The Earth is our patient and she is in need of some good doctors.
We believe that the healers of this earth can, indeed should support all efforts to heal it.
It is this core belief that founded Park.Doctor, on a vision of using the world’s doctor’s to support the health of people in parks to make a meaningful impact on conservation.
By collaborating with our international network of medical professionals, we are able to use medical resources to build and support partnerships that contribute to the health of the people visiting and working in and around parks and protected areas.
It is these people that are paramount to the health of the parks themselves.
“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet. The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.”Sir David Attenborough
The Medical in Parks Charter
We know it’s not easy to get this right – Tourism doesn’t do Medical, and it shouldn’t have to. It gets complicated and risky.
That’s why we put together a simple path to responsible medical capacity in Parks – the Medical in Parks Charter.
The Charter sets out straightforward, industry-wide targets for reasonable medical preparedness.
All the Park.Doctor medical professionals agree to uphold all the principles set out by the Medical in Parks Charter.
Meet the Park.Doctor Team
Dr Simon King
Founder, Medical Doctor, Conservationist
Simon has founded three companies tackling medicine in Parks. He has more than two decades of experience in this setting, handling nearly 10 000 cases personally. He presents to other doctors annually at the World Extreme Medicine conference.
Simon also has the practical knowledge of applying cognitive psychology (how people think and behave) to get good medical results in contexts where this is particularly difficult. This is a big influence on the Park.Doctor system design.
Dr Sarah Dawson
Sarah has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a special interest in medical devices, software and electronic systems. Her focus is on developing things that work in remote and difficult environments, places in which the normal strategies and equipment often fail.
Sarah completed her Masters at the University of Cape Town and her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. She is particularly good at research and analysing evidence in scientific studies. Her analytic work is a major contributor to Park.Doctor’s powerful evidence-based stance.
Dr Oliver Macleod-Smith
Besides being a doctor, Oliver has extensive business experience in entrepreneurial start-ups in a variety of industries for nearly 30 years. His particular area of interest is systems and operations and developing procedures to maximise efficiency in both production and service businesses.
In Medicine, he remains an active doctor and has been involved in telemedical service delivery to the tourism industry in remote settings for many years. He brings a pragmatic approach to managing general day to day medical problems.
Megan completed an undergraduate degree in Epidemiology and Abnormal Physiology at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a special interest in tracking health crises and their impact on communities. Complementing her keen interest in Health Economics, she then completed further studies in Business Risk and Risk Management.
Megan spent the bulk of her childhood living in under-resourced and remote places in Africa, which compelled her to utilise her skills and experience working in the remote tele-medical field for six years with a focus on coordinating medical care to people in remote areas using available technology and resources.
She is passionate about the upskilling and enrichment Park.Doctor has on local communities in remote areas.
Ecotourism & Parks Network Coordinator
Simone has completed a dual major BA, majoring in English and Psychology. She has worked in both the aviation and education sectors, utilising her refined organisational and interpersonal skills and passion for relationship management.
With this wealth of experience and passion for the uplifting of communities and protected areas, Simone specialises in the coordination and management of ecotourism and conservation networking.
Simone is passionate about the Park.Doctor initiative and believes it is making a meaningful impact in the sectors and communities that need it most.
Jenna has worked in the communications and marketing industry for over ten years, with a specialisation in content strategy and development. In addition to this, she is a Sea Shepherd volunteer with a particular passion for marine conservation.
Her years of experience working in humanitarian and animal welfare causes paired with her interest in human psychology, led her to seek involvement in the Park.Doctor initiative, with the view of using her skills, knowledge and passion to help make a difference.
Combining her experience in communications and storytelling and passion for conservation, she aims to develop and fortify the Park.Doctor initiative through various communication mediums.
Sizwe graduated as a multimedia designer at the Umuzi Academy and has worked for over five years in content production, with a passion for visual aesthetic and storytelling.
He has worked on numerous projects in remote areas that tackle social impact and innovation that uplifts and enriches the lives of local rural communities.
After a life-changing backpacking journey from Johannesburg to Malawi, he discovered a new passion for conservation that led him to his work for Park.Doctor where he contributes his skills and flair for audiovisual content production and ideation.
The History of Park.Doctor
Dr. Simon King returned to Africa in 2004 after eleven years in Europe and North America. Wanting to be near the Kruger National Park he took a post heading up the Nelspruit Emergency Medicine Unit. It was there that he heard story after story told by tourists coming into the Unit – stories of fear, bad outcomes, disorganised attempts to help in Parks and staff out of their depth and under-prepared.
Approaching top-end players in the safari tourism industry, he found out that they had little support and, although doing the best they possibly could, they didn’t have the support they needed; it seemed the professional medical system just wasn’t coming up with solutions to help operations in Parks.
So was born a paramedic-based medical service which still operates in private reserves in the area. This was a good start but it only represented localised help. Wanting to create solutions for the entire continent, he approached the industry’s insurers.
This began a productive 10-year relationship, with evacuation and liability insurers funding a remote consultation and incident management service that accumulated 12 000 cases and tens of thousands of hours of experience. These inevitably yielded insights and lessons – some of which have since been presented at medical conferences around the world.
At these conferences he discovered that nobody else was specifically tackling the gap in Parks. Evacuations from Parks in Africa typically take 4 – 8 hours and waiting longer than 12 hours to get someone out of camp is not unusual. There are cases that stretch 2 or 3 days. For this time, victims have nothing else other than the people, the equipment and the supplies in the Camp in the Park.
In late 2016, movement was afoot to do something on a much bigger scale. Consulting and designing on a global solution began in earnest in 2017. Working with Dr Sarah Dawson, a biomedical engineer with an interest in systems and equipment for rural and remote areas and Dr Oliver Macleod-Smith, with whom he had been in partnership on the telemedical consults to Parks for eight years, a solution began to emerge.
The model you will read about on this site is the result of thousands of hours of work and arguably the single biggest collection of first hand experiences anywhere in the world. In developing a model, a bewildering variety of disciplines had to assimilated. It required knowledge of general and emergency medicine, cognitive psychology, industrial psychology, neuroscience, learning and entrepreneurism.
This work is both visionary, as it picks up on the history of First Aid for lay people and advances this in ways never done before, and is a deep and extremely competent approach to achieving this.
In 2018, in a farewell to insurers, the doctors will be striking out on their path. This is a wonderful opportunity to create a sustainable medical solution, standing on its own two feet, at scale.
The plan is done, the structure now in place, we believe the next chapter in this story will be how the lessons from Parks are taken back to urban contexts to improve the delivery of medical support there.