Philmont Ranch and KU School of Medicine

July 22, 2014

Earlier this summer, I visited the nearly 140,000-acre Philmont Scout Ranch just outside Cimarron, New Mexico. Philmont is the Boy Scouts of America's largest national high-adventure base. Its 34 staffed camps and more than 60 trail camps are spread over a rugged 215 square miles. 

Every summer for the past 57 years, KU School of Medicine students, working under the supervision of KU faculty members, have served as the medics and drivers for the more than 20,000 scouts and their leaders and more than 1,000 staff members who go to Philmont every summer. Our School of Medicine students benefit greatly from the opportunity to learn first-hand from the wide variety of medical cases seen in a wilderness setting. They treat everything from bug bites and sunburn to more serious ailments such as broken bones, altitude sickness, heat stroke, appendicitis and gastroenteritis. 

The students also serve as the drivers who are often dispatched to far-flung wilderness camps to transport campers or leaders suffering from injury or illness back to the Philmont's Health Lodge medical facility. 

Our Philmont rotation is an experience that exemplifies KU Medical Center's strategic plan goal to educate outstanding students in a team-based learning environment.

This summer, we had 21 fourth-year medical students and two second-year medical students work at Philmont - representing all three of our School of Medicine campuses. Ten of our School of Medicine faculty volunteer for a week at a time at Philmont, including Garold Minns, dean of the School of Medicine-Wichita; William Cathcart-Rake, director of the School of Medicine-Salina; and Michael Kennedy, who is our dean of rural health. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to acknowledge the outstanding job done by Ken Goertz and Sallie Page-Goertz, both associate professors of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, who directed and organized this student rotation and preceptor coverage for 27 years, and David Naylor, an assistant professor of internal medicine, who is currently helping to coordinate the student rotations. Because of their hard work, our students, faculty, and alumni are provided with this incredible opportunity. 

When I was at Philmont in June, I couldn't help but think about how much the Boy Scouts and KU Medical Center share in common. We both know the importance of being prepared, we both help develop new skills and character in young people, and we both understand real-life experience is the best way to learn. It has been a wonderful partnership for more than half a century, and I'm hopeful it will continue for another 50-plus years. 

Last modified: Jul 23, 2014