Nasa flight surgeons and Arctic medics en route to Scotland

by Laura Piper

The elite individuals are taking part in World Extreme Medicine.

When a solar storm hits your space shuttle while you’re orbiting the earth through icy stars Dr Michael Barratt is the man you want on board.

An experienced Nasa flight surgeon, Michael was launched through the atmosphere to support two spacewalks for the final mission of SS Discovery and spent 199 days as the chief medical officer on the International Space Station.

He’s one of an elite team of medical professionals spearheading the practice of extreme medicine, from the jungles of South America to the frontline of war.

“I’m a space guy,” says Michael cheerfully. “My passion is the adapted physiology of people in space. What our bodies can do up there is really quite amazing.”

Back on base at Nasa in Houston, Texas, 57-year-old Michael is currently packing his bags on earth for his next mission though – to a unique conference about to be held in Scotland for the first time called World Extreme Medicine.

Joining him are some of the most dynamic medical practitioners in the world, including surgeons who have operated in the war zones of Sarajevo and Syria, remote first aiders who cope with sharks, polar bears and the ocean depths, along with trauma medics more used to glaciers and freezing mountain peaks.

“It began around a campfire in Namibia,” explains World Extreme Medicine founder Mark Hannaford.

“I was out there on an expedition and realised how useful it would be to have a course that could train doctors for working in difficult environments.”

Mark knew instinctively that communication would be key, building networks between doctors and adventurous souls that could lead to improved standards in remote, disaster and humanitarian medicine.

Out of it came a gathering in London, then Harvard University in Boston, of intrepid pioneers in medicine mixed with extreme explorers all with one common denominator – “It’s the remoteness,” says astronaut Michael Barratt.

“It’s people working out in places with limited resources and unique medical problems. In all of these places you have to approach each case with resourcefulness, technology and study and I think it’s an important aspect of this conference.

“Just because it’s remote and exotic doesn’t mean you can’t be academic about it.”

Zoologists studying the way geese can adjust their bodies to altitude change suddenly found themselves in front of the gleaming eyes of doctors working at high altitudes to save the lives of patients.

“For doctors, because they’re generally quite focused on their specialism, they’ve maybe never spoken to a zoologist,” explains Mark.

“There’s a whole word of this type of stuff and knowledge that can be shared.

“There might be some people in the audience of course who are wondering why we’re talking about frogs, but some people will think ‘that’s bloody brilliant! What can we learn from that?’

“There’s such a massive passion that comes out of it.”

A strong contingent of Scots will be at the event in Edinburgh, including doctor Andrew Murray who has worked for the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games.

When not working in elite sport medicine, Edinburgh based Andrew has run 4,300km from Scotland to the Sahara desert, placed first in the North Pole Marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon and the Gobi Challenge and completed a husky trek in -40C in Outer Mongolia.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that it’s coming to Edinburgh,” says Andrew.

“We’ve got some incredible speakers and adventurers here in Scotland and it’s great to welcome more over to share tales from the likes of the North Pole and the Sahara desert.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the most extreme and beautiful parts of the world as a doctor and I’m looking forward to hearing other’s stories.”

The event will take place at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh from November 18 and the team are hopeful that Scotland’s next generation of ground breaking doctors will be there.

“We learn from each other, I learn things from others that would never even cross my mind,” says Michael Barratt.

“When I’m not speaking, I’m out there taking notes from the others as fast as I can.

“Some of these guys are people no-one will have heard of but know of so much we need to hear, working on the frontline of war with mass causalities on limited resources.”

The organisers have deliberately chosen Edinburgh as place where there is a large base of elite medical students and young doctors.

“One of the delights is passing what we’ve learned on to them and hearing their own ideas which would never have crossed our mind,” says Michael.

“Edinburgh has so much to offer us and the advancement of medical practice.”

Michael in particular will be there to speak on the human ability to cope in space, especially in the run up to the future mission to Mars.

“There’s going to be more not less space flight in the future as the commercial world starts to heat up,” says Michael.

“Especially for the younger medics, we hope some will follow on the path as well.”

Founder Mark Hannaford is equally looking forward to engaging Scottish talent and hints that a more permanent Scottish base for the extreme medicine gathering could be on the cards.

“It’s a perfect home for us and I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a permanent one,” he says.

“Edinburgh has a magnificent history of medical advancement behind it.”

The main wish for now though, is for the elite minds of the medical world to meet and get talking.

“One of my defining moments so far has been putting Mike from NASA and the doctor from a base camp at Everest in the same cab,” says Mark.

“When great minds meet you have no idea what that could lead to.”

Laura Piper @STVLauraPiper


Consultant Physican – Infectious Disease: Alice Springs

Head Medical are promoting an incredible opportunity for a Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases.  The role is based in Alice Spring and would suit someone who Find medical jobs in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Gulf Region, Canada and UK through Head Medicalenjoys biking & hiking!

