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Thursday, June 13
The Indiana Daily Student

campus academics & research student life

IU group teaches medical students to provide emergency care in wilderness


The IU Wilderness Medicine group is teaching IU medical students creative techniques to provide medical care with limited resources.

Oliver Hobson, a second-year IU medical student, serves as the president of the Wilderness Medicine group, a student interest group hosted through the IU School of Medicine. Hobson has extensive experience with wilderness medicine having received wilderness first-responder and wilderness emergency medical technician training during his undergraduate career at IU. Additionally, Hobson worked as a guide for IU Outdoor Adventures, taking people on camping, backpacking and canoe trips.

“Our goal is to give our students exposure to providing medical care outside the confines of traditional healthcare spaces, as well as giving them an opportunity to improve and creatively problem solve how to treat medical conditions with limited resources,” Hobson said. “As future medical providers, being asked to help fix a medical problem in a non-medical context will become a common occurrence.”

He said the group aims to use these trainings to give IU medical students a chance to practice solving real world problems, as well as build the confidence to step forward should an emergency arise. In 2022 alone, the National Park Service conducted about 3,400 searches and rescues across the US.

This fall, the organization hosted a medical training course Oct. 28 at Griffy Woods. During the search and rescue training event, students learned how to make improvised upper and lower extremity splints, package injured patients into a transporter and assess the basic medical logistics of a rescue operation, Hobson said.

The course was physically challenging, as many of our students helped carry out an injured patient from a ditch after performing a medical assessment and splinting a broken leg,” Hobson said. "Another challenge was learning several new medical skills and then quickly applying them in a mock-rescue mission in the woods. These kinds of challenges provide a crucible to teach lessons of adaptability, communication and creative problem solving.”

The ability to develop plans and adapt them as needed is an essential skill not only in wilderness medicine, but in medical student’s future careers as physicians, he added.

The Wilderness Medicine group was inactive when Hobson discovered it in 2022 among the IU School of Medicine’s student groups. He revived the group in the winter of 2022 because of his love for the outdoors and passion for experiential education.

Dr. Drew Watters, an emergency medicine doctor with Indiana University Health and an adjunct  professor of emergency medicine with the IU School of Medicine, serves as the group’s faculty advisor.

Watters said Hobson and the leadership of the group have done a great job recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds.

Watters has supported the group for about two years serving as a resource for the group in goal setting and event planning.

Hobson said the Wilderness Medicine group has about 180 members ranging from first to fourth-year medical students, and from all nine of IU’s medical campuses. Any IU medical student can join the group and newcomers to wilderness medicine or outdoor activities are welcome, he added.

The group organizes several wilderness training sessions each semester, as well as outdoor sporting activities with medical training opportunities, he added.

Hobson said the Wilderness Medicine group will be hosting more events this upcoming semester, such as climbing, hiking and an introduction to SCUBA with diving medical considerations.

Additional information about the group can be found online.

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