SOLO Schools

SOLO took root in the early 1970s and grew out of the vision of its founders Frank Hubbell and Lee Frizzell (husband and wife). As Frank recalls, pre-hospital care was in its infancy, and an organized EMS system didn’t exist yet in New Hampshire. The concept of providing emergency care to the sick and injured revolved around what is today referred to as the “Golden Hour.” “As skiers, climbers, and EMTs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we would respond to the call for injured hikers and climbers,” Frank remembers. “It very quickly became apparent that the skills that we had learned as ‘street EMTs’ did not work in the wilderness environment. We had to learn how to provide care outside the golden hour. But, that information was not readily available—we had to learn it through experience.” Frank’s frustration with the lack of an appropriate “wilderness” standard led to the creation of one of the first wilderness emergency medicine courses in the country. By 1975, a basic “Mountain/Woods First Aid” course was taken on the road by Frank, and taught to the few groups who could see its value. That course outline and objectives remain the foundation of our most popular course today, Wilderness First Aid. In 1976, Frank and Lee (a trained educator), began growing the dream of creating a school to develop and teach various aspects and levels of outdoor/wilderness medicine. They named that school SOLO, for Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities. The following year, 1977, Frank taught the first official “SOLO” course in his parents’ living room. The same SOLO team soon broke ground on Tasker Hill, just south of Conway, and began construction of the unique three-story post-and- beam structure that would become SOLO’s headquarters. Today, this building houses our main classrooms and stands as the centerpiece of our expanding campus. While the Main Building was being completed, another structure, the Octagon, was constructed as a kitchen and dining facility. Later a dormitory, staff cabin, and stone meditation center were added. Most recently SOLO has built a two-story facility with staff offices, guest rooms, a complete kitchen, and a classroom for smaller groups. From then on, SOLO began to grow, running a variety of wilderness medicine courses, street EMS programs, and a number of rescue courses at both their NH campus and across the country for organizations like Outward Bound, the Appalachian Mountain Club, numerous college and university outing clubs, outing gear stores, Scouts, and various branches of the military in addition to all types of outdoor guides. Courses ranged from the two-day Wilderness First Aid to the month-long integrated Wilderness EMT which culminated in a National Registry certification and a SOLO WEMT certification. SOLO also offered Advanced Life Support classes at the paramedic level for a few years, but has dropped back to an intensive Advanced EMT. In 1982, Frank had decided to further his medical education and became a Physician Assistant. During this time, SOLO founded the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter, and the staff published articles in that and other major EMS journals. Lee left her teaching career to take over the role of SOLO’s director when Frank went off to the New England College of Osteopathic Medicine to become a physician which led to his appointment to NH’s Medical Control Board where he still serves. He also formed a medical practice where he splits his time between seeing patients and returning to SOLO to teach in classes. In 1990 the publication of the first edition of “Medicine for the Backcountry” by Frank Hubbell and Buck Tilton, who would later begin SOLO West which became Wilderness Medicine Institute and later NOLS Wilderness Medicine gained immediate popularity. Later this team would create the first ever Wilderness First Responder book. Our reputation and popularity caught the attention of the PBS television series Trailside, which featured a segment filmed at the Tasker Hill campus. Accreditation from the University System of New Hampshire was sought, and committees from two colleges, the New Hampshire College for Lifelong Learning and Sterling College in Vermont, reviewed SOLO programs and approved credits for students enrolled in the their programs. A growing number of schools of higher learning began incorporating SOLO WEMT or Wilderness First Responder into their semester programs. SOLO continued to be represented at important conferences and participated in several consensus curriculum development committees. In 1998, SOLO was featured in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Health and Medicine” supplement, and in 1999, we were the focus of a Time magazine column on Wilderness 911. SOLO’s wilderness medical protocols, originally approved by the newly developed Medical Control Board were reviewed and formally adopted by the State of NH. There is now a section in the state’s protocols for longterm care. SOLO focused much energy on establishing TMC Books, and this arm of SOLO continues to publish SOLO  materials as well as books dedicated to outdoor skills. Frank Hubbell was the recipient of NH’s prestigious David J. Connor EMS Appreciation Award in recognition of his long-term dedication to NH’s Emergency Medical Services; and SOLO’s was honored with the “Educator of the Year” at the New Hampshire EMS Conference. Developing new programs to meet the ever-changing needs of emergency medicine delivery in austere environments or remote places continues to be a main goal for SOLO. Courses like Travel Medicine and Missionary Medicine along with Disaster Medicine and GeoMed are illustrative of this. An issue of “Outside Magazine” gave the nod to SOLO courses in an article entitled “50 Ways to Live Large” as one of the 50 things from around the world that you need to do before you die, and “AMC Outdoors” featured a piece on the SOLO WFR program. Newpaper and television coverage of SOLO programs is increasing around the country as more and more SOLO instructors “set up shop” across the country. There are now several officially recognized SOLO satellite sites, among them being SOLO Southeast, part of the very popular and beautiful Nantahala Whitewater Center in North Carolina.

Since SOLO had been a licensed NH rescue unit for years, the staff and students continue to volunteer on backcountry search and rescue missions in the White Mountains. During many of our classes SOLO students join NH Fish and Game and local SAR groups to go out on real rescue missions, which has a tremendous impact on them. In response to increasing disasters and adventure travel, SOLO has done trainings in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Japan, China, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Nepal, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Scotland, Canada… More partnerships have been formed as programs for indigenous people became a new focus for SOLO. Following the earthquake in Haiti, teams from SOLO made trips to that devastated nation for several months to assist in urban clinics and rural medical centers. When SOLO teaches in under-developed countries, our students are also instructed in how to offer short courses to people in outlying areas.

In 2014, SOLO’s most ambitious publishing project yet was realized after several years effort when Dr. Hubbell’s “WILDCARE” book was released—three decades of SOLO teaching and innovation consolidated into a gorgeous, 340-page, hard-cover textbook for SOLO’s WFR and WEMT students. From a gathering in a living room over 30 years ago, SOLO has grown into a large, diverse organization: a leader not only in medicine, but also in education and standards as well. From basic first aid—still the foundation of SOLO’s purpose—we now find instructors teaching around the country as well as internationally, reaching outdoor users, trip leaders, expeditioners, missionaries, and medical care providers. By the end of 2016,hundreds of thousands of people will have taken a SOLO class. SOLO is pleased to have been working with a number of the most established schools on writing consensus curriculum documents for the most popular of the wilderness medicine courses offered. We believe in collaboration, not competition.