published Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Wilderness forum adds public aspect

  • photo
    Peter Kummerfeldt, left, is a renowned survival training expert helping in the Southeastern Wilderness Medicine Conference running June 22-26 in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Returning to a June set of dates like the first one in 1997, the ninth Southeastern Wilderness Medicine Conference in Chattanooga again offers a wide array of experts and outdoors topics for physicians, first responders and others in the medical field.

But this one has a couple of special offerings for the general public, including a wilderness safety forum and reception next Friday, the eve of the June 22-26 conference, featuring a number of those experts.

"I'm really excited about this," Dr. Chris Moore, the driving force of the conference, said Wednesday about the safety forum. "People have been asking about something like this for years, so I'm bringing in some of our best speakers a day early."

Moore, the chief medical officer at Erlanger at Hutcheson, said the Friday session would include advice on dealing with snakebites, ticks, injuries from falls, lightning strikes and other problems "that can happen to anybody spending time in the outdoors." It also will cover safety precautions in hiking, padding, climbing, mountain biking, caving and other human interactions with nature.

The June 21 event will run from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at The Church on Main's event venue. It costs $20, which includes two drink tickets for the post-forum reception, and anyone interested can see www.eventbrite.com/event/6905260821/eac2.

On Tuesday, June 25, the public also is invited to a Mount Everest "adventure and science" presentation by North Face athlete Kris Erickson from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the IMAX theater downtown. That event begins with a Rock/Creek Pint Nite reception and costs $10, also including two drink tickets, with a suggested $5 charity donation. Call Rock/Creek about that.

There still are openings for the medical conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center, available through conference director Janice Mancuso at 505-506-4496. The website is www.SEWM.net.

Mancuso served in the same role in 1997, 1998 and 2000 and supports Moore's vision of growing the gathering as an annual event. It last was held in October 2011 as part of River Rocks.

"Chattanooga is such a great spot for a national medical conference like this," Mancuso said. "Most of the other wilderness conferences are west of the Mississippi River -- many of them in the Rockies -- and Dr. Moore wants to establish this as a foothold in the Southeast."

Moore, a longtime board member of the Wilderness Medical Society, said all of his previous conferences have been "well-attended and well-received" but that the inaugural one in 1997 drew the biggest crowd. It was set in June partly so the attendees could bring family along for a vacation of sorts, and that has been encouraged again.

The area's many outdoor options make Chattanooga a natural center for wilderness education, Moore emphasized. The Southeastern conference is the only one in the nation that gets into cave issues, he pointed out, and one workshop includes diving at the Tennessee Aquarium.

"You can do it all here," Moore said.

Including faculty, about 120 people from 22 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have registered for the conference with just over a week remaining before it starts. The event includes half-day workshops targeted for local and regional participants who can't set aside the whole time.

"We could get a few more, and we could handle more, but I just don't know what to expect about late signups," Mancuso said.

Moore, who long has been involved in mission medicine and disaster relief as well as outdoors pursuits, said participants bring a wide range of rationales for wanting to know more about wilderness medicine.

"A lot of times disasters happen in remote places, and even when they don't, the setting becomes like a wilderness," Moore said, citing power outages and flooding as examples of situations that counteract the technology most doctors are used to having available.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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