By Corbin Smith
The Garhwal Himalaya range is located in Uttarakhand, India and is home to some of the tallest mountain ranges in the world. Not only does it have beautiful mountains and a glacier that feeds the Ganges River, but it also has sacred Hindu religious sites that can be found hidden in the mountain range. These religious sites draw thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year to go experience the wonder and beauty of these areas.
The mass travel to these remote mountain areas can lead to some problems, as I am sure you can imagine. While on the trails or on the pilgrimage, though, there is minimal access to medical care beyond the small and sparse clinics that are connected to each major temple. What if a pilgrim underestimates the effect of altitude on their hike and they get stuck somewhere on the journey? What if a tourist travels alone and sprains their ankle while walking on the path?
That is where associate teaching professor Dr. Craig Nuttall comes in. He has created a project called the Garhwal Mountain Rescue Project in response to this increasingly visible problem!
Do you remember the story about Extreme Wilderness Nursing? Don’t worry, I’ll give you a short recap. Nuttall, along with assistant teaching professor Scott Summers, received a special certification in mountain medicine from the University of New Mexico. They did a year-long online program and they participated in some outdoor nursing simulations to complete the course. So, basically, both Nuttall and Summers are extreme wilderness nurses. They, especially Nuttall, loves the outdoors and helping those who need their help outside the hospital.
Now, back to the story at hand. On a recent trip to the Himalayas, Nuttall noticed a major problem. “I could not get over the poverty, illness and health challenges that villagers, pilgrims, and climbers faced as they interacted with this rugged environment,” he says. He saw them struggle with a plethora of ailments, unable to get the necessary care to make sure their trip was a success. He goes on by saying, “I vowed I would do what I could to help improve access to medical care in this area.”
His solution was this: he was going to oversee the development of a first-of-its-kind training program for local medical professionals so they can be prepared to meet the outdoor heath care needs of the region. “We will be working to improve the medical care for those in one of the most challenging and remote mountain ranges in the world,” Nuttall explains, “Our hope is that this training program will benefit this region for years to come.”
Nuttall was asked to develop and implement this program by the All India Institute of Medical Services, a medical school based in New Delhi. It is a 6-12 month course that focuses on altitude and mountain medicine, something Nuttall has become heavily involved with since he received his DNP in New Mexico.
This project, however, also involves a long expedition and journey that Nuttall will take that will require him to adventure all across the Himalayas. That is where the Rivers Foundation 2020 Explorer Award come in. The Explorer Award is a recognition that honors individuals who are passionate about adventure and humanitarian service in developing regions of the world. Winners are those who care about education, development and medical well-being in poorer, international communities. Nuttall fits that description perfectly.
Each year the winner is given 5000 pounds (which is about 6200 US dollars) to invest in the expedition they presented to the Scientific Exploration Society, the group that awards the recognition. This year, as you can probably guess, our very own Dr. Craig Nuttall won the award!
“The people that live in these remote areas are some of the kindest loving people that I have met,” Nuttall says, speaking on what the future holds now he has received the award, “When they are sick they sometimes need to travel 12 hours by road to reach a hospital. They don’t have the luxury to have clinics all around them like we do. They need our help. My project may be just a start to addressing the problems they have, but it will definitely help.”
As of now, Nuttall’s plans are to continue to develop and perfect the course and continue to train a new group of medical providers to serve in these mountain villages in future years.