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For immediate use

April 28, 2000 -- No. 251

UNC-CH School of Medicine plans Carolina Wilderness Medicine Seminar

CHAPEL HILL -- Do you know what to do if you’re bitten by a snake when you’re 20 miles from the nearest town? What if a fellow mountain climber showed signs of high-altitude sickness? How would you help a friend injured on a whitewater-rafting trip?

To answer these and other questions about medical care in the wilderness, a student organization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine will hold its second Carolina Wilderness Medicine Seminar this weekend (April 29-30).

The student organization, Carolina Wilderness Medicine, designed the seminar as a community-outreach program to help people recognize, prevent and manage medical situations in wilderness situations, said Jenny Graham, founder and a member of the group’s advisory board.

The seminar will be held at both the William and Ida Friday Continuing Education Center and Carolina Adventures Outdoor Education Center in Chapel Hill. The cost for the two-day program is $25 for students and $60 for all others. Participants do not need medical training to benefit from the seminar.

Any outdoor enthusiast – whether a mountain climber or a fly fisherman – is encouraged to attend. A wide range of topics will be covered, including how to assess injured scuba divers, high-altitude illnesses, orthopedic stabilization in the wilderness, extreme environmental temperatures, search and rescue techniques, snakebites and stings, infectious diseases and international travel.

Said Graham, "The average outdoor enthusiast’s need for knowledge of wilderness medicine is best explained by example. Imagine you are about an hour-and-a-half into a hike along a rough, wooded trail when you suddenly stumble, twisting your ankle and gashing your knee quite badly. You know it’s at least another hour-and-a-half back down the trail, and a 45-minute drive to the nearest town after that. The sun is going down and there’s a frost warning for the night. Would you know what to do?"

Preventing injury and illness is the primary goal of wilderness medicine, which requires a flair for creativity and on-the-spot thinking, she said.

"A great deal of the management of medical conditions in the wilderness is through the use of improvisation – because no one hikes with a fully stocked medicine cabinet or a physician to consult with during an emergency," said Graham.

More information is available on the World Wide Web at www.med.unc.edu/wildmed/conf2000 or by calling (919) 968-8373. Registration is required; participation is limited to 200 people.

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School of Medicine contact: Lynn Wooten, (919) 966-6047 or Lwooten@unch.unc.edu