Expedition Doctor

Dec 1, 1999
Outside Magazine

The Work: Why stick to the hypochondriac-filled life of a clinic-bound medic when you can be Dr. Adventure? Hired on by outfitters to oversee the well-being and health of team members, expedition physicians organize the acquisition and transport of all medical supplies, treat every kind of emergency, and decide when to call for a helicopter evacuation.

Payback: Unsalaried but—usually—all expenses paid.You supply the medical expertise, and the outfitter foots the bill for your equipment, permits, airfare, and food (about $15,000 for a six-week ascent of Cho Oyu, for example).

Time Outside: 100 percent while on expeditions, which can last three weeks to a year.

Prerequisites: An M.D. is preferable, but wilderness first responders and EMTs are also eligible (earn your certification for both from Wilderness Medical Associates; 207-665-2707; www.wildmed.com). A well-rounded résumé of sports experience can make the difference between a month in Tibet and predawn shifts at your local ER.

Networking: The Wilderness Medical Society (719-572-9255; www.wms.org) plans to start posting expedition want-ads by summer 2000.

Peon to Pro: Five years of steady backcountry work before you make the A-list. To stay in the business, you'll need a full-time job at home and a boss who'll tolerate long—and frequent—absences.

Drudge Factor: When local villagers learn there's a Western doctor in town, get ready for overtime.

Outlook: Healthy. The current vogue for far-flung expeditions and the growing number of novice clients have put a premium on outdoor physicians. The Wilderness Medical Society reports that requests for doctor referrals have doubled since 1996.

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