By Benjamin Williamson
A BYU professor was among a group of 38 to be honored as the first fellows of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.
“Of all the organizations I belong to, this may be the best,” said Alton Thygerson, professor of health sciences and new inductee. Thygerson has been a member of the Wilderness Medicine Society for the past 15 years.
The society, of which the academy is a part, is the only one of its type, Thygerson said.
Founded in 1983, it is the world”s leading organization in wilderness medicine practice and research, according to its Web site.
Although the society has been in existence for almost 25 years, the fellowship distinction is new. To become a fellow, according to the published criteria, members must have completed a core curriculum of 100 credits in several sub-disciplines, such as tropical and travel medicine, and high altitude and mountaineering medicine. Fellows also must have completed at least one year of professional practice.
While Thygerson is not a medical doctor, he is an EMT and has received all the necessary wilderness training through the academy. He teaches advanced first aid at BYU and is a medical writer.
“[Being a fellow] lends credibility to what I write,” Thygerson said. “It says I”ve been trained in things that deal with remote locations.”
But Thygerson seems to have already established his credibility. He is the author of more than 40 books and manuals on medicine, first aid and survival.
William Shatner endorsed one of Thygerson”s books, and Oprah Winfrey featured another on her television show.
More professionally, Thygerson is part of the American Medical Writers Association and frequently publishes in partnership with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American College of Emergency Physicians.
He is one of the primary authors of the manuals used by the Emergency Care and Safety Institute, an organization that trains “laypersons and professionals” in CPR, first aid, AED, bloodborne pathogens and other health areas, according to its Web site.
The Academy of Wilderness Medicine is expected to continue inducting professionals into its fellowship on at least an annual basis, Thygerson said.
“There is a need for qualified people out there,” he said. “Most people that go out in remote locations aren”t prepared.”
Thygerson gives this advice to people who enjoy outdoor and wilderness activities: “prior prevention prevents panic.”