Last month, Justin Padgett, an active member of the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of NOLS community, was recognized with the most prestigious wilderness medicine award in the southern Appalachians.
According to the Appalachian Center for Wilderness Medicine (ACWM), the recipient of its Mountain Laurel Award is someone who has “made extraordinary, lasting and substantial contributions to wilderness medicine.”
“We are delighted to award a wilderness medicine leader as deserving as Justin,” the ACWM announced.
Padgett is the co-founder and executive director of Landmark Learning, a year-round, multi-certification training center for outdoor educators and emergency medical personnel. In addition, he is a multi discipline ACA Instructor Trainer. His co-founder and wife, Mairi Padgett, said Justin feels the recognition was the result of team effort by his whole staff.
“His motivations are not to win awards, but to provide the best educational training he can,” she said.
Landmark Learning began in North Carolina in 1996 with programs that involve medicine, rescue, paddlesports, and outdoor skills. He has also created two original courses—a medic relief program and the Wilderness Starguard Program.
“His current courses include some of the most innovative wilderness and EMS training now being offered anywhere in the world,” said ACWM Executive Director Seth Hawkins.
The relief medic program trains community members, both domestically and abroad, in what to do in the first 48 to 72 hours of a natural disaster.
“We need a community that can give first aid or give long-term assessments,” Mairi said.
So Landmark Learning developed a course to train interested students for basic disaster preparedness.
The second program Justin launched, the Wilderness Starguard Program, was created because backcountry trips include stops at lakes and ponds that haven’t been assessed for safety. “We felt there was a hole in the training out there,” Mairi said. So they collaborated with Starguard to craft a curriculum through which instructors learn how to assess bodies of water and students’ swimming abilities and to improvise lifeguard rescues with backcountry gear.
After a decade, Landmark grew to be the southeastern regional training resource for camps, college outing clubs, rafting companies, therapeutic recreation providers, and school-based outdoor education programs. Then in 2007 they entered into their current partnership with NOLS to administer WMI courses in the southeastern U.S.
“Justin is a valued member of our team,” said WMI Director Melissa Gray. “His passion for people, education, and the outdoors makes him an excellent match with our style and philosophy at NOLS.”
“We feel like we’re one and the same, we’re just in our own offices,” said Mairi.
The collaboration extends to Justin co-authoring the WMI Field Guide and Justin helping to train new wilderness medicine instructors at NOLS Headquarters in Lander, Wyo.
Though the famously humble recipient of the Mountain Laurel Award was surprised by the honor, those who know him weren’t.
His co-workers describe him as “motivation in motion,” and his WMI colleagues call him “the epitome of the visionary.”
Learn about the ACA's First Aid & CPR requirement for Instructors.