As Staff Specialist in Infectious Diseases your responsibilities will include (but are not limited to):
§ Providing ongoing leadership in the department and the hospital, focusing on patient safety and the exceptional services.
§ Delivering first class inpatient, outpatient and consultative clinical services in General Medicine and Infectious Diseases.
§ Initiating and participating in quality management projects and staff professional development programs.
§ Supervise and participate in teaching programs for junior medical staff, including advanced trainees and medical students.

§ Participate in antimicrobial stewardship.

A full description of the role is available on our jobs page, HERE

Head Medical are the UK’s leading international medical recruitment specialist. They recruit Doctors for fantastic positions in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Gulf. They also recruit for jobs in the UK.  They’re committed to turning your ideas and career goals into reality with the right job in the right location.


Focus on Psych Jobs Downunder

Edinburgh based medical recruitment specialists Head Medical have a number of psychiatry roles in Australia.HeadMedical5

We’ve listed the vacancies on our jobs page, HERE, but to give you a flavour of what they have available, they include:

Head Medical are the UK’s leading international medical recruitment specialist. They recruit Doctors for fantastic positions in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Gulf.  They also recruit for jobs in the UK and are committed to turning your career ideas and goals into reality with the right job in the right location.

Find medical jobs in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Gulf Region, Canada and UK through Head Medical

Meet Head Medical at the World Extreme Medicine conference in Edinburgh at the World Extreme Medicine Conference, 18 – 21 November.




An intern’s experience – Plas y Brenin 2016

During our Expedition and Wilderness Medicine course held at Plas y Brenin during May, 2016 we had an ever helpful intern named Sarah. Here’s 13239927_10154007890197247_8279942846827801068_n what she thought of the course..

Plas y Brenin Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Course – Student Internship

I arrived in Plas y Brenin to a picturesque scene of mountains, lakes and even sunshine. This spectacular landscape was still visible from the hostel bar, which I entered to find many other excited course attendees, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to attend the Plas y Brenin Expedition and Wilderness Medicine course.

I was extremely fortunate to attend the course as an intern, which meant that apart from occasionally helping with setup and with time-keeping (there was a lot to pack in!), I was able to participate in all of the course activities and lectures. It was a fantastic opportunity to gain invaluable experience in an area of medicine which definitely 13254049_10156981034155074_8044738316598071338_nappeals to my adventurous side!

In short, the high quality of the course is a reflection of the skills and expertise of the faculty. Aside from their vast range of experience in extreme and emergency medicine, they are a very social group of people. During my time as an intern it was great to be able to talk with them, especially after hearing inspiring stories of adventures, sporting achievements and how people have overcome obstacles to succeed.

The course itself was structured to include a range of teaching styles featuring sessions both indoors and outdoors. Group sessions such as stretcher building, communication skills and the much loved interactive dental session ensure everyone on the course gets to know each other pretty well.

Other practical skills covered include how to make rehydration salts and safe drinking water, as well as essential non-medical skills such as outdoor navigation and rope skills.

Indoor learning focused on expeditions in extreme conditions (that even North Wales can’t provide), from sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica to the tropical environments of Central America, from dive medicine to the summit of Everest, there were some captivating, and at times incredibly moving accounts.

A different kind of rehydration technique was also encouraged in the evening lectures; with the bar mere feet from the lecture room, it made for a very relaxed learning environment!

The course facilities at the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre were also fantastic. Everyone was kept very well fed with hearty meals and extra snacks and coffees. In addition to the already busy schedule, free time could easily be filled with surrounding activities; the local area was filled with running routes, there was an onsite bouldering wall at your fingertips (literally) and the most brave-hearted even had the chance to swim in the local lake.

At the end of the week, the course culminated in a final search and rescue operation, putting newly learned skills to the test. I was able to take part as one of the organised teams which, after a short briefing, had to navigate to points to collect equipment and then locate their casualty before managing the situation and getting them to safety, requiring good team communication and coordination. A final debrief provided immediate feedback and helped identify key learning points (and it was reassuring to know our casualty had felt ‘safe’ in our handmade stretcher!).

Finally, the course closed with a presentation on developing a career in expedition medicine, including essential advice and links to future opportunities.


In summary, I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who wants to gain more experience of expedition medicine, whether it’s learning more about the legalities or logistics, to improving technical skills or simply to meet more like-minded people and make useful contacts, coming on this course is like joining the expedition family you never knew you had!

Thank you again for the opportunity!


The Sunday Times article in full – by popular request..

University of Exeter launches ‘extreme medicine’ master’sMedicine on location

University’s new MSc teaches doctors how to overcome the psychological and logistical challenges of working in remote regions

A medical school has launched what it claims to be the world’s first master’s programme in extreme medicine.

