Himalayan Health & Wilderness First Responder


Join a group of twenty students for five and a half weeks during the early summer in North India to learn about the challenges of emergency medicine, public health and medical care in the Himalayas, one of the most spectacular mountain ranges on earth.  Following an intensive series of courses that involve field trips and experiential, hands-on learning opportunities, students will earn nine credits, be certified as a Wilderness First Responder and will understand the unique health and medical challenges faced by people living in remote mountain villages.  At the conclusion of the program students will visit the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra.    

What You'll Accomplish: 

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Get certified as a Wilderness First Responder
  • Experience shadowing doctors and nurses in a community hospital
  • Understand the range of health and healing options in a pluralistic medical environment
  • Develop insight on how to find solutions to pervasive public health problems in an environment of extreme social and economic inequality

Intercultural Learning Objectives:

  • Develop cultural self-awareness and knowledge of cultural worldview frameworks (Knowledge);
  • Develop an understanding of cultural differences in verbal and nonverbal communication styles and learn to successfully adapt in various presented cultural contexts (Skills);
  • Develop the ability to engage and learn from perspectives and experiences different from one’s own (Skills);
  • Learn to exercise curiosity and openness in interactions with other cultures (Attitudes);
  • Develop transferrable and personal leadership skills (Skills, Attitudes). 

Learning objectives are based on the AAC&U VALUE rubrics for Global Learning and Intercultural Knowledge and Competence


The program is based at the Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study in Mussoorie.  Located at an altitude of 6500 ft above sea level, Mussoorie is a thriving tourist resort town with a panoramic view of the world’s tallest snow-covered mountains, a cool, comfortable climate, and numerous restaurants, hotels and coffee shops.  With access to a gym, climbing wall and swimming pool, the Hanif Centre also provides direct, easy access to forest land and isolated mountain villages. 
The Hanifl Centre is a small campus on the Woodstock School estate on the edge of Mussoorie, a colonial era town eight hours drive north of Delhi, the capital of India.  In addition to being a tourist resort town, Mussoorie is an educational hub with numerous international English language college preparatory schools.  Bringing together people from all over the country the town embraces linguistic, religious and cultural diversity. 


Where You'll Live: 
Located in a lush oak forest a mile and half from the edge of town, the Hanifl Centre has wifi, seminar rooms, a small field biology lab, library, and a dining hall as well as landscaped gardens and a campground.  With staff support from an experienced team of professionals, students live in a dormitory that is a 20-minute walk from the Hanifl Centre.  
The Hanfil Centre accommodations include most of the amenities that you are already used to.  
You can expect the following:
  • 3 meals per day
  • Double or triple rooms 
  • Bedding
  • Shared bathrooms 
  • Dining area 
  • Communal lounge space 
  • Communal kitchen stocked with pantry items
  • Wifi and computer lab 
  • Laundry service 
We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions. 
What You'll Study: 
This is an intensive 9-credit program; however, due to nature and structure of the program and the course contents, many of the contact hours are spent outdoors focused on both soft and hard skills including hands-on trainings, shadowing at a community hospital, etc. Faculty from Pitt, Aerie Backcountry Medicine instructors, and instructors from the Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education will teach the courses.
ANTH 1797 Mountain and Medicine course fullfills following General Education requirements for Arts&Sciences students:
CC Awareness, Geo Region and Global Issues
If you are seeking to count these courses towards a major, minor or certificate requirement, please meet with your respective advisor to discuss the program and what the courses will fulfill for you.
Mountain and Medicine - Health and Environment in the Himalayas (3 credits) (ANTH1797)

Public health is defined by social, cultural, economic and political factors that establish the parameters of risk for chronic and contagious diseases as well as morbidity.  Environmental factors also play a critical role. Focusing on geography and the environment, this course provides an overview of the economic conditions that shape public health and medicine in the mountains of northern India. 

Wilderness First Responder (6 credits) (NUR1136)

This 6-credit intensive Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course focuses on health, medicine and the environment in the Himalayas of North India. WFR is the standard training in the US for guides, international leaders, and backcountry travelers.  The course assumes that access to advanced medical care is hours to days away from the point of injury or illness, and as a result the responder must focus on patient assessment, long-term, and improvised patient care. The WFR course will emphasize care in remote, international settings and will augment didactic and scenario learning with clinical rotations at Landour Community Hospital (LCH) and its surrounding communities, where students will shadow LCH and Aerie staff as they care for patients.

Experiential Learning Description: 

The Hanifl Centre was established in 2003 to promote the study of the Himalayan environment with a focus on outdoor education.  The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with the Centre since 2013 and now runs three programs in the summer and spring.  Hanifl Centre staff embody India’s multicultural modernity with a certified record of professionalism, having earned national and international recognition for their programs in leadership training and wilderness medicine.  India’s first green design campus, the Hanifl Centre is near a nature reserve in-between India’s two most sacred rivers, the Yamuna and the Ganga.  In 2019 Pitt’s Chancellor visited the Centre in recognition of our well-established partnership, innovative programs and proven record of success.  To learn more about the Hanifl Centre please visit haniflcentre.in.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Anisha Mallik

Hi! My name is Anisha, I am a graduate student in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and at the School of Public Health, and I am a Program Assistant for a few Panther Programs at Pitt GEO! I studied abroad in Greece, the Czech Republic, and Ireland during my undergraduate career. In my graduate studies, my regional focus has been on South Asia, through which I had the opportunity to do a fellowship in India. I love connecting with other students looking to expand their perspectives and live and work abroad. Let's chat about your global experience options!

Schedule an appointment

Make an appointment with me to talk about program-specific questions using this link  https://pathways.campus.eab.com/pal/K1NEvWip-3  
Don't see a time that works for you? Email me at anm268@pitt.edu

Your In-Country Contacts: 

Akshay Shah

Akshay Shah is the Director of the Hanifl Centre.  He is an environmental activist who has established conservation and leadership programs in the mountains.  He is also a certified Wilderness EMT with expertise in community health and medicine.

Aerie Backcountry Medicine

Aerie Backcountry Medicine based in Missoula MT partners with Hanifl Centre and University of Pittsburgh for this course and will send one of their senior faculty to teach the Wilderness First responder course.

Dr. Joseph Alter (Academic Director)

Joseph Alter was born in the Himalayas and has been studying religion, culture and the environment in the mountains for thirty years.  He is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh with research expertise in medical anthropology.

Please feel free to reach out to Dr. Alter with any questions about the program. His email is: JSALTER@pitt.edu.

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Program cost $6,999 $7,199
Study Abroad fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $7,299 $7,499

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare ~$1,700
Indian Visa ~$150
Personal Expenses  $500 - $1,000


Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad. Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

What's Included: 

As a part of your Himalayan Health & Wilderness First Responder program fee, the following are included in the program:

  • Tuition for 9 credits
  • Housing
  • All meals
  • Health Insurance
  • Airport Transfers
  • On-Site Transportation
  • Excursions
What Else You Need to Know: 

Please note that in addition to the required pre-departure meeting and the pre-departure orientation, there will be a three-hour mandatory class prior to departure for India. The date and time of the class will be posted soon.


  • Remember that this is an intensive summer academic program and that you should expect to invest the same amount of time and effort on your courses abroad as you would on a course at Pitt.
  • You should be prepared for a physically demanding summer with lots of outdoor activities. The program includes a three-day backpacking trip that is challenging but requires no previous experience in the outdoors.
  • Due to the nature of the program, the schedule is subject to change. There may be instances where a guest speaker or visit needs to be rescheduled. We ask for your patience and understanding in advance.