Snake bites, frost bite, insect stings: medical conference offers info on wilderness medicine

    Medical students attracted to the call of the wild can get a better sense of practicing medicine in rough terrains during a Philadelphia conference this week.

    The Student Wilderness Medicine Conference at Thomas Jefferson University will address everything from venomous marine animals to hypothermia.

    The keynote speaker at this conference is a man who has helped shape and define wilderness medicine as a specialty, Dr. Paul Auerbach of Stanford University School of Medicine.

    When Auerbach ended up at a Montana reservation after medical school, he encountered an array of cases he had never dealt with before. He treated snake bite victims, a patient who had almost drowned, people who experienced heat illness or had been hit by lightning.

    Auerbach realized that research and information he needed to help these patients was scattered, and hard to find.

    Auerbach has since written several textbooks on dealing with everything from snake bites to hypothermia in a non-hospital environment.

    Auerbach says the field of wilderness medicine teaches doctors how to take care of patients with very limited resources.  “It turns out that it is enormously applicable not only to adventurous places and the beautiful wilderness, but to people who respond to and practice for instance in global humanitarian relief efforts, or after disasters,” said Auerbach.

    A topic that comes up inevitably at Auerbach’s talks is avoiding accidents in the wild.

    “Luck favors the prepared mind, so people are afflicted by not being prepared or ignoring warning signs,” said Auerbach.

    Auerbach said that if a sign says ‘stay away from this cliff,’ there’s probably a very good reason. He also cautions adventurers to prepare for different weather and terrain conditions.

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