News & Features — 9 May 2024 at 5:17 pm

World Extreme Medicine (WEM) Conference 2023: pushing boundaries and considering our own

Dr Abbey Wrathall / ACCS (EM) CT3 / North Wales

Another beautiful autumnal weekend in Edinburgh draws to a close, and with it another World Extreme Medicine (WEM) conference. The Adventure Medic team was there all weekend, chatting to attendees and WEM staff alike, spreading the word about our website, and widening our network. In this piece, we will give you a rundown of our favourite sessions and our take-home messages from the conference. 

What is it?

A three day conference open to people from all career backgrounds and experience in extreme medicine. The event takes place at Dynamic Earth, a stunning venue found at the foot of Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags. It is an event to learn new skills, hear about novel research, discuss topics with the best in the field, and of course to have a jig at Saturday’s ceilidh. The conference is organised by experienced clinicians and instructors, who are specialists in delivering training for medical work in extreme environments worldwide.

Conference highlights

Mr Ken Hutt – he is setting out to be the oldest person to paraglide from the summit of Everest, whilst raising awareness and money for Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign.

Mr Alex Lewis and Dr Geoff Watson – a presentation about the relationship between Alex, who contracted life-threatening Toxic Shock Syndrome, and the doctor that saved his life. Alex has gone on to travel in extreme environments and become a motivational speaker.

Mr Benjamin Black – he led multiple sessions over the weekend, the most memorable being an exploration of how to deliver safe sexual and reproductive healthcare in environments where this is not always welcomed.

Dr Saleyha Ahsan – an eye-opening session on ‘Healthcare as a Weapon of War’, the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that medical care can be used to achieve battlefield objectives, and how we as clinicians can avoid being complicit in this.

Mr Jamie Pattison – a member of UKISAR, paramedic and winchman Jamie was an impressive yet relatable speaker. One of his sessions on how to carve a niche for yourself in the field of extreme medicine was particularly inspiring.

A sense of community

The WEM conference is accessible to a variety of disciplines. We were delighted by the range of people who came and spoke to us at the Adventure Medic stand: nurses, paramedics, dieticians, physiotherapists, police officers, first responders, and journalists. It was a refreshing group to move amongst and felt representative of the multi-faceted world of extreme medicine.

From humanitarian speakers to practical sessions on wilderness dentistry (from our own patron dentist Dr Burjor Langdana) and improvised medicine, everyone in attendance was keen to share their experience, and answered questions openly and honestly.

Dr Klara Weaver, Dr Alex Taylor and Dr Erin Kilborn were three speakers that exemplified this nicely, by not only highlighting the positives of working in a remote environments, but also the stark, sometimes lonely reality of practising medicine in these places. There was no omission of difficulties, but instead a balanced account of their experiences and the outcomes.

Research Presentations 

There were several sessions over the weekend that involved the presentation of original research. Two projects in particular caught our attention, not only because of the nature of the research, but because of the exciting ways in which they collected their data in remote environments.

Project NEPTUNE 100 ( took place in Key Largo, Florida and involved Dr Joseph Dituri living underwater for 100 days. During his time subaquatic, he conducted extensive physiological, psychological, and biochemical testing, measuring the body’s response to the stresses of living underwater.

Our very own Adventure Medic patron, Professor Chris Imray, along with the Inspire22 team, presented their experience of collecting data during a ski expedition to the South Pole. There were useful discussions on how to gain sponsorship for big trips and the necessity of exploring non-traditional financial avenues. The comradery amongst the team was evident in their panel talk and Q&A session, which emphasised that the experiences and friendships you make on an expedition are often the biggest takeaway.

Final thoughts

Without a doubt, there are two speakers that have stayed with us on our journeys home this year. The first, Dr Romain Pizzi, a wildlife veterinarian, who spoke about the ethical question of treating individual animals in the context of their habitat being destroyed. Secondly, Mr Martin Penmar, a trauma surgeon, who asked us to question whether all boundaries should be pushed, and reminded us that there are some lines that should not be crossed. This is a topic that is relevant to all of us, and encourages us to question the moral and ethical issues that lie behind practising medicine outside of the hospital environment.

Get Involved

If you came up and spoke to us at our stand and would like to get involved, please contact us at

The World Extreme Medicine Conference will once again return to Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on the 16th – 18th November 2024. To find out more and book your ticket, click here.