Student-Doctors Learn Occupational Medicine with Help from Wildland Firefighters

A group of wildland firefighters recently visited the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), to meet with student-doctors and discuss how to manage their unique health care needs.

ICOM’s medical students were introduced to the basics wildland firefighting, and had an opportunity to see the equipment used by these firefighters.

“As future medical professionals, these wildland firefighters could end up in our office, emergency room or hospital floor. It’s important for physicians to understand the unique aspects of caring for these patients,” said Matthew Engel, OMS-II. “The ICOM Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine clubs feel it’s important for our future providers to gain an appreciation of these health care needs, and we were grateful to be able to host this amazing group of professionals on our campus.”

In addition to firefighters, ICOM’s student-doctors were joined by Dr. Jennifer Symonds, an osteopathic physician who serves as the first and only medical doctor for the U.S. Forest Service. Dr. Symonds, an adjunct faculty member of ICOM, discussed occupational medicine within this unique population, as well as the most common injuries and ailments wildland firefighters face on the job.

“Strains, sprains, lacerations, heat injury is a big one,” Dr. Symonds said. “Most of the firefighters, probably about 98% of them, are really good about staying hydrated, so dehydration is not usually a huge issue in our firefighters.”

The U.S. Forest Service employs approximately 10,000 wildland firefighters, including hand crews, Interagency Hotshot crews, engine crews, helitack crews, and smokejumpers.

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