WVSOM’s Rural Practice Day features live helicopter demo

Lewisburg residents might wonder why medical and military helicopters will be landing on WVSOM’s campus this weekend.  

The answer — it’s part of a live demo during the fourth annual Rural Health Initiative (RHI) Rural Practice Day, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 7. The event will educate students about rural practices through testimonials from rural physicians, as well as allow participants to learn about financial incentive programs available for rural practices. 

The live demonstration will begin at 10:15 a.m. and include an air-medical evacuation simulation with helicopters from the National Guard, HealthNet and Air Evac. One of those choppers will be a Black Hawk — weighing in at about 20,000 pounds compared to its medical helicopter counterparts at 3,000 pounds, according to James Mason, a second-year RHI student. 

He said that a “fake” hazardous weather condition, such as a blizzard, will be simulated during Saturday’s event. The simulation exercise will give participants an understanding of the process involved in an air medical evacuation from rural clinics and hospitals.

“This simulation incorporates everything RHI is a part of, including rural medicine, individuals who work with disaster situations and civilians,” Mason said. 

Steve Eshenaur, D.O, state surgeon of the West Virginia National Guard and WVSOM 1996 graduate, said the live demo including helicopters from various agencies has never been done in West Virginia before. It is a unique opportunity for participants to understand an air medical system.

“The most important piece attendees will receive is when is it appropriate to utilize aero medical assets. The second is its capability. What is the capability of an air medical system? Attendees will see firsthand the air frames, how to load a patient, hear from crews, understand what the aircraft is capable of, when they would get a call and why helicopters would be called,” Eshenaur said. 

Art Rubin, D.O., FACOP, MHA, WVSOM Class of 1979 and the Statewide Campus South Central Region assistant dean, will be one of the physician speakers discussing primary care medicine.

“I am happy to be a participant in this year’s Rural Practice Day. Although I practiced pediatrics in Charleston for many years, which may not be looked at as “rural,” my population base included much of the surrounding rural counties,” he said. “It is important to understand the communities we serve and to recognize the medical disparities of those communities to provide quality medical care. WVSOM serves the people of West Virginia and it is incumbent on us to provide this education and opportunities to our students.”