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Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine

Wilderness Medicine: A Fellowship Program
Combining Your Profession with Your PassionTM
Tom Mallinson is a Paramedic and Medical Student at Warwick Medical School and a Fellowship Candidate. Email for correspondence –

The Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine qualification (FAWM) was set up in 2005 by the Wilderness Medicine Society based in America and currently has 640 candidates, and 176 Fellows. It provides an excellent opportunity to gain and demonstrate knowledge of expedition and wilderness medicine and to gain recognition for the practical experience you have achieved in this area. The Wilderness Medical Society also offers a number of other benefits to its members and continues to develop new services and qualifications year after year.

The Wilderness Medical Society
Three doctors created The Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) in 1983 with the mission statement to “advance healthcare, research, and education related to wilderness medicine”. The international society has 2383 members, as of the 13th of August 2010 and publishes the peer-reviewed Wilderness & Environmental Medicine Journal and the more informal Wilderness Medicine Magazine. The society is also responsible for creating and publishing the evidence based Practice Guidelines for Wilderness Emergency Care and the society strives to not only embrace evidence based medicine, but also to add to the evidence base for wilderness medicine with high quality research of its own. The WMS further supports the development of evidence based healthcare in remote environments by providing various research grants and awards for amounts varying from under $500USD up to $7,000USD. These funds can be used towards research conducted by institutions or individuals in various areas related to wilderness medicine. The research must of course aim to make a substantial contribution to the field of wilderness medicine and result in publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
In addition to its publishing and research activities the WMS also runs regular international conferences. These conferences provide members with a great opportunity to network and hear from leaders in their field. The conferences also afford credits for those members of the WMS who are also studying for the Fellowship. Membership of the WMS has many benefits for the more experienced or student healthcare professional or doctor. Membership currently includes free access to the society’s peer reviewed journal and magazine, free access to
online CPD activities and access, at a price, to a library of video lectures. For the more adventurous medical or healthcare students the WMS also offers its own elective program in association with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The elective program is a truly amazing opportunity to learn more about wilderness medicine through both practical and theoretical sessions while enjoying your stay in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of Tennessee. The WMS also facilitates Student Interest Groups (SIGS) from around the world, which provides a chance for medical and allied health students to work together and share experiences and questions about wilderness healthcare in an inter-professional and international setting.
The WMS also aims to foster a strong sense of international community involvement. Indeed credits towards the FAWM can be gained from voluntary teaching and clinical practice in underserved areas or during disaster relief efforts. Furthermore, the WMS and its members have been involved in medical relief work around the globe; most publically in Haiti where members of the society provided medical care to those in need.

Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM)
The FAWM qualification is designed for practitioners with a special interest in wilderness medicine and offers a way of “combining you profession with your passionTM”. In the past it has been a challenge to show evidence of knowledge and practical skills in this area and there has for a long time been a lack of accredited qualifications available for wilderness medicine enthusiasts. The WMS Fellowship Program is designed for clinicians of all levels to gain an international qualification in the field of wilderness medicine and to equip them for practice in this challenging arena. Achieving the level of Fellow also permits the use of the post-nominals FAWM, allowing Fellows to easily demonstrate the high level of practical and academic work involved.
Currently there are only 14 UK practitioners working towards the FAWM qualification. There have also only been 2 Fellowships awarded to UK based professionals to date. It seems that currently, although the FAWM program is open to all those with a special interest in wilderness medicine very few UK practitioners have become involved with the qualification. With the growing interest in adventure travel there are more and more opportunities for medics to work with expeditions or with research teams in remote areas and with the FAWM qualification UK practitioners can demonstrate their ability to fulfil this role.

The FAWM Credit System
The WMS Fellowship Program requires candidates to accrue a minimum of 100 credits in various areas of wilderness and travel medicine. These credits must come from Core Curriculum Topics, Elective Topics and the Experience Report. The WMS have endeavoured to make the curriculum highly practical and relevant, and the Core Curriculum was developed from a needs-assessment questionnaire sent to experienced practitioners of wilderness medicine. This questionnaire identified the essential areas of practice which formed the Core Curriculum topics used on the Fellowship Program. These Core Topics are complemented by a number of Elective Topics, and a certain number of credits must be gained from both of these groups. The Elective Topics are those which are specifically beneficial for specialist work in a chosen area of remote healthcare, such as hyperbaric medicine or search and rescue work, and allow candidates to tailor their training to suit their individual needs. Alongside the accumulation of credits from the Core and Elective Topics, candidates must provide an Experience Report demonstrating that they are also applying their knowledge in practice. The Experience Report covers a wide range of activities and allows candidates to gain credits for relevant qualifications, voluntary work or practice in a wilderness or extreme environment.

