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Students compete in Medical Wilderness Adventure Races

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On Oct. 22, a dozen students from the college’s Wilderness Medicine Interest Group traveled to Tennessee to participate in the annual Medical Wilderness Adventure Races (MedWAR). In the midst of fall foliage, teams of three traversed a 12-mile course that included three states, a thousand-foot elevation change and eight medical scenarios.

The team of medical students Seth Fielding, Megan Opferman and Mark Kastner had the most medical points of all participating teams – awarded for breadth of knowledge, completeness of assessment and proper treatment. Faculty Advisor Ken Brummel-Smith provided a crash course before students left for the race; otherwise, it was completely student-led.

Overall, the college’s four teams placed in the top third of all teams. The fastest of these finished in 3 hours and 35 minutes.

MedWAR has no water stations, cheering crowds or route markers. Its purpose is to replicate the stressful nature of a back-country rescue, so participants can test and improve their skills through friendly competition. This year’s MedWAR was hosted by the Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Participants performed simulated medical scenarios using standardized patients, props and/or medical manikins. Medical student volunteers described the scenarios at each station and provided details not readily discerned. Between scenarios was a mile or two of hiking up and down the mountain and through forests.

During these scenarios, students performed emergency tracheotomies and thoracotomies, administered first aid for compound fractures, scrapes and burns, treated snakebites and carbon monoxide poisoning, assessed neurologic function and central nervous system injuries and discussed ethical issues related to wilderness medicine.

“My favorite aspect of the race was getting to work with my teammates to combine our medical knowledge to reach a diagnosis and treatment plan at each scenario,” said second-year student Sarah Schaet.

Wilderness medicine is the practice of medicine in an outdoor environment, often accompanied by difficult access to patients, limited equipment and environmental extremes. It requires medical preparedness, improvisation and quick decision-making.

“I learned that it’s important to be prepared every time you enter the wilderness,” said second-year student Bryce Bergeron, vice president of WMIG, who gave up his spot on one of the teams so more students could participate. “Nature is beautiful, breathtaking; but it can also be brutal. Delivering medical care in an austere wilderness environment can be challenging, but therein lies the enticement.”

Second-year student Stefano Leitner said he's ready to compete again.

“I want to use my medical knowledge while experiencing interesting medical challenges," he said, "and gaining camaraderie with my fellow future physicians.”

FSU College of Medicine teams:

•  Team One -- Samuel Cook, Sarah Schaet, Adhish Singh
•  Team Two -- Nicholas Aguila, Sara Ardila, Stefano Leitner
•  Team Three -- Seth Fielding, Mark Kastner, Megan Opferman
•  Team Four -- Wesley Earl, Lauren Luscuskie, Veronica Pitocchi