The MSc at the University of Exeter Medical School aims to support medics providing healthcare “in remote and extreme environments”, said programme leader and acute sub dean Malcolm Hilton, who believes that the new course could eventually lead to the subject becoming a wider specialism in its own right.

He expects most applicants to be qualified doctors, although some may be nurses or advanced paramedics who already have experience responding to humanitarian crises or working in polar, tropical or high-altitude regions.

All will attend a part-time three-year programme, on offer from this September, incorporating a series of residential courses lasting three to five days.

To put on this new master’s programme, which has been endorsed by celebrated explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Exeter has joined forces with an organisation called World Extreme Medicine, which has been organising courses and conferences for the past 12 years. Mr Hilton, who works as a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon as well as on charitable assignments in Nepal, recently attended one of the courses.

“On a wet, windy day in October on the top of Dartmoor,” he recalled, “when you’re working with the local actors’ union who are mocked up to have broken legs and major head wounds, and are covered in artificial blood and lying in gorse bushes, it feels very, very authentic.

“You’ve had to conduct a search and come across these people lying in a remote area and have to figure out evacuation strategy – could we land a helicopter here or what’s the alternative in terms of roads to get people out? It’s actually surprisingly easy to create what feels like a very real and authentic challenge.”

Elements of these World Extreme Medicine courses are now being built into a formal academic programme for the first time.

Although they may go on to specialise in high-altitude or jungle medicine in subsequent years, explained Mr Hilton, first-year students will learn the generic skills required “when delivering healthcare outside the confines of a Western hospital environment” and generally lacking basic diagnostic equipment such as facilities for blood tests and X-rays.

They will explore issues such as pre-trip planning, situational awareness, the psychological challenges of working when one is dehydrated, hungry or tired.

All students will be required to write a dissertation as part of their MSc and, in the longer term, Mr Hilton hopes to build up a proper research framework and establish extreme medicine as a genuine subdiscipline.

He said that he remembered a time when doctors who happened to like sport offered to help at their local rugby team. Now they would need a degree in sports medicine. In time, he said extreme medicine may also become a similar niche field.



Expedition and Wilderness Medicine

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine in action









Combined Diving & Hyperbaric Medicine / Emergency Medicine post

Two 6 month junior / middle grade doctor posts available – one commencing Feb 2017, the other Aug 2017. Includes funded enrolment in Postgraduate Certificate in Remote Healthcare or Diploma in Occupational Medicine.

DDRC Healthcare is a charity providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO), training and research in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine and associated fields. In conjunction with Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, we are looking to appoint two junior doctors for 6 month posts – one doctor to commence February 2016 and the other August 2016.

We are looking for Doctors with a minimum of 2 years experience post qualification. You must have full registration with the GMC or be eligible to become fully registered. You must also hold a diving qualification.

The post will be an average of 6 sessions per week at DDRC Healthcare and 4 sessions per week in the Emergency Department, Derriford Hospital. Derriford Hospital is adjacent to DDRC Healthcare and is the largest teaching hospital in the southwest with a busy Emergency Department.

DDRC Healthcare provides HBO for elective and emergency patients for conditions including decompression Illness (DCI), tissue damage secondary to radiotherapy and diabetic ulcers.

Training will be provided in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine and successful candidates will be encouraged and funded to enrol in the Postgraduate Certificate in Remote Healthcare run by the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry or the Diploma in Occupational Medicine.

There is no on call commitment for the diving aspect of this post however individuals will be encouraged to be involved in the management of diving accidents. The ED sessions may include some night shifts.

For application form and further information see Employment section

To discuss the job or to arrange a visit – please contact Dr Christine Penny – or 01752 209999

Closing date:  25.8.16 at 1700                                interview date: 9.9.16


Extreme Medicine news!

Extreme Medicine


South Pole Rescue

June 14, 2016 saw two Twin Otter aircraft leave Calgary on the first leg of a multi-stage intercontinental flight to the Amundsen-Scott Pole Station.

The purpose of the flight – a medevac of a Lockheed Martin employee requiring a level of medical care unavailable at the station.

Being mid-winter in Antarctica the crew faced severe weather challenges and extreme conditions, to pull-off this rescue.

Read the updates from Kenn Borek Air Ltd HERE and for some ligh-hearted interviews check out Global News’ article.

Explore the UK

Bothies are a great way to shelter and stay overnight out in the wilderness. Scattered throughout the UK, these shelters are very basic, often very remote and cannot be booked.

You could arrive at a bothy to find a group of fellow wilderness lovers just heating up a brew or your group could have the place to yourself – the great thing is, you won’t know until you arrive!

