Wilderness, Travel, Occupational, and Aviation Medicine at Wonder Medicine Clinic in Boise, Idaho
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
At Wonder Medicine, we pride ourselves on keeping people safe and healthy in any environment. We have chosen this as our slogan and call to arms. Wonder Medicine can take care of most health-related issues. However, many other good and holistic direct primary care clinics can also do this. What sets us apart from other clinics, is our unique ability to keep both healthy and unhealthy people safe in potentially dangerous or uncertain environments.
I have always loved the natural world. Austere environments and activities like skiing and mountaineering call to me. Before medicine, my interests centered around science, nature, and research. However, I wanted to be more prepared in the event of a medical emergency in the backcountry. So, at age 18 I took a Wilderness First Responder course. This was my first clinical medicine experience. Needless to say, I loved it. I went on to become an emergency medical technician (EMT), and eventually a medical doctor.
A First Responder course gives instruction in the field of wilderness medicine. Anytime a person is one hour away from any formal medical care, like hospitals, we call this wilderness medicine. This field is defined by limited or a lack of resources, uncontrolled environments, and prolonged extractions. As I tend to thrive in highly chaotic environments with limited resources, this medical discipline spoke directly to me. Even as an EMT, I started a business in Colorado teaching Wilderness First Aid and First Responder courses. They are a blast and so valuable when taught correctly, that I have decided to offer these courses through Wonder Medicine clinic as well.
In my residency I trained in a specialty, rural Family Practice, at the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, Caldwell Rural Training Track. Basically, I practice like most doctors did 50 to 100 years ago. I treat kids, adults, pregnant women, outpatients, inpatients, and critically ill patients. In rural areas you learn to do more with less people, less resources, and less money. My training centers around the ability to go to a small town and function autonomously. It is easy to see the parallels between rural medicine and wilderness medicine- both require a provider that can do whatever is necessary. Someone with grit.
My wife Karlee (clinic registered nurse, travel, and vaccine coordinator) loves to travel. She has been to 6 of 7 continents and spent a lot of time abroad. Like her, I love to travel as well. We have had the privilege of going to Iceland, Peru, British Columbia, among many other places together. When one of my wilderness medicines papers, Mountain Medical Kits, was denied from a wilderness medicine journal, I decided to submit it to The Journal of Travel Medicine, an awesome journal and medical society that accepted it. The link between travel and wilderness medicine is strong, and the two disciplines complement each other. Again, they highlight how to keep people safe and healthy in potentially dangerous environments.
I am proud to admit that I have a blue-collar side. Rolling up my sleeves and doing a demolition or building project brings great joy to me when I am not in clinic or the hospital. This type of work is so much more fun when you do not do it every day! In high school a friend, Kevin Capps (Denver Mountain Guiding founder), and I, started a deck power washing and staining business called Bigfoot Woodcare. We ended up doing a lot of landscaping as well. I have also done boots-on-the-ground work renovating houses. But I am most proud of the renovation work we recently did on the Wonder Medicine clinic building. Had we not bought this 80-year-old Spanish building, it would have been leveled to make room for a high-density apartment complex. If you ever get the chance, stop in and see Wonder Medicine clinic! We are so proud of repurposing this gem.
In the United States healthcare system, poor people can apply to receive medical aid for medical expenses. On the other hand, wealthy individuals can afford the obscene prices charged by medical insurance. Alarmingly, the people who are currently being marginalized the most are the working, middle-class people. I am talking about people who roll up their sleeves every day and make $25,000 to $70,000 a year. These are the drivers of our society. Sadly, in healthcare, they are the most marginalized. Workers are the people I am most passionate about and that is why Wonder Medicine has been designed specifically for these individuals.
A few years ago, when I started studying occupational medicine, it all clicked. Here is another medical discipline, focused around keeping people healthy in dangerous environments. We ask these people to work with hazardous chemicals, radiation, and harmful substances in conditions that are often highly adverse. Extreme temperatures, long hours, and physically demanding tasks are often encountered in many such jobs. On top of this, I realized that my interest in toxicology, or the study of the harmful effects of substances on the human body, had a perfect companion in occupational exposures.
So, I hit the books, dissected OSHA regulations, became proficient at pulmonary function tests, and took deep dives into topics like lead, mercury, and industrial solvents. As such, Wonder Medicine is proud to offer physicals for pre-employment, HAZWOPER, HAZMAT, respirator, lead, and other OSHA required health screenings and surveillance.
Currently I am waiting to take the test to perform department of transportation (DOT) physicals. My tests is scheduled in November 2020 and has been delayed 6 months due to the COVID19 pandemic. Also, next month (October 2020), I am taking the basic medicine course to perform FAA class 2 and 3 medical physicals for pilots and airman. Since 2011 I have been a private pilot. Aviation has always been a big passion of mine. As such, I am so excited to become an Aviation Medical Examiner for the FAA. DOT and FAA physicals represent yet another example of keeping people safe and healthy in dangerous environments. Wonder Medicine should be offering both of these services by December of 2020!
While wilderness, travel, occupational, and aviation medicine only affect some of us, the health of the natural environment affects all of us. Sadly, our environment has become polluted. The water and fish in the ocean have high levels of mercury, the air in many of our cities has become harmful to breathe, and environmental contaminants from industry are beginning to affect human health. Environmental medicine is a growing field that deals with these types of issues. As environmental medicine will effect all of us, the idea of keeping people healthy in dangerous environments has never seemed more relevant. Interestingly, my career seems to be coming full circle, back to the natural world, where this great journey all began.
When people ask me what I specialize in, I tell them rural family practice and hospital medicine. But what I am most passionate about are the fields of wilderness, travel, occupational, and aviation medicine. All of these fields are bound by one unified concept, which has become Wonder Medicine’s slogan. When you combine the direct primary care with all of the above, you get something very special. That is, a wellness clinic focused on keeping you healthy in any environment.
Bill Brandenburg, MD