Here’s a piece I wrote for the ACOEP Fast Track a few years ago, and I thought I should share here while I’m working on a few other projects. I’ve got another MedWAR follow-up piece coming soon, but for now this is a great intro to these types of races. Hope you enjoy the read!
You can find the original piece here: https://issuu.com/acoep/docs/the_fast_track_-_summer_15_final_dr.
Keeping Medical School Wild
Struggling to catch my breath and the rest of my team, I was realizing just how out of shape I had become. A few months of endless studying and minimal physical activity culminating in a weeklong marathon cram for the EENT final was not the ideal preparation for an adventure/wilderness medicine race. Man, I wish I could breathe, or take this pack off, or maybe just remember how the hell to read a compass again.
My two buddies and I were in Tennessee for the MedWAR medical wilderness adventure race. The MedWAR events focus around handling medical emergencies in the wild with minimal equipment while simultaneously hiking, running, biking, and navigating over miles of harsh terrain. Our day consisted of 12 miles of racing up and down the mountains of the Cumberland Gap handling everything from MIs and crush injuries to heat stroke and a tension pneumo. Both medical and wilderness survival- based skills are tested with a team’s performance based on a combination of the two. With a little luck, the cumulative knowledge of a few second years, and a lot of sweaty and winded miles, our team Wild Heritage managed to eke out a second place.
Results aside, the true highlight of the day was how much fun our team had during the race. Regardless of the mental and physical exhaustion of the race, we laughed and smiled from start to finish. This sort of type two fun combined with a post-race beer, BBQ, and a campfire made for an unforgettable weekend. Contrary to what the typical adventurer will say, medical school is not the end to all things wild and exciting. Yes, the nights spent out under the stars and the weekends spent chasing epic [insert hobby here] conditions are fewer and farther between, but medical school still allows for some awesome experiences. I mean, how often do you get to spend the day flying downhill on a mountain bike, pop a chest, trail run across mountains, sew up lacerations, climb a ropes course, and splint a broken femur?
MedWARs is the perfect marriage of my former wilderness- based life and current medical skill set in development. My backpack used to be stuffed with ice axes, carabiners, and ultralight alpine gear, but now I haul around Pathoma, First Aid for USMLE, and a DIT Step 1 Study Guide. One of my biggest struggles has been trying to find a new balance in life between the long hours of studying and taking time off for the adventures that keep my spirit strong and my sanity intact. This, I am certain, is no different than what my senior colleagues (and inevitably my future self) also work to maintain. I constantly remind myself that medical school is no different than developing any other wilderness skill set. It takes many years of hard work and commitment before climbing 5.13, paddling class V whitewater, or sinking ice tools into WI5. Medicine is no different. Luckily for me, I found my niche in the world of wilderness medicine, and with events like MedWARs I have the opportunity to work on all these passions both new and old at the same time. I cannot wait for the next MedWAR race coming in the fall, but for now the primary objective is to survive Step 1. Then I’ll get back to figuring out that compass thing.