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Wilderness Club participants

Members of the UB Family Medicine Wilderness Club — including medical and graduate students, residents, family and friends — get set for a challenging mountain hike.

Medical School Trainees Build Teamwork; Conquer Mountain

Published November 24, 2014

During an Adirondack adventure sponsored by the University at Buffalo’s Family Medicine Wilderness Club, 25 people braved rain, wind and cold to climb Algonquin Peak amid the brilliant color of autumn foliage.

“This hike was like our own journey. We have our ups and downs and face difficult times, but with teamwork, endurance and patience, we can overcome any hardship.”
Janice Kim
Third-year medical student

The intrepid group included 13 medical students from all four years, three residents and two graduate students.

Working Together; Meeting the Challenge

The hikers tested their limits physically, climbing nearly 3,000 feet to the top of the second-highest mountain in New York State.

When they reached the summit, they stood in the clouds, some 5,100 feet above sea level.

Following a difficult descent, at times negotiating steep and slippery rocks, they emerged from their 8.6-mile trek sore, wet and tired, if not exhausted.

Despite the physical and meteorological challenges, “it was a great trip with awesome people,” says David M. Holmes, MD, clinical associate professor of family medicine and the club’s faculty adviser, who accompanied the group in October.

“I’m impressed by how everyone worked together to overcome a much greater challenge than we originally anticipated — just like medical school!”

‘A Great Way to Learn’ Wilderness Medicine

Later in the month, some of the hikers gathered in Holmes’ backyard to reflect on their experiences, reminisce with photos and share a campfire dinner.

Holmes led a wilderness medicine case discussion on hypothermia and spinal cord injury.

The informal session “helped foster deeper connections between club members while presenting a challenge for us to work through together,” explains Joe Modica, a second-year medical student.

“I learned from the residents, fourth-year medical students and Dr. Holmes in a comfortable setting around the campfire — a great way to learn!”

Compassion, Perseverance and Other Lessons

From left: Yvonne Chen, Marcus Ng, Ju Joh, Desiree Albert, Inyoung Joh

Happy to reach the top of Algonquin Peak are (from left): Yvonne Chen, Marcus Ng, Ju Joh, Desiree Albert and Inyoung Joh

Based on participant feedback, the lessons learned in one weekend went far beyond how to survive the rigors of a wet hike in the woods.

“Everyone persevered,” notes third-year medical student Janice Kim.

“This perseverance helped us realize this hike was like our own journey. We have our ups and downs and face difficult times, but with teamwork, endurance and patience, we can overcome any hardship.”

“I learned that everyone has had different experiences and that we need to understand their abilities and limitations,” notes Modica. “This is just as applicable to medicine — with our patients — as it is to people attempting to summit a mountain.”

“We need to be able to adapt to best serve our patients and to achieve our goals as a group.”

Forging Connections With People, Nature

“This trip not only let us bond as students and professionals from diverse departments, but also exposed people who had never hiked before to a wonderful new way to enjoy the outdoors,” says Modica.

“I was able to forget my worries for a bit and just be in the moment, taking in the glory of the great outdoors,” he recalls. “The Adirondacks in fall are truly a sight to see!”

Kim agrees. “Being around nature allows me to take a deep breath and a moment away from my rigorous schedule, inspires awe at its beauty and makes me realize there is so much more to appreciate in life,” she says.

The wilderness club plans various outdoor activities for the UB medical school community, including students, faculty, residents, staff and their guests. Family medicine resident Rachel Larivee, MD, co-founded and leads the club.