Passions start early. Often those early encounters lead us onward as we age and cultivate our professional and personal lives and ultimately legacies left behind. Such is the beginning of a career and focus of Dr. Frank Hubbell. Dr. Hubbell’s father introduced his son to a passion for the outdoors at an early age. Having been a hut boy for the Appalachian Mountain Club, Frank’s father shared with him the beauty found in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. During the summers, Dr. Hubbell recalls wonderful memories spent camping, hiking and getting lost in the woods. When his father’s work took him to Alaska, he was introduced to extreme adventures. What started out as summer, boyish fun expanded into extended expeditions and long journeys into the backcountry.
Through his own experience and those shared by others, Frank began to understand the need for wilderness specific, pre-hospital care. “Eventually with my training in first-aid, which I found inadequate, I began to think of ways injuries could be managed better in remote areas. Eventually, I transferred my love for being in the outdoors and my passion for teaching first-aid into building a training center. I felt the need to pass on what I learned onto others.” With the help of his wife Lee, Hubbell started Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO), a wilderness medicine school that blossomed into a community supporting shared knowledge of first-aid in the austere. In the 1980’s, SOLO created the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) certification courses that would go on to become industry standards. Beyond teaching, Frank expanded his knowledge by applying to and being accepted into medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. Switching his role from teacher to student, he excelled both in academics and interpersonal relationships. In addition to recognition by his classmates as the winner of the Peer Award, academic and clinical faculty selected Frank Hubbell as the graduating senior they would choose as their family physician.
After residency, Dr. Hubbell started working as a family physician in Fryeburg, Maine. He worked there until 1995, when he transitioned to New Hampshire. There he has practiced at the Conway Walk-In Clinic and Spine Center utilizing his osteopathic manipulative techniques. Meanwhile, he continued to expand SOLO until it encompassed multiple entities including the Wilderness Medicine Institute, International Medicine Institute and Missionary Medicine Institute. From humble beginnings, SOLO now boasts 10,000 worldwide trainees per year, providing knowledge pertaining to pre-hospital care, wilderness and remote medicine, disaster medicine, outdoor leadership skills and ecotourism wilderness education. Beyond providing in-classroom training, Dr. Hubbell is co-founder and partner of TMC "Books", a publishing company focusing on materials related to wilderness medicine, extended and remote care, outdoor guides and maps. They publish a wilderness medicine newsletter to which Dr. Hubbell is a regular contributor. He has contributed and written some of the most fundamental and well-known texts in the field of wilderness medicine.
Since graduating medical school, he has returned to his role as a teacher helping develop sustainable medical care and education in austere environments all over the world including Haiti, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda helping to establish self-sustaining medical clinics. Most recently in recognition of his lifetime of teaching he received the 2018 Educator of the Year award from the Wilderness Medicine Society.
For future generations, Dr. Hubbell recommends knowing the basics. “I have seen lacking in many [wilderness medicine] physicians training in and appreciation of prehospital care,” and suggests becoming an EMT or paramedic to increase their effectiveness. He knows the fruits of perseverance when others tell us to walk away. When starting SOLO, Dr. Hubbelll was told that no one would be interested in what he was proposing and that there was no need for this type of training. Parallel to his own development and growth, the field of wilderness medicine in the US has matured and expanded. While he did not have many mentors in this new field as his guide, Dr. Hubbell’s works and message provide wisdom to those of us just starting. His passion continues to be teaching and we are grateful students.