Seth C. Hawkins, MD


Morganton doctor named Fellow of The Explorers Club




(The News-Herald) — Dr. Seth Collings Hawkins of Morganton was recently inducted as a Fellow of The Explorers Club.

The Explorers Club is headquartered in New York City where it was founded in 1904. With current Chapters across the globe, The Explorers Club has been supporting scientific expeditions and field study in all disciplines for over a century.

Hawkins is an anthropologist, writer, and physician, double double-boarded in both emergency medicine and EMS (field medicine). He has decades of experience supporting expeditions throughout the world, particularly in the disciplines of medicine and anthropology.

He serves as medical advisor/director for the NC Outward Bound School, NC State Parks, the Student Conservation Association, Recreational Equipment, Inc (REI), and the National Association for Search and Rescue. He is also the Local Emergency Medical Advisor for all US Forests in North Carolina and the National Park Service Outer Banks (Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras National Seashores). He is co-author of Vertical Aid: Essential Wilderness Medicine for Climbers, Trekkers, and Mountaineers, editor of the textbook Wilderness EMS, co-editor of the new second edition of Expedition & Wilderness Medicine, and founder of multiple wilderness medicine organizations, as well as medical director for multiple wilderness EMS teams and schools. He earned his Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) with the inaugural class in 2007, and also became the first physician designated a Master Fellow by the Academy of Wilderness Medicine in 2014, with specialization in wilderness EMS.

He earned his Fellowship in the Academy of EMS with the inaugural class in 2014. He serves as Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and is the Associate Director of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine Wilderness Medicine Fellowship. He is also currently a graduate student at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in its dual degree anthropology-public health master’s degree program. He has published widely in the wilderness medicine literature, including as coauthor of several Wilderness Medical Society clinical practice guidelines. He earned his Diploma in Mountain Medicine at the University of New Mexico International Mountain Medicine Center in its 2023-24 Diploma class.

As well as supporting and participating in expeditions around the world, closer to his home in the US state of North Carolina (NC), Hawkins has run the Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship every year since 2011.

This program, frequently cited by its participants as the “best month of medical school,” takes two medical students/resident physicians and intensively trains them in wilderness EMS and expedition medicine over a one-month residential period. The program originated in Burke County, NC, as a county-based program, but in 2021 it became expeditionary and now uses the entire state of North Carolina as its classroom.

Dr. Hawkins comments for NCMS Members:

I very much see activities with The Explorers Club being consistent with an overall theme in my medical career: ensuring the quality of medical care delivered in wilderness areas is equivalent (or even sometimes superior) to the care delivered in other spaces. For sure the type of care may be different, but there is no intrinsic reason the quality should be less. More specifically here in North Carolina, my work is directed towards patients with a medical situation, for example, at the top of Attakulla (now known as Mt. Mitchell), in the waters or the shores of the Outer Banks, or deep in the forests of the Smoky Mountains. From both a medical and a public health perspective, their medical care is as important as the care of anyone anywhere else, and in some senses the stakes are higher. The spirit of The Explorers Club is one of curiosity and scientific enquiry into the interstitial and remote spaces of the world, and I’m excited to bring a medical perspective to that spirit.


In its most recent iteration in September of 2023, Hawkins and Externs David Baskin (Wake Forest University) and Brian Drury (Brown University) collectively traversed more than 18,000 kilometers in only four weeks. Their training and medical care operations took them throughout North Carolina, including both the highest mountain and the deepest gorge in eastern North America as well as a remote Atlantic Ocean island where emergency transport is only accomplished by helicopter or ferry. They trained with one of the oldest North American medical communities, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and one of the newest, the US Forest Service’s recently established EMS system. They slept on sea dunes and by rivers and mountains throughout the state, with more than half of the work completely in the field, sleeping in tents and training in the natural environment. The Externship also includes the Wake Forest-UNC WildMed Lake Weekend, where dozens of medical students travel to Lake James State Park in North Carolina and paddle out to a water-only accessible peninsula where they train in wilderness and expedition medicine skills for a weekend.

More internationally, Hawkins has contributed to scientific and expeditionary work in Australia, India, Costa Rica, England, Finland, Bhutan, Vietnam, China and Canada, among other locations. His expeditionary interests include both full-scale expeditions and smaller microadventures, a concept popularized by Alastair Humphrey.

Hawkins’s membership as a Fellow of The Explorers Club was advanced by current members Dr. Gregory H. Bledsoe, founder of the Expedition Medicine National Conference and lead editor of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine, and Dr. Kenneth Kamler, author of Doctor on Everest and Surviving the Extremes.