Extreme Medicine

Ryan Chiavetta, for HealthLeaders Media , May 13, 2014
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This article appears in the May 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Even before he was a doctor, Gabriel Cade, MD, volunteered in the wilds of Africa, and even endured a couple of weeks on the Marquesas Islands for the fourth season of Survivor. These experiences contributed to his interest in becoming a specialist in wilderness medicine. Cade is in a fellowship program for the subspecialty at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., where he works as an emergency medicine physician.

On his inspiration for studying wilderness medicine: I had dropped out of college twice, and the second time I was out for eight years. I was traveling with my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, and we ended up at an AIDS hospice in Zambia. It was through our extended time there that I began to do more medical-type work. I thought this was what I should be doing for the rest of my life and to make that happen I reapplied to college from Africa. Wilderness medicine just seemed like it was a job that was created for me.

On technology and wilderness medicine: By definition, wilderness medicine is operating without the resources of a real hospital, but technology has really changed what that has to mean. For example, a lot of what I do is researching and developing of apps on people's smartphones that are useful in disaster situations. Anything from learning how to tie a basic knot to apps that send out a distress signal, but also more advanced things such as working with portable ultrasound.

On how Survivor impacted his career: The physical stuff you either expect or get used to, and the emotional stuff related to the game is not a big deal, but doing those things in the complete absence of your emotional support group was very challenging and that has really stuck with me. I try to remember that when I see patients in the emergency department, that their psychological relationship to their illness is a very important thing, and in the wilderness that becomes amplified. When I talk to people about practicing wilderness medicine or working in third-world countries or working in a disaster situation, I really try to emphasize the psychological pathology as well.

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This article appears in the May 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.




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