Undergrad Research Assistants
There are currently two medical courses that are available through the Honduran expedition site, one aimed at pre-med students and the other an elective for medical students who have completed their degrees and are moving into the clinical phase.
Dr Dipak Mistry, who runs the medical courses in Honduras has also set up a blog for them – you can find it here.
HM015 Expedition Medicine Experiential Course
(Weeks 1-4 or 3-6)
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 (eg 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 (eg 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.
Medical Elective Placements
These placements are for medical students who have completed their degrees and are moving into the clinical phase and are designed to give field experience of expedition medicine. There is an expedition medicine experiential medicine course (HM015) but that is for pre-med students whereas these placements are for 8 weeks starting on 11 June 2014 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 you sign up for the Jungle training and Neotropical Forest Ecology course (HM001) for your first week and then spend a week at Base Camp working with the medical staff supporting the cloud forest ecological research team (HM101). At this camp you can also complete a short course on how to extract DNA under field conditions. Research themes at this camp include niche separation in small mammal species using stable isotopes, identifying prevalence of chytrid infection in amphibians and assessment of the invertebrate diversity of the park using molecular techniques as well as many other projects which you would have the chance to join in your spare time.
For the next 2 weeks you would be on placement supporting the medical staff at two different field camps in the Cusuco National Park (HM101). 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.
For the next 2 weeks you would move to Utila and learn to dive (HU004) followed by completing a Caribbean reef ecology course (HU007). On Utila our partners run the hyperbaric chamber and we have medics who are experienced in dive medicine so you would gain some experience of hyperbaric medicine and issues likely to arise on dive based expeditions. You would then go to the Tela and join the research teams there completing surveys of the reef fish communities and transects surveys of the benthic environment as well as joining teams assessing the structure and function of mangrove forests (HT108). There are medical staff at this site as well and you would be working with them and gaining experience of how to provide support to dive based expeditions in different conditions to those encountered on Utila
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 and diving and having had a range of biodiversity monitoring experiences. Each of the different medical staff (6- 7) 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.