The Expedition Medicine Committee is meeting with expeditionary medicine practitioners to put together the Cowboy Coffee interview series to learn more about the ups and downs of expedition medicine. Our first meeting was with Dr. Lara Phillips. Dr. Phillips was in Nepal completing her Wilderness Medicine Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital during the earthquake in April of 2015. She is now on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA, and is one of the course directors for the BreckWild Wilderness and Environmental Medicine elective for medical students.
How did you first get involved with expedition medicine, or how would you recommend a newcomer get started in expedition medicine?
There are many ways to get involved in expedition medicine. If there is a particular climate or environment that you like to work in, seeking out expedition medicine in that area is key. For example, if you are a diver, getting involved with DAN [Divers Alert Network] is an option. Different organizations, including the WMS, offer a variety of trips in different environments. Many of these offer credit for continuing medical education as well as networking opportunities. Wilderness medicine conferences are also a good way to gain expertise. Post-residency fellowships in wilderness medicine are also available across the country, many which have an extensive dedicated field component. As you become more experienced within wilderness medicine, opportunities to teach at conferences or during CME expedition trips may arise.
What types of expeditions are you involved with?
During my Wilderness Medicine fellowship at MGH, I had the opportunity of traveling to Nepal and working in a high altitude clinic for three months. I was in Nepal when the 2015 earthquake hit, and I was involved in disaster relief. Some of the responsibilities included working on mobile medical team units and traveling to rural areas to provide needed relief. Currently, I help direct BreckWild (Breckenridge Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Elective) which is run in conjunction with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College [Philadelphia, PA] and the Wilderness Medical Society. The first two weeks are held in Breckenridge, Colorado followed by a fun backcountry expedition portion in Utah.