Local Doctor Teaches Wilderness Training

A student is suspended upside down in a litter to prove that she’s tied securely in and ready to be transported.
A student is suspended upside down in a litter to prove that she’s tied securely in and ready to be transported.


The Montrose Search and Rescue team responds to a variety of emergencies, but one of the most common is hikers who go out into the wilderness and either lose their way or become injured and can’t make it back to their starting point.

Dr. John Rodarte knows all too well what can happen to those hikers who are injured and unprepared to deal with their situation. He is now helping to prepare a new generation of outdoor medics to be ready for whatever nature throws at them.

Rodarte is a pediatrician with a practice in La Cañada Flintridge and a member of the Montrose Search and Rescue team. Recently he was speaking at a medical seminar when he heard Dr. Matthieu De Clerck, an emergency room physician, speak. De Clerck had experience with wilderness survival training and last year started a Wilderness and Survival Medicine class at USC.

“The first year they had six students. This year there are 28 students,” Rodarte said.

Rodarte had been thinking about starting some form of wilderness class for another medical school, so when De Clerck offered him a teaching position in his USC class, he jumped at the chance.

The classes are for undergraduates and many do not have any medical training.

“The [students] are not medically trained, so I have to tailor the class toward that,” Rodarte said. Most of the students are outdoors people who are hikers, campers and mountain climbers.

The foundation of the class is to prepare students for the unexpected.

“We ask, ‘What would you do if something happens?’” he said.

The students will look at several aspects of outdoor emergencies. Rodarte covers a course in search and rescue, sharing his experiences with MSR.

The course includes seminars and field trips. Last weekend, Rodarte had his students attend a field trip at Hahamonga Park in Pasadena, where they learned about search and rescue procedures.

“Later I will be teaching [surviving] the unexpected night out. We will have an overnight field trip with that [class],” he said.

Other topics include gun safety, ocean survival with the U.S. Coast Guard, and addressing climbing injuries, wild land fires and lightning injuries. They will even learn about hyperbaric medicine on Catalina Island.

What is learned through this wilderness class can be used in everyday life and during natural disasters. It is also a good way of educating a new generation of smart hikers and campers.

“I could be planting a seed for the next generation of search and rescue [team members],” Rodarte said.

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