Catching Up with Matt Rosefsky, MEDIC SOLO Disaster + Wilderness Medical School

If you search for wilderness first aid in this area, it is more than likely that Matt Rosefsky’s name will pop up first. He is an instructor-trainer at MEDIC SOLO Disaster +Wilderness Medical School, which is celebrating its 12th year of teaching wilderness skills to more than 4,000 people. In addition to offering ongoing classes throughout the year in multiple states, Matt also works with numerous groups in the D.C. area to offer training, including partnering with DC UL to offer a private wilderness first aid class for members. And if his calendar wasn’t full enough, he also offers guided trips–in fact, he’s gearing up to lead one this summer to the Adirondacks and is inviting DC UL members to join him! Details can be found here

Matt carved out a few minutes to talk with us about how he got started and why it is important to have a good, working knowledge of first aid.

How did you get started with this line of work?
In 2000, I co-founded the UVA Outdoors club, and then in 2004 Outdoor Adventure Social Club — a blend of outdoor guide service and social activities.  Guiding a wide variety of outdoor adventures, and managing or co-managing the clubs, were great passions of mine. I figured I had better know some first aid to guide the professional trips, and so took the SOLO Wilderness First Responder course.  As the latter club grew (at one point, up to 40 guides!), I become a Wilderness EMT and SOLO instructor in order to teach Wilderness First Aid to our guides and the general public.

What’s the most common type of injury you see on a trip?
Fortunately, injuries on my trips are rare because I place a very strong focus on prevention and the preparedness of all participants.  Among the rare injuries, with hiking and backpacking, friction causing blisters and slips & falls would be the most common mechanisms of injury, and sprains/strains more common than fractures.

Why should people consider getting a WFA certification?
In another large meetup group, I’ve been made aware of and helped debrief some very significant incidents on simple day hikes, including even life-threatening injuries — and little to nothing was done for the injured, not deliberately so but because people didn’t realize or know what to do, how to assess a patient, how to look for injury and illness which do not immediately meet the eye.  The life-threatening injuries went completely undetected and those hikers are truly lucky to be alive. Had a wilderness first aider performed the Patient Assessment System, the hidden injuries would have been found, the life threats mitigated, and non-life-threatening injuries treated quickly in ways that would have drastically reduced further injury *and* recovery time for the patient. This is a very common mistake I hear about again and again — when someone becomes injured, *if* someone on the trail gives treatment (in several cases, the injured party just walked themself to their car), it’s only for what immediately meets the eye, without investigating further for other injuries to the patient as a whole.

What should everyone have in their first aid kit?
Everything that one has been trained to use.  I reminisce to sweet times when I day-hiked in mountains prior to knowing anything about first aid; in one shorts pocket was a water bottle, in the other some trail mix, and absolutely nothing on my back.  Those were the days! The more I learned, the bigger my first aid kit and pack grew. It doesn’t bother me to carry a lot of weight now on a day hike; I actually like it because I know I’m getting a better workout.  On 50 or 100 mile backpacking trips without resupply, yes, I trim down my kit, to probably 3 pounds or so. One can see what’s in my kit by clicking on “About” and then “First aid kits” at; that may give some folks ideas on what they might like to put in their own kits.

Photo by Matt R. 

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