If you’re an accomplished medical professional that’s looking to get more experience in the world of wilderness medicine, FAWM might just be what you need. More formally known as the Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, FAWM is a professional development opportunity for anyone looking to become more proficient in the world of outdoor and remote medicine.
But, is FAWM the right choice for your career progression?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what FAWM is and how it works. We’ll walk you step-by-step through what it takes to become a fellow and what you ought to know before you get started.
What is FAWM?
FAWM, or the Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine is a program offered by the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS). It is a unique opportunity for medical students and providers who want to gain more experience in outdoor and environmental medicine.
Becoming a fellow in the academy is a multi-step process that involves taking multiple professional development courses and attending a slew of Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) conferences. Candidates must also submit an experience report that demonstrates how they’ve contributed towards the advancement of wilderness medicine.
After gaining fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, fellows are entitled to the use of post-nominals (FAWM), as well as a handful of other benefits. Whether you’re a seasoned emergency medicine physician, an eager paramedic, or an enthusiastic medical student, there’s something for everyone in the FAWM program.
How Does FAWM Work?
Like many other medical association academies, candidates for Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine must accumulate a certain quantity of credits that demonstrate their public service and activity in the world of austere medicine.
The process for becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine is fairly extensive. So, let’s take a look at what it takes to become a member of the most prestigious fellowship in mountain medicine:
What Are the Requirements for FAWM?
Before you sign up to work toward your FAWM, it’s important that you understand what’s involved in the process. Some key requirements of the program include:
- Membership in the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) – If you want to start accumulating FAWM credits and become a candidate, you first need to be an active professional or student member of the WMS. Otherwise, any credits you might have received through eligible CME courses won’t be counted on your record. However, do note that you can sometimes claim a credit for past eligible course work completed within 120 of joining the WMS.
- Enrollment as a FAWM Candidate – To start accumulating credits, you need to verify your enrollment as a candidate. To do so, you must complete the online application and pay a candidacy fee for the program. At the time of writing, this fee was $225, though this can change at any time.
- Accumulation of Core & Elective Credits – After you become a candidate, you can start accumulating credits for FAWM. You need to complete a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 80 Core and Experience credits before you’re eligible for membership. You can gain these credits through a number of remote and in-person events, including search and rescue training programs, NOLS classes, journal articles, conferences, expeditions, and similar wilderness medicine-related courses. Check the WMS website for up-to-date information on eligible training opportunities in core and elective topics.
- Adequate Experience Credits – In addition to Core and Elective credits, FAWM members need to accumulate a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 40 experience credits. You get credits for completion of certain college and degree programs. Additionally, you can get credits on your experience report for service to WMS committees, wilderness medicine research, previous relevant teaching experience, and service as a medic on an expedition or on a search and rescue team.
What Are the Benefits of FAWM?
After you complete all the required FAWM credits, you become an official Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. Being a fellow entitles you to a number of benefits, including continued CME opportunities for physicians and other medical practitioners, and use of the FAWM post-nominals.
Additionally, fellows are entitled to access to a handful of pro purchase programs upon completion of all their FAWM credits. These pro purchase programs offer discounts on outdoor equipment so you can be outfitted for all your future adventures.
Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine: Getting Started
If you’re interested in fellowship with the Wilderness Medicine Academy, there are a few things you’ll need to do before you get started. Here’s what you need to know:
How Much Does FAWM Cost?
There is no single answer to how much FAWM costs to complete. The base cost of the program is the member fee for the WMS ($50 to $195 for one year) plus a $225 candidacy fee. The candidacy fee is good for a single 5-year period. However, you can renew your candidacy by paying the fee a second time.
In addition to these base costs, candidates will need to pay for the cost of any events or clinical trainings that they attend to accumulate credits towards the program. Costs for each certification and for conferences vary widely. Here are some example costs of popular education opportunities that are eligible for fellowship credit:
- Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS): $1,2500
- Wilderness Medical Society Conferences: $200 to $2,000
- Online CME: $50 to $100
- Survival Skills Courses: $200 to $600
- Adventure CME: $800 to $2,500
Of course, the exact cost that you pay will depend on what elective courses you choose to add to complete. There are some no-fee ways to earn credit for the fellowship, such as by reading online journal articles, but these are limited.
Fellowship in the academy is designed for experienced medical professionals. As such, there are a few prerequisites in place before you can begin.
As we’ve already mentioned you must be an active member of the WMS before you can accumulate credits towards the completion of your fellowship application. However, this is just one part of the process.
Candidates must hold an initial medical certification. This is generally limited to physicians and other medical professionals with one of the following certifications or degrees:
In some cases, the WMS will consider candidates with other degrees, but this is done on a case-by-case basis.
Also note that candidates must have at least 1 year of experience in medicine before the completion of their fellow credits.
Medical students that are enrolled in a school of medicine are welcome to become a candidate and begin collecting credits. However, medical students cannot complete their certification while still in school. Rather, medical students must accumulate all of the core, elective, and experience report credits they need and get a year of professional practice done before they receive a certification from the WMS.
After FAWM: Next Steps at the Wilderness Medical Society
After becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, you have a handful of opportunities to continue gaining related experience in the field through continuing development courses, training, and certification programs.
One option for continuing your education in wilderness medicine is to become a Master Fellow. Master Fellows must accumulate an additional 2 years of experience after their initial certification. They must also provide the WMS with a report about their research and community-focused activities within the world of outdoor emergency medicine.
Alternatively, after completion of the fellow program, experienced wilderness medical providers can consider becoming a student in either the Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DiMM) or the Diploma in Dive and Marine Medicine (DiDMM).
Each of these degrees has a unique curriculum, but they each provide members with a more nuanced look at certain aspects of austere medicine.
A candidate for either degree must attend practical courses, conferences, and other related events for successful completion of their DiMM or DiDMM. So, it’s a great option for WMS members that want to practice their skills outside.
Here are our answers to some of your most commonly asked questions about how to become a fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine:
To become a wilderness physician, you first need to graduate with a degree from a school of medicine. After, you must complete your residency and gain experience in providing medical care in austere environments. There are also some fellow programs that you can apply for that offer a curriculum designed specifically for people who want to practice wilderness medicine.
The Wilderness Medicine Fellowship is a community of like-minded medical providers that have an interest in providing medical care in remote or austere environments. Membership in the program involves completing coursework and training in providing trauma and medical support in high-altitude or expedition environments.
A FAWM doctor is any physician that has demonstrated a commitment to the world of wilderness medicine. These physicians have completed a substantial amount of training in the field and they have provided public service for the community to further research in outdoor and remote medicine.
Wilderness medicine is important because it can provide life-saving care to people having a medical emergency far from a hospital or clinical medical practice. Professionals who provide wilderness medicine have the skills necessary to help others in need in austere locations.
Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine: The Verdict
Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine is a unique opportunity for anyone looking to gain more hands-on experience in outdoor and environmental medicine. The program is arduous and long, though it offers unparalleled opportunities for growth and development as a medical provider in the great outdoors.