The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine Rural Health Initiative program hosted an elective rotation for 3rd and 4th year medical students interested in learning more about wilderness medicine.
In this rotation the students, along with emergency services workers, had hands on experience with some of the best in the business of wilderness rescue. They learned both in the classroom and the field the treatment of patients in hard to reach areas of the mountains, as well as in swift water situations. The training was centered in the New River George area. Here was the perfect place to train in mountain rescue, and the New River offers some of the best rapids in the world so there is no better place to train.
Participants attended lectures in rope rescue, swift water rescue, and wilderness survival. They were also involved in simulated vertical rescue by rappelling down cliffs and bringing up a stokes basket. In this situation they learned the proper rigging of ropes and the hardware involved. In the survival section they learned how to adapt to different situations in the event the survival of the patient and themselves came into question. They also had to erect shelters from what they had and how to get water and make it potable along with fire starting and rescue signaling. They had to set up landing zones in remote areas and get the patient ready for transporting.
At the end of the two week training, there was a competition between all the different groups of attendees called The Battle of the Gorge. One event was Top Gun where simulated rescues were set up to test the physical skills, as well as the rescue knowledge of the teams as a whole. The final event was a medic competition where the teams had to rescue two individuals on a water tower, simulating a rescue of patients in extreme conditions. All in all, it was a great opportunity for medical students and personnel to gain knowledge and experience in an area of medicine that, if and when they would be called upon in a extreme survival situation to act, they would be ready to face whatever it would be. Lucas Hamrick, a 4th year WVSOM medical student from Maysel, was one of the participants in the rotation.