Medical schools across U.S. compete in Wilderness Adventure Race

Special to the Daily News

HARROGATE, Tennessee — Medical students from around the United States tested their physical strength, survival skills and the ability to administer medical care in adverse conditions at the eighth annual MedWAR Tennessee wilderness adventure race on October 22. Seven medical schools from seven different states competed in the race, hosted by the Wilderness Medicine Society at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM).

The race began at LMU-DCOM in Harrogate, Tennessee, and covered a tough ten-mile course that stretched over three states including Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Participants traveled by bike and by foot to the Pinnacle, a scenic overlook located in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and ended their journey back at LMU-DCOM.

This year’s theme was “The Apocalypse” and students from LMU-DCOM staged medical scenarios around the Cumberland Gap based off apocalyptic-type events. Teams were exposed to everything from natural disasters to a zombie outbreak.

“We actually had zombies on the course, and if a team member was tagged by the zombie they were put at a disadvantage at the next medical scenario,” said Stephen Hjerpe, president of the Wilderness Medicine Society at LMU-DCOM.

This year the Wilderness Medicine Club implemented more hands-on scenarios with the help of Rick Slaven, director of LMU-DCOM’s Center for Simulation and Training and Josh Engle, LMU-DCOM simulation lab coordinator. Some of the scenarios included delivering a baby using a birthing simulator, starting IV therapy and utilizing the simulation lab for a cardiac arrest. They also performed cricothyrotomies, a procedure that includes making an incision through the skin and cricothyroid membrane to establish a patent airway during certain life-threatening situations.

“Whether it be delivering a baby on top of a mountain in a tent, or performing needle decompression on a tension pneumothorax in the woods, MedWAR Tennessee exposes medical professionals from across the region to a variety of situations that will test their skills when resources and ideal conditions are limited,” Hjerpe said.

A total of 31 teams and 93 medical students competed in the race, representing the largest number of participants in the eight years that LMU-DCOM has been hosting the event. Medical schools represented include The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn (VCOM-Auburn), University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine, University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville, Florida State University College of Medicine and Indiana University School of Medicine. Two visiting doctors from Gannan Medical University in China also attended the event. The winning team VCOM-Auburn, completed the 10-mile race with eight medical scenarios in three hours and four minutes total. Second place went to students from USC and third place went to a secondary team from VCOM-Auburn that competed in the event.

MedWAR began in 2000 when several emergency department physicians and medical students at the Medical College of Georgia created the first race. The initial race followed a five-leg format, where participants checked into a central headquarters after each leg. Since then races have been added across the country. A MedWAR race may include scenarios related to the treatment of sprains and fractures, frostbite, burns, drowning, soft tissue injuries, head injuries and life support measures. The race also includes elements of basic search and rescue techniques as well as ethical issues related to wilderness medicine. Participants must navigate a physically challenging outdoor course and must stop to address various simulated medical rescue scenarios during the race. In 2009, several LMU-DCOM students successfully petitioned to institute the MedWAR Tennessee race. LMU’s proximity to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park makes the region an ideal setting for an adventure race.

The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community, and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1-800-325-0900, ext. 7108, email [email protected], or visit us online at

Special to the Daily News

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