Medical Volunteers

Thanks for your interest in becoming a medical volunteer for First Descents! Volunteering for a First Descents program not only provides an opportunity to care for participants, but it also allows you to share in the excitement of a First Descents program first-hand. You don’t have to already be a skilled kayaker or climber to help out. Below is more detailed information regarding volunteering for FD. In addition to volunteering as medical staff, First Descents is also looking for uniquely experienced individuals to help with the pre-program process (see below). Let us know how you can help!


First Descents programs are attended by a wide range of cancer survivors with varying illnesses and health problems. Typically, these participants are either finished with their therapy or are undergoing more chronic cancer treatment. The FD model allows program participants who have shared the experience of cancer to also share the experience of the outdoors with an aim towards healing. We have a screening process that matches participants with particular programs to ensure their success. Most medical issues arising at programs typify those seen at any outdoor camp (bumps, sprains, insect bites, altitude illness, etc.) However, given the fact that many participants have continued effects from their cancer treatments (fatigue, neuropathy, amputations, seizures), FIRST DESCENTS wants to ensure a safe environment for participation. Our partnering outfitters are experienced at dealing with medical issues as they arise just as they are at any of their other program offerings for non-cancer survivors. However, we welcome experienced medical volunteers to lend their expertise and provide another layer of safety. See below for more details!


First Descents welcomes any of the above to come and volunteer at one of our programs as a MedicalVolunteer. Participants are screened and released by their own treating physician prior to the program. The Medical Volunteer’s role is to assist the program Lead Staff with creating a safe environment and experience.  First Descents Lead staff all carry a current WFR or better (EMT, WEMT) and we provide basic medical supplies including emergency medical kits aimed at the BLS level (basic airway management). Further supplies can be brought at the volunteer’s discretion.  Medical Volunteers are able to help with many program activities, and can often provide helpful insights into the program experience given their healthcare background or activity-specific expertise. Additionally, Medical volunteers may provide first aid or medical assistance in the event of an emergency.

*Please note that “Good Samaritan” Laws should apply to most emergency situations that arise, however, all medical volunteers must have a valid license in the state where they are volunteering. For questions, exceptions, or further information about this, please contact Paul-[email protected]org.


First Descents uses an on-line pre-program screening process to best-fit applicants with a specific program. We are looking for oncology health-care providers (nurses/physicians/mid-levels) who can help us in the screening process and provide advice with regards to specific treatment and medication side effects as they may relate to a specific program or activity. If you have an interest in this important function then please let us know!

Larry O. Smith, MD, FACEP

Medical Director, First Descents

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