Conference Report: World Extreme Medicine Expo 2019
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
Last weekend, at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, over 900 medics gathered to learn about wilderness, expedition, space and pre-hospital medicine.
However, this was not your everyday conference...
The conference started with a video message from the International Space Station, and many high profile names from the world of space medicine were present, including Dr Kevin Fong, who gave a great talk on human factors, the Apollo flights and communication within teams.
The image above, taken from his talk, illustrates how as teams increase in size, there is a much greater potential for error, due to lines of communication "crossing over." Kevin's talk discussed the relevance of this within healthcare and explored ways in which error can be reduced. I found this particularly interesting as I have an interest in simulation and human factors and will use this diagram when debriefing and discussing scenarios.
Another important theme that ran throughout the conference was that of self-care and mental resilience, something that I have a keen interest in, as you will know if you have read some of my other blog posts. Amongst many great talks, there was an interview with Jason Fox, who you may recognise from the program "SAS: Who Dares Wins."
A strong advocate for mental health issues, Jason gave an open and candid interview about PTSD and how it has affected him personally. It was interesting to discuss his views on how, as a society, we are often too reactive rather than proactive when it comes to addressing our mental health.
This is something that resonates strongly. Within my day job as a GP, I am seeing so many people with mental health problems and patients are getting younger and younger. Sadly there is not the infrastructure to support these people in a timely manner and something surely needs to be done at an educational or public health level.
Burjor Langdana, WEM Faculty, and former Dental Surgeon at the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, ran his renowned expedition dentistry workshop which, having experienced this myself a few years ago, I can say is a great learning experience and Burj injects so much enthusiasm for a subject that is clearly close to his heart!
(Burj will hopefully be appearing on a podcast soon- fingers crossed as he is a busy man!)
There were so many things to do that I cant possibly capture it all within this short blog. Another cool thing I was able to do was attend a point of care ultrasound work-shop run by Chris Yap, another man with a wealth of experience and enthusiasm. Now I just need to find somewhere that sells used or discounted V-scan devices! (they cost a small fortune)
Whilst at the conference I was lucky enough to be able to represent the Virtual Doctors charity, a telemedical charity that I volunteer with. We had a great response with people from all over the world expressing interest in what we are doing. Thanks to Jo Withers for helping me out with running the stand! See my previous blog about this for more information. If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved, please get in touch!
Whilst in Edinburgh I was also able to the top of Arthur's Seat. Whilst I was not as energetic as some of the rest of the WEM team, who would routinely run up every morning before the conference started, I had the benefit of going up in the day light!
As we were in Scotland, the weekend would not be complete without sampling some of Edinburghs nightlife, in particular attending the WEM ceilidh which was held in the Caves, a cool venue, with lots of exposed stone-work. The band kept everyone in time and finished with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, with the crowd baying for an encore!
Lastly, I would like to shout out to all the exciting people I met!
Regardless of experience, achievements or seniority, everyone was very humble and approachable. Being around people who share your point of view and understand that medicine can open new doors outside of your day job is enriching and hugely inspiring!
Sadly I won't be able to attend next year as I will be in Nepal, working at the IPPG rescue post in Machermo at 4800m. Maybe I will be able to Skype in and say hello!
P.S. For everyone who expressed an interest in the Virtual doctors an email will follow in the next few days. In the meantime you can find the website here.