In 2005, the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (WMI), NOLS Professional Training and the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency (HAEMR) created Medicine in the Wild, the ultimate combination of wilderness medicine, leadership, and medical education.
This elective course for third and fourth year medical students is the perfect complement to traditional medical school, which tends to focus on the technical aspects of medicine with little explicit instruction on how to become a good teacher and leader. In addition to addressing these issues, Medicine in the Wild explores the application of wilderness medicine within the expedition leadership framework NOLS is best known for.
One of the course’s primary architects, N. Stuart Harris, MD, MFA, FACEP, is the director of wilderness medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a renowned high altitude illness researcher. As a faculty member of the HAEMR program, Stuart, also a 1987 Fall Semester in the Rockies grad and former NOLS instructor, has worked closely with WMI and NOLS to shape these courses.
“I wanted to offer medical students the best possible course in wilderness medicine in the most practical setting, the wilderness,” said Stuart. Each course is taught by WMI and NOLS instructors and is accompanied by a senior HAEMR resident to provide further medical expertise and skills training.
In addition to patient care, the Medicine in the Wild course explores issues relevant to the well-being of the wilderness. It is Stuart’s hope that students will walk away as advocates for global and environmental health issues as well as being better physicians.
Although Stuart has played a huge role in developing what Medicine in the Wild offers, ultimately it is the students who define the experience. “The course was able to give us a set of skills in a setting where you learn how to put these skills together,” said Rebecca Parker, a spring 2007 Medicine in the Wild graduate. “The perspective was great; we felt what we were doing would fit into our future.”