JuniorDr’s Ivor Vanhegan asked Sean about his experience of expedition medicine and advice for junior doctors interested in it as a career.
After training in the UK I decided to work abroad for a while to experience medicine in a more remote environment. It was an early stage in my career but even at this point it was apparent that the broader my knowledge base, the more likely I was to be employed. Expedition Medicine is approximately 60% general practice, 30% environment specific and the remainder trauma. I worked for a year with Raleigh International in Africa, on a ski field in New Zealand and climbed through Central Asia and the Himalayas.
Working as an expedition/wilderness medic I often find myself working alone and without the usual infrastructure we all rely upon on a daily basis. It can sometimes be terrifying and exciting but ultimately extremely satisfying. Furthermore, the skills you develop as an expedition medic are increasingly becoming recognised and valued in other fields of medicine.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve worked in many varied locations and roles throughout the world. This has included: in Antarctica setting up and running one of the remotest clinics in the world, running training courses in Iraq for close protection officers and providing medical cover for production companies in a number of remote locations. I also provided the medical support for a fashion shoot in Southern Africa and have worked as a consultant for the foreign office.
In addition to these roles I have also trained a number of private individuals before they head off on exciting, often solo, expeditions. The future for medics wanting to work in this field is increasingly bright. The specialty is gaining recognition and with that comes remuneration. Soon we may arrive at the stage where medics can choose this as a career pathway rather than a stop gap to a more traditional specialty.
In recognition of this, a postgraduate qualification is now available in Wilderness Medicine. The Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) is a postgraduate qualification which recognises experience and learning in the field of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine. It is overseen by the Faculty of Wilderness Medicine in the US.