CUSOM: Sweden! Tell us what brought you there?
JL: So we run the University’s program in wilderness & environmental medicine, which essentially is the art and science of taking care of people in remote and/or austere settings. We do education and clinical care — and we run the medical program for the National Science Foundation’s Polar Science program… taking care of all of the NSF’s circumpolar researchers in the field. These are mostly scientists with little formal training in medicine. So as we are supporting them in the field, we thought that we should develop a course specifically suited to research scientists working in remote polar regions.
CUSOM: Tell us more about UArctic and your relationship with them?
JL: UArctic is a very dynamic group of institutions serving the Arctic region — most are from Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and the U.S. CU joined the group in 2016, and part of our envisioned niche is to provide medical educational opportunities to the consortium, as we are one of the only medical schools in UArctic. We picked Stockholm because we wanted to bring the course to the most people — i.e. hopefully it’s an easier place for UArctic members to travel rather than Denver.
CUSOM: So what is Polar Medicine? What will students take away from this course?
TM: The first thing we want to cover is the principle that common things happen commonly. So we focus on the most likely injuries and illnesses that groups will face — musculoskeletal sprains and strains, gastrointestinal complaints, etc. We also go over the first rule of wilderness medicine, which is to hopefully never have to use it — so prevention of injuries is a very important principle.
CUSOM: Like what?
TM: Well, using camp stoves for instance. Burns are devastating backcountry injuries, and most 2nd degree burns mean an automatic evacuation. So we discuss a lot of campcraft with injury prevention in mind. This also includes food handling and hand hygiene — which has been shown to drastically reduce the incidence of infectious gastroenteritis in camps.
JL: It’s obviously cold there too — so we do comprehensive lessons in hypothermia, frostbite, and accidental water immersion too.
CUSOM: You’ve also added some environmental stewardship components in the curriculum, ie. climate change and health. Why?
JL: We felt it was important to put a larger context to Polar Medicine. Although most of the course is practical wilderness medicine skills, such a large part of human health as related to the polar regions centers on climate change. So we wanted to add elements of the work we’ve done at CU to this course — mostly to expose our students to the idea of linking climate change to health. [editor’s note: Dr. Lemery has edited a textbook and authored a book on this topic]
CUSOM: So, who are you expecting will come to Stockholm?
TM: Really anyone who is doing work in remote polar regions. If nothing else, this course will give groups some confidence in taking care of each other should something happen, and some added resiliency to their mission — be it scientific, operational, or research.
CUSOM: Thank you both!
Read more about the course and register at http://www.coloradowm.org/courses/healthcare-providers/polarmedicine/