Gaining Credits
There are many ways to gain credits for the Core and Elective Topics. The WMS website provides two such ways. The first of these is the free facility to read selected articles from the society’s journal, Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, and answer a number of questions regarding its content. Recent topics for these review activities have included rattlesnake envenomation and physiological changes during hypoxia. The second provision on the website is the ability to download video lectures covering a number of topics. The video lectures are played through the WMS website and give you the option to view the speaker, their slides, or both side by side and are a great way to view presentations if you were unable to attend the WMS conference in question.
Credits for many of the topics can also be gained through attendance at wilderness medicine courses both within the UK and overseas. There are various courses available which are accredited by the WMS FAWM program and these cover aspects of wilderness medicine ranging from polar survival to tropical diseases to search and rescue techniques. Most of these courses also contain a high proportion of practical sessions and although many of the skills covered are ones which will be familiar to UK Doctors others, such as how to extricate a patient from a car or how to improvise a splint will be completely new. Attendance at these courses gain you credits for the various aspects of wilderness medicine taught on that specific course, and on average a course will provide you with around 20-30 credits towards the 100 required to become a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.

Other Wilderness Medicine Society Awards
In addition to the FAWM program the Academy of Wilderness Medicine offers a number of other awards for practitioners showing a high level of commitment to the field of wilderness medicine, through attendance at conferences, seminars and the like. These are awarded as part of the Education Achievement Recognition Program (EARP) and consist of The Matterhorn Award, The Denali Award and The Everest Award. The last of which has not been awarded to date, but perhaps this in an opportunity for a UK practitioner! There are no additional costs involved in gaining EARP awards and the Academy staff will automatically be alerted when you have met the required criteria. The WMS is also currently developing a Masters level program and details of this should soon be released on their website.

The WMS is a well established and constantly growing organisation with over two thousand members. The society continues to enhance the knowledge and understanding of wilderness medicine at an international level and provide world class education in this field.
The Fellowship Program is an internationally recognised qualification in Wilderness Medicine which offers recognition to those practitioners who have met the demanding requirements of the Fellowship syllabus. The Fellowship Program also offers a means to identify yourself as having gained a high standard of knowledge and experience in Wilderness Medicine to current or future employers, clients and patients. The program is designed with full time professionals in mind and it is easy to fit courses, and online activities around a busy rota.
The FAWM program is an excellent opportunity for UK practitioners of all levels who are looking to add something special to their CV or to develop their skills and knowledge to gain Wilderness employment as a wilderness or expedition medic. The program also has the benefit of respecting paramedics, nurses and all allied health professionals as potential experts in wilderness medicine and accepting them as Fellows of the society, something that many other institutions are yet to do. In short the Fellowship Program from the Academy of Wilderness Medicine is a world class qualification allowing practitioners to gain the knowledge and recognition to enable them to practice safely and effectively in hostile and remote environments. To be a Fellow of the Academy is certainly an honour and one which demonstrates a very high level of academic achievement.

Key Points

* The Fellowship is open to UK Paramedics, EMTs, Nurses and Allied Health Professionals.

* There is a 5 year time limit in which to gain the FAWM qualification.

* The Fellowship Program costs around £150 ($225USD) for 5 years.

* The mixture of online learning and residential courses makes it easy to fit the Fellowship Program around a full-time job.

* Once you have qualified for Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine you may use the letters FAWM after your name.

Additional Information Wilderness Medical Society The Academy of Wilderness Medicine 2150 South 1300 East, Suite 500 Salt Lake City, UT 84106 (801) 990-2988

The author would like to thank Teri Howell and all the staff of the Wilderness Medical Society for providing valuable information about the society and Fellowship qualification, which proved essential for the preparation of this manuscript.



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