Bringing Wilderness Medicine to New Areas: the 1st Annual Cuyahoga Valley Conference

August 1, 2023
By Sarah Sarfaty, AEMT

When most people first think of wilderness, or the austere environment, they think of remote mountain ranges, untouched deserts, or deserted islands. However, wilderness medicine has found a large following in Ohio, of all places. The austere setting doesn’t need to apply only to these high ticket destinations, but can be found in the remote areas of the midwest. 

Brandywine Falls

Spearheading the effort to bring wilderness medicine is Dr Christopher Bazzoli of Cleveland Clinic. He is an emergency Medicine and Flight Physician in Cleveland, Ohio as well as academic faculty at the Cleveland Clinic for the MetroHealth/CCF EM Residency. He has been involved in wilderness medicine education, content creation, and course development with AdventureMed for over a decade. The medical scene in Ohio is huge, with a number of schools and residency programs in the state. This doesn’t even count for operating medical professionals. The midwest has been overlooked in terms of wilderness medicine and Dr Bazzoli has been working hard to correct this error. 

Dr Bazzoli and Dr Hertz outside the Happy Days Lodge

On May 10, 2023, he ran his first annual Cuyahoga Valley Wilderness Medicine Conference in Cuyahoga National Park. This urban park can be found thirty minutes outside Cleveland, and was home to the Lenapé Nation, along with the Ottawa, Ojibwe, Munsee, Miami, Potawatomi and others. It was the ninth most visited national park in the United States in 2022, with 2,913,312 visitors. The conference was held in the Happy Days Lodge, which might be too small to use next year if any more people choose to attend.

Left: Dr Williams giving a ” Fundamentals in Field Dentistry” lecture

Right: Members of the EMS teams around Cleveland answering questions related to SAR callouts

Bazzoli’s conference had a special track for the nearby residency programs, but was also open to the public. The occupancy for the conference was maxed out with almost 150 in attendance. Thanks to AdventureMed, attendees were able to register for sessions they found most interesting, and earn AMA PRA Cat. 1 CME credits and Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) credits. This credit type is applicable to a wide range of medical governing bodies, allowing for a diverse attendee group.


Left: Metro Life Flight Helicopter landing for a demonstration

Right: Davis demonstrating how to shoot a Bearing for “Land Navigation”

The educators for this event, all Ohio residents, were able to showcase their unique specialties. Topics ranged from foundational knowledge such as the patient assessment system and a tactical combat casualty care introduction to niche topics such as auricular acupuncture for acute pain and fundamentals of ropes and knots. The full schedule, along with the faculty is available here

Left: Participants running through a scenario

Right: One of the Cleveland players in moulage for a mass casualty scenario

With such a full showing, and overwhelmingly positive feedback, Bazzoli is sure to run the conference again next year. This fall, he will shift his focus back to Wilderness Life Support for Medical Professionals, with a class running in September.  Wilderness medicine is applicable to the heart of the United States, and Bazzoli will continue to provide opportunities for the people living there to enjoy this branch of medicine.