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WesternU Alumnus Publishes Lewis & Clark Expedition-themed Wilderness Medicine Book

by Rodney Tanaka

June 17, 2004

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Western University of Health Sciences alumnus Dr. David

J. Peck, a 1987 graduate of the university’s College of Osteopathic

Medicine of the Pacific and practicing urgent-care physician, has long

held a fascination for the pioneer exploits of Meriwether Lewis and

William Clark since his childhood days in western Montana. Peck’s

curiosity and penchant for historical research have inspired a book that

retraces the travails of the famous Lewis & Clark Expedition, the role

of wilderness medicine and its evolution toward the practice of modern

Western medicine today.

“”Or Perish in the Attempt, Wilderness Medicine in the Lewis &

Clark Expedition”” explores the origins of medicine and science as

practiced and conceived in the early 19th century. The numerous

wilderness adventures and hardships that threatened the expedition

team in the hostile environment of unexplored America of 1804-1806 are

documented, with emphasis on the essential role of wilderness medicine

in the lives of the explorers during the Missouri-to-Pacific Ocean trek.

The book is based on a compilation of research findings, actual written

accounts from the famous expedition, and anecdotal information from

Peck’s many years of medical research and practice.

“”Dr. Peck’s research and writing endeavors are a fine example

of the lifelong learning philosophy that is the foundation of Western

University,”” said President Philip Pumerantz, Ph.D. “”His passion for

understanding the evolving nature of medicine and his willingness

to continue asking questions together make the book an intriguing,

educational and entertaining read.””

Reviews of Peck’s work have been positive. “”Dr. Peck has assembled

an engrossing account of the illnesses and injuries as gleaned from the

journals . . . the strength of the book is its delightful readability,

a splendid narrative that binds the reader,”” wrote JAMA on July 2, 2003.

The October 2003 issue of Alaska Airlines magazine wrote, “”This well-

researched book investigates the health issues faced by the Corps of

Discovery on its epic journey. The author’s keen observations, literary

style and witticisms make this book an entertaining and enlightening

read.”” Added Dave Walter, Research Historian for the Montana Historical

Society: “”. . . altogether revealing, instructive and entertaining.

One of the most rewarding reads of the Bicentennial.””

“”Or Perish in the Attempt,”” published by Farcountry Press, is

available online at, at local book retailers and Western

University’s on-campus bookstore. Further information about the book

can be accessed on the WesternU website

or at Dr. Peck’s website.

Upcoming speaking engagements for Dr. Peck include the San Diego

Natural History Museum on July 27 and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive

Center in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 20.


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