Travel medicine and wilderness medicine exist along a spectrum of concerns that overlap considerably. I started working in Nepal before the disciplines of wilderness and travel medicine were invented. However, the need to understand both areas of concern was evident from the beginning. Trekkers in the mountains suffered from altitude illness and trauma, but also from diarrhea, malaria, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A, picked up along the way as they traveled through Asia.
However, as things evolved, a group of doctors interested in the problems of altitude illness and trauma in remote areas formed a society to focus on these issues, and another set of doctors and nurses focused on the immunization, prophylaxis, and treatment issues of travelers to foreign destinations. The Wilderness Medical Society and the International Society of Travel Medicine have run parallel courses for almost thirty years, with surprisingly little overlap between the memberships—even though the areas of interest overlap to a great degree.
The joint conference
between the WMS and the ISTM in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this summer, August 2-6, 2014 is an incredible opportunity for members of each society to see the advantages of learning from the other society. Many wilderness adventures take place in developing countries where the whole host of travel medicine issues are relevant, and many travelers who consult travel medicine practitioners are engaging in mountain climbing, trekking, rafting, and exploration for which wilderness medicine skills and knowledge are required.
The meeting is an opportunity to meet and share ideas with members of both societies. It also represents an opportunity for WMS members to consider adding the practice of travel medicine to their professional lives. Talking to travelers before they go, and counseling them on vaccines, prophylaxis, and empiric treatment is fun and satisfying, and it can also be an additional source of income. The exam created by the ISTM, the Certificate in Travel Health™, will be offered at the conference in Jackson Hole. For travel medicine practitioners, this meeting is an opportunity to expand their knowledge on how to manage medical emergencies in the field, and give travelers better advice before they go.
I'm hopeful that the meeting will be the catalyst for further collaboration between the two societies, strengthening both societies, and further benefiting the people that we care for. More joint meetings and possible combined CME adventure travel trips in the future are two ideas that could come out of this meeting.
Jackson Hole is one of the most exciting places to attend a meeting. It has been my home for the past 16 years, and here you find a unique combination of stunning mountain views, extraordinary hiking, climbing, biking, and boating, along with vast opportunities for viewing wildlife such as bison, elk, moose, deer, antelope, and even bears. I hope that you will make every effort to participate in this unique meeting, and share in the excitement of starting something new.
We shouldn't forget that in the end there is just medicine. Not "travel medicine" or "wilderness medicine," but just the desire to help treat or prevent illness in a patient. The person who is in distress is not concerned whether the practitioner who is trying to help them identifies as a travel medicine practitioner or a wilderness medicine practitioner, as long as they provide competent help.