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Lander, WY. Generous donations from Swiss biomedical entrepreneur HansjÃ¶rg Wyss and a Wyoming ranching family have given the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) the holiday gift of its dreams: a wilderness medicine campus in the State of Wyoming.
NOLS, based in Lander, Wyoming, is the leading teacher of wilderness education worldwide. WMI of NOLS provides medical training for times when resources are scarce, including remote backcountry emergencies or incidents in the frontcountry when help is delayed. More than 100,000 students worldwide have benefited from WMI’s training, going on to become wilderness emergency responders, search and rescue team members, medical volunteers in underserved nations, professional healthcare practitioners, and more.
To continue to be the leading provider of wilderness medicine worldwide, WMI of NOLS needs a year-round residential education facility in Wyoming where it can house students and hold its many courses, which continue to increase in popularity. WMI offers two-day Wilderness First Aid courses, ten-day Wilderness First Responder courses, month-long Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) courses, as well as field-based Wilderness Medicine Expeditions. A campus is particularly important for the WEMT program, as 6 of the 14 WEMT courses the school currently runs are based out of Lander. In 2010, WMI of NOLS ran 51 courses in its home base of Lander, educating over 820 students. Ultimately, WMI of NOLS hopes to be able to significantly grow its Lander-based programming, from the current 820 students per year to possibly double that number.
Thanks to the generosity of HansjÃ¶rg Wyss as well as local Wyoming ranchers Dr. Charles and Mary Ann McMahon, WMI of NOLS is one step closer to making its vision into a reality. On December 28, NOLS purchased over 200 acres of land in a spectacular location outside Lander, Wyomingâ€”the ideal setting to conduct remote wilderness scenarios and a stunning and inspiring locationâ€”for the planned Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus.
The word â€œschoolâ€ brings to mind a traditional classroom with four walls and a ceiling. But while indoor spaces are part of the WMI educational experience, outdoor spacesâ€”where students practice what they learn in real-life remote wilderness scenarios played out in wild and realistic terrainâ€”are equally integral to the learning experience. The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus will be a perfect venue for these scenarios: river rescue scenarios can be staged on a river slicing through the property, red sandstone cliffs and uneven terrain provide options for search and rescue scenarios, and a maze of hoodoos, limber pines, and juniper studding the landscape create a maze ideal for night rescue scenarios.
It appears the stars aligned perfectly to make NOLS’ purchase of this property possible, as both Mr. Wyss and the McMahons share the school’s passion for medicine, education, and conservation of wild spaces. Mr. Wyss is a Swiss businessman, medical entrepreneur, and longtime president of bioengineering firm Synthes. With a $1.5 million gift and the potential for an additional $1.5 million matching gift, Mr. Wyss’ donation potentially will be the largest cash gift in the history of the school.
After having enjoyed this property for nearly 45 years, the McMahons too are delighted to be leaving it in the hands of an organization that will serve as a good steward of the land. â€œWe’re going to miss it,â€ said Mary Ann McMahon, who often took school children on day hikes to visit ancient petroglyphs inscribed in the sandstone cliffs above the property. â€œTo have NOLS buy this property is the best possible outcome we could ever hope for,â€ said Dr. McMahon, who practiced neurology in the local area for over 40 years. â€œWe knew NOLS would take care of the property, but when we found out that it would be used to build a medical education campus, I thought, â€˜well, that’s even better!’â€
NOLS’ purchase of the land is only the first step in realizing its vision. The school’s ultimate goal is to build a campus that will include both indoor and outdoor classroom space, meeting rooms, and residential and dining facilities. â€œAs thrilled as NOLS is to have this wonderful opportunity, our plans to complete the development of a campus on this property can only come to fruition with frugal management, careful planning, and the continued generosity of its many donors worldwide,â€ said John Gans, Executive Director of NOLS. â€œWe are absolutely ecstatic. A wilderness medicine campus will not only be of tremendous value to the school and its students, but it will be a lasting investment in the State of Wyoming as a whole. Thanks to Mr. Wyss’ generous contribution and the McMahons’ significant gift, the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus will become the premier center for wilderness and remote medicine training in the world.â€
Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is the leader in wilderness education, providing awe-inspiring, transformative experiences to more than 15,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwideâ€”from the Amazon rain forest, to rugged peaks in the Himalaya, to Alaskan glaciers and Arctic tundra. Graduates are active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. NOLS also offers customized courses through NOLS Professional Training, and the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS is the leading teacher of wilderness medicine worldwide. For more information, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.
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