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In the age of COVID-19, medical education has drastically increased the use of online lectures, conferences, and meetings. I realized this new virtual format would be well suited for a monthly journal club for residents and students in healthcare fields. As an ER doctor and wilderness medicine fellow, I focused the series on wilderness and environmental medicine topics, subjects that are often lacking in medical education. I wanted to offer a resource for students to learn about these fields and, hopefully, get more people interested in wilderness medicine and the outdoors.

Starting off, I contacted the wilderness medicine organizations of a few nearby medical schools. For the first two events, we had 10-20 students join from three schools. To continue promoting the series, I contacted the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) and posted on the EMRA Wilderness Medicine Education Committee and WMS Education Committee message boards. Interest has continued to grow, and we had over 65 people online for our most recent session, including ACP students, medical students, ACPs, wilderness medicine fellows, and emergency medicine physicians across the US. We also had people joining us from Canada and the UK!

A primary goal of these events is to teach students how to critique and present medical research papers, skills which are often not taught during medical school. I hope that encouraging other students to join this series will help introduce and increase this skill early in training. More than 20 students have presented during the six journal clubs so far, and I am always looking for volunteers! Anyone interested in registering for the journal club can do so here. 

Topics covered so far include heat illnesses, hypothermia, frostbite, altitude illnesses, drowning, and pit viper envenomation. During each session, we discuss one of the WMS practice guidelines and review and critique a related research paper. To wrap up, we work through cases that are prepared and presented by students. This allows students to consolidate topics covered in each event and allows for great group participation and interaction among peers in an educational setting.

Another goal of the program is to increase student involvement with WMS and wilderness medicine in general.  We discuss WMS membership and conferences, the Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM), Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DiMM), Wilderness First Aid (WFA), and Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) programs and how to include wilderness medicine in one’s career.  Each event is now recorded and uploaded to the WMS YouTube page for anyone unable to attend a live session.  The journal club series has also been approved for FAWM credits through WMS to residents and students in healthcare fields; the second educational series to offer free FAWM credits.  The other program to do so is the Wild Med Wednesday Lecture Series, which is run by the Yale online PA program.  The two series have been working together to increase student involvement and access to this type of training earlier in medical education. 

Developing the Wilderness Medicine Journal Club has allowed people who would have otherwise never met to interact and discuss topics in wilderness medicine.  These events have facilitated networking between students and residents from across the country as well as internationally, and even led to the creation of the Student Interest Group Leadership Council, facilitated by WMS.  The council is currently working on creating a centralized source of information about wilderness medicine opportunities available to students and residents.  There are quite a few wilderness medicine academic and skills opportunities, but it can be tough to locate the information.  By consolidating these resources, this group will help increase access to the many that are available. 

Even with the slow return to pre-COVID type events, online training will likely continue to grow. I believe that programs like these can help us stay connected, make it easier to be involved, and will be a beneficial resource for supporting medical education.

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