Medical Courses

There are currently two medical courses that are available through the Honduran expedition site; the expedition medicine experiential course is aimed at pre-med students and the medical elective placement is for medical students who have completed their degrees and are moving into the clinical phase or or wish to gain field experience of expedition medicine.

Dr Dipak Mistry, who runs the medical courses in Honduras has also set up a blog for them – you can find it here.

Expedition Medicine Experiential Course

(Start date 15 June)

This 4-week option in Honduras is aimed at giving Pre-Med students the opportunity to experience how to provide medical support to teams working on expeditions in remote areas.  The first 3 weeks of the course are run in the Cusuco National Park cloud forest with the last week at the marine research centre on Utila Island.  The Expedition Medicine experiential course provides formal teaching in the form of interactive lectures (core knowledge) coupled with mentorship by doctors working out in the field in various sites to gain experience in clinical diagnosis and treatment. The mentors will provide individual assessments for each of the students at the end of the placement.  Note the course does not provide training in expedition medicine that can then be used as a qualification to practice expedition medicine.

  • During week 1, the group complete the Jungle Survival and Neotropical Forest Ecology course so that they are accustomed to the forest conditions and the type of research being conducted.
  • In week 2 the group will complete a training course in expedition medicine which will cover pre-expedition planning (e.g. how to identify risks, developing emergency evacuation plans), medical emergencies and trauma in the field  (anaphylaxis, asthma, diabetic emergencies, heat & dehydration, gastroenteritis and hygiene), tropical infections (e.g. malaria, rabies, dengue fever and DHF), and snake bite and envenomation procedures.
  • In week 3, the experiential medical students will be spread amongst the various core and buffer zone research camps in Cusuco Park in pairs to work alongside the medic at each of the sites.  Generally, from a medical viewpoint there is not too much to do at these camps, so most of the time will be spent helping on the biodiversity surveys including emptying dung beetle pitfall traps, helping with point counts for birds, standard search times and spotlighting  for reptiles and amphibians, tapir transects etc.
  • In week 4, the group will move to Utila Island where they will be completing a PADI Open Water dive training course or doing the Caribbean reef ecology course if already qualified.  During this week, they will have the chance to visit a hyperbaric chamber.

If you would like to increase your time at the marine research centre you can add 2 or 4 marine weeks onto this expedition.

Medical Elective Placements

These placements are for medical students who have completed their 4 year degrees and are moving into the clinical phase, or wish to gain field experience of expedition medicine.  There is an expedition medicine experiential medicine course, but that is for pre-med students whereas these placements are for 8 weeks starting on 15 June 2016 in Honduras and give students the opportunity to work alongside a wide range of doctors at different research camps to learn about issues ranging from tropical diseases to hyperbaric medicine.

  • On this placement week 1 will be spent completing the Jungle training and Neotropical Forest Ecology course (HM001)
  • Week 2 will require completion of an expedition medicine course.
  • During weeks 3 and 4 you would be on placement supporting the medical staff at different forest camps in the Cusuco National Park and helping with biodiversity assessments.  These camps are much more remote and you are living in hammocks or tents deep in the forest.  Here medical emergencies are hopefully fairly infrequent and you get the chance to join the research teams who are working on dung beetle, moth, amphibian, reptiles, bird and large mammal standard monitoring programmes.
  • Week 5 will offer you the opportunity to complete your dive training course on Utila Island.
  • Week 6 will be spent on Utila Island completing a Caribbean marine ecology course and learning about hyperbaric medicine. On Utila our partners run the hyperbaric chamber and we have medics who are experienced in dive medicine, so you would be working with medical staff to gain some experience of hyperbaric medicine and issues likely to arise on dive based expeditions.
  • Weeks 7  and 8  will allow you to build on the skills you have developed in supporting both the marine survey teams and the medical team with any medical issues that arise.

At the end of this 8 week period you would have had a range of expedition medicine experience as well as gaining skills in jungle survival, diving and having had a range of biodiversity monitoring experiences.  Each of the different medical staff who would have been mentoring you at the various camps would sign you off as having received relevant experience in different aspects of expedition medicine.

For students interested in gaining course credit for their time on expedition,there are two ways of organising this: (1) signing up for an external course or (2) gaining internal course credit.

External course credit

If you are from a North American university and are going on expedition for a minimum of 4 weeks (excluding dive training), all options can be used for credit by signing up for the distance learning module BL3400 Tropical Research and Field Study at University of St Andrews, Scotland. You will be awarded 20 course credits for the 4 weeks (equivalent of 3-4 credits at US universities) and you will receive a graded transcript that can be used towards your GPA. Email for more information coursecredit@opwall.com.

Internal course credit

It is sometimes possible to use an Operation Wallacea expedition to gain credits from your own university. This is often done through an independent study or internship program. The amount of credit available will vary depending on which university you are at and the duration of your expedition. To organise gaining credit in this way, you will have to speak to your academic advisors and often your study abroad departments to find out what they can offer. If you have any questions about gaining credit from your university, please email coursecredit@opwall.com. It is very important that if you are gaining credit in this way, you email us in advance so we know, even if you have no special onsite requirements.