ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For outdoors enthusiasts, New Mexico is a breathtaking playground. But, it’s also a training ground for top medical responders from all over the world. The University of New Mexico’s International Mountain Medicine Center trains medical personnel on how to use their skills in rough terrain.

The beautiful trails in our own backyard can quickly go from stunning to scary. “Typically they’re lost. They are not prepared for the environment. So, we could see things like heat illness, if it is very hot, or hypothermia if it is very cold,” said Jason Williams, Director, UNM International Mountain Medicine Center. He also noted many people may twist their ankles or break a bone.

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Instances like these can lead to tricky rescues with limited resources. That’s where UNM’s International Mountain Medicine Center comes in. “We really wanted to blend those techniques and those concepts into rescue of the mountains and do it in a formalized way using a university platform to be able to educate healthcare providers all over the world,” said Williams.

UNM said the center has recently become one of the top mountain emergency rescue programs in the world, attracting students from all across the globe. “People can get sick anywhere, and it is very easy to think that you can just take the skills that you have in a hospital environment and apply them outside and I think the first time people are in there actually so much is different,” said Oscar Wigginton, a program participant from Australia.

One of the skills fellows were tested on was hiking and rappelling, which could help them get to the scene and mean the difference between death and a life-saving rescue. “The work is difficult sometimes, but it is very rewarding being able to take the aspects of medicine—really high-level medicine—and providing that care to patients up in the mountains who are sometimes in a very bad way,” said Williams. To read more about the center, click here.