever had imagined at the first meeting,” said Lindsay Walker, senior community and regional development major and club officer. “It’s great to have that kind of interest.“
Future meetings may include talks by Search and Rescue team members, workshops on water purification and lessons on travel medicine and altitude sickness.
The club also wishes to plan outdoors trips on which members can put the skills they learn in action.
“In addition to workshops and classes, we are hoping to do trips every two weeks, ideally,” Backer said. “We want the club to be more interactive than just lectures.“
While a wilderness medicine group already exists at UC Davis in the form of a graduate group, the Wilderness Medicine Club invites undergraduates of all majors to participate and learn. Backer said all previous wilderness medicine groups were primarily medical groups, while this club wishes to educate everyone.
“It is really important to at least have some knowledge of back country medicine before you go out in the field,” Walker said. “Purposefully taking yourself away from the grasps of higher medical care and heightening your injury potential are not logical things to do, and people do it everyday.“
Walker said the five club officers are all Outdoors Adventures guides, and decided to start the group because of their love for the outdoors and their passion for helping people.
“Learning about backcountry medicine gave me a very unexpected high, and I try to get involved with every opportunity I can to learn more,” Walker said.
Backer encouraged interested participants to give their input on the subject of backcountry medicine.
“There are a lot of people out there very passionate about the topic, and [the club] wants to hear members‘ ideas and what they want to do.“
Those interested in becoming involved with Wilderness Medicine Club at UC Davis can e-mail club president Rebecca Backer at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Facebook group, Wilderness Medicine at UC Davis.
AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at email@example.com.