For more about bothies read Red Bull’s article and then head over to theMountain Bothies Association and plan your next adventure.

Are you working in an extreme environment?

STV Productions want to speak to medical practitioners working in remote, especially jungle, locations.

We’ve not got much info on this so if this sound like you, get in touch with STVHERE

Conservation projects for medics

If you’re a lover of nature and would love to work more closely with conservation projects, there’s loads out there for you.

As we say here at WEM, ‘where man goes, medicine must follow’ and conservation projects are part of that. You’ll be more than a medic, you’ll form part of the whole team and have opportunities to apply your skills in different areas.

Sea Shepherd (appearing at the Expo),Blue Ventures and Barefoot Conservation are great organisation to follow if you’d love to work near, in or on the sea. For land lovers the Naankuse Foundation and the Luangwa Safaris Association are great examples of opportunities open to you.

Whatever your favourite environment to work in, we’ve got a course to help you understand the challenges you may face. Check out our course page HERE.

Last chance for Polar Medicine

Fancy taking your clinical skills to cold environments? If you’re answering ‘yes’ then we’ve got something for you.

In just a few short weeks we’ll be just outside Wanaka with our team of expert cold weather lovers. From mountain summits to the North Pole our faculty has a huge and varied experience which they’re ready to share with you.

To find out more visit our Polar New Zealand course page, if the northern hemisphere is more suitable for you then how about joining us in Norway next February?

Friday fun

Head over to Life in the Fast Lane’s fantastic site and try your hand at the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five.

If you’ve ever wondered what percentage of the population find a stethoscope sexy you’ll want to give this quiz a go.



Human Factors in Space

Following Major Tim Peake’s rerun to Earth we caught up with Dr Nathan Smith,  whose interests focus on psychology in extreme conditions, to ask how we can benefit from understanding human factors in such challenging circumstances. Here’s what he had to say.Space Medicine

“Psychology plays a fundamental role in the process of human spaceflight. At all stages, from selection and preparation, to the mission itself, and the post-flight phase, psychology is embedded within the space experience. Selection committees consider factors such as personality and motivation in order to select-out candidates who are not deemed suitable for space missions. During the mission, the extent to which a person can withstand stressors, whether that be danger, monotony, and boredom, has implications for crew safety, health and performance. Equipping individuals with appropriate coping strategies and developing countermeasures to mitigate stress is an obvious priority area for the various space agencies. In the post-flight phase, the transition back to day-to-day life on Earth is expected to hold both benefits and challenges to space travellers, and as such is an important consideration for retaining a healthy and functional crew. Of course, space research is invariably multi-disciplinary and the importance of human factors should not be underestimated. Ensuring optimal human interaction with equipment, and providing comfort within the restricted habitat are pertinent to maintaining performance and psychological health during ever-lengthening missions. Indeed, there is a lot we can learn from psychological research in space and associated analogs. Understanding the type of person who is likely to adjust and function well in the challenging environment of space, may tell us more about the people who are likely to thrive in difficult Earthly environments. This could be people completing expeditions in the higher latitudes and the Greater Ranges, or those having to enter dangerous and dynamic situations in the name of medicine and humanitarian issues.”

Nathan is based at the School of Health at the University of Northampton and his research revolves around understanding the utility of analogue environments for the selection of personnel for operating in extreme conditions, specifically, with a focus on personality, stress, coping, and post-expedition adjustment (particularly on growth experiences). He’s recently completed a 48-day hyper-arid 4-man desert expedition as well as from a field study in Antarctica.

Space Medicine is a feature of the conference content of Extreme Medicine – register for your place today!


Being a doctor just became the most exciting career on earth…

At Extreme Medicine we are all about opening doors, building networks and presenting the opportunities for you to use your medical degree to make it the most powerful qualification in the world.

Join us for our conference in the amazing city of Edinburgh in November – it’s like no other conference you’ve ever been to.

Being a doctor just became the most exciting career on earth… from World Extreme Medicine on Vimeo.


Fiji – Medical Location Work

Working with CBS Survivor in Fiji – its alway nice to have a little bit of helicopter time, WEM Founder Mark Hannaford & Medical Director Dr Joe Rowles caught on camera!

“We contracted a large medical team made up of doctors, paramedics and nurses through World Extreme Medicine Limited for our 6 month remote location shoot in Fiji and we couldn’t be happier. The team from the top down were extremely professional and easy to deal with at all levels of the operation. Ultimately our number one concern is the health and safety of our cast and crew and at all times it felt we were in extremely capable hands. From a logistics and production standpoint we also really appreciate the professionalism and “can do” attitude these guys bring to the table. They are a real pleasure to work with and I hope to continue our relationship with EWM for many years to come.”

Jesse Jensen – Co-Executive Producer  – US SURVIVOR