The Survival Med Story
Natalie Bonthius, MD
Founder, Survival Med
Survival Med began in my backyard
Survival Med began in my Iowa backyard, “camping” with my brothers in tents made of bedsheets.
My parents believed in experiences rather than traditional birthday and Christmas gifts, so our outdoor adventures quickly escalated: riding donkeys up Santorini’s mountain passes, eating pine needles at my first survival course at Yosemite, scuba diving in the Adriatic, riding sleds pulled by dogs training for the Iditarod.
I kept exploring during college and medical school: biology research in New Zealand, a medical internship in Spain and Portugal, and skiing, rock climbing, hiking, camping, biking, running, kayaking, wakeboarding and scuba diving, anywhere I could get cheap transport, from the Alps to Hungary, Slovenia, Morocco and most national parks in the western U.S.
Things didn’t always go as planned, and I quickly realized that the best part was figuring out how to deal with the unexpected.
Dealing with the unexpected
That’s why it probably didn’t surprise anyone when I became an emergency and survival medicine physician.
I had conducted hypothermia research, worked with search & rescue teams, led a successful MedWAR Wilderness Medicine Challenge Race team, completed my AWEP, AWLS, ACLS & ATLS certification, and become a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine Candidate.
And I had seen over and over that many people don’t fully realize how fast things can go bad if you’re not prepared.
Emergency & survival medicine physician
Everyone needs to be ready
One patient from the ER really stands out for me: the guy who tried to suck rattlesnake venom out of his friend’s leg, after crushing the snake with a rock and throwing it in a cooler.
Good intentions, probably inspired by Hollywood—but terrible treatment decisions that could have led to catastrophe for both men.
It underscored for me that medical emergencies can and do happen anytime, anywhere, and everyone needs at least basic lifesaving knowledge.
A dose of reality
But I quickly realized that the reason most people don't have this knowledge is that in-person training is too expensive and inflexible, often even requiring travel and time off from work.
This didn't make sense to me. I knew firsthand that hybrid and online training were used to train doctors, nurses and paramedics. We even taught new surgical techniques via 360° video!
Why weren’t those choices available in wilderness medicine and outdoor first aid?
Why was lifesaving knowledge reserved only for those with plenty of spare cash and schedule flexibility?
I’m not someone who backs down from challenges, so I built an online learning platform to deliver solid clinical information at affordable prices—minus the travel costs, rigid schedules and in-person overhead.
Next we invented a new way to teach hands-on practical skills: training our students via photos and video as family, friends or coworkers serve as patients.
And in 2023 we launched even more realistic multilayered scenarios.
It turns out that people love training online, on their schedule.
Many say they learn more than they ever did in-person, because they’re the lead responder in every scenario, accountable for every assessment, treatment and evacuation decision. And every student gets 1:1 attention on every graded assignment.
And most importantly...
Survival Med students say it works. One WFR student used his training to survive a violent offroad rollover. Another aided a man injured in the desert. An aunt saved her nephew’s life with an EpiPen.
There have been doubters. Why is it so cheap? Is it a scam? Is the course any good at that price? The best answer comes from the hundreds of respected organizations that accept our certificates, the unfiltered five-star reviews from our students, and our money-back guarantee.
People say knowledge is power—and I believe that lifesaving knowledge is lifesaving power.
And since 2021, we’ve given 14000+ people around the world the power to step up when it matters most.
"A lot of information was provided in this course, some that was never touched on in my NOLS class." — David Rolfes
"[I'm] a trauma program consultant. I learned a lot I didn't know when it comes to wilderness medicine."—Gary Howard
"Incredible resource! I often work outdoors far from hospitals/the general public/cell phone service with a small team of people. This is so much more useful than OSHA training and even general first aid courses."—Delaney
"Great course. thank you for making it affordable. I am on a volunteer PSAR team and mountain bike unit and this would be a great addition to our required AED/CPR/FA volunteer courses."—Francine Sprigel