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HIGH ALTITUDE RESEARCH EXPEDITION: BOLIVIA, 2022

APEX was founded by medical students at the University of Edinburgh in 2001. Since then, hundreds of students have taken part in expeditions investigating the effect of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. The latest expedition, APEX 6, will take place in June/July 2022 after being postponed due to COVID-19...

 
 

THE ITINERARY

The APEX 6 expedition will begin on in La Paz (3700m) for an initial acclimatisation period of 5 days, before we ascend to our base on Huyana Potosi (4700m). We will stay on Huyana Potosi for 8 days. 

Data and sample collection will be carried out during the acclimatisation phase in La Paz and throughout our time at Huyana Potosi.

The expedition will conclude on our return to La Paz. 

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RESEARCH DURING APEX 6

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CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS AT ALTITUDE

We are conducting a pioneering project examining the impact of individuals’ body clocks (also known as chronotype) on physiological and clinical outcomes. This addresses a key knowledge gap in wilderness medicine that affects the interpretation of previous high-altitude studies and has potentially contributed to conflicting data on interventions for preventing/treating acute mountain sickness. As well as the relevance of this research to human health in the context of jetlag and hypoxia, this will also set a new standard for chronotype-control in studies carried out in other wilderness environments.

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DARK ADAPTATION AT ALTITUDE

Sight is critical for orientation, movement, and balance and so visual function is clearly essential for the safety and performance of pilots, mountaineers, and athletes training at altitude. Furthermore, as the only visible part of the brain, studying retinal function at altitude provides a unique opportunity to objectively assess the effects of hypoxia on the brain. In future, changes in retinal function may be used as a new variable in field research on altitude sickness, which was not available previously owing to the impractical nature of traditional methods of measuring dark adaptation. This is an exciting field of research, with
the potential to benefit those exposed to hypoxia due to both environment and illness.

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ALTITUDE AND THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

This project aims to investigate the link between hypoxia inducible factor (hif) 1 alpha and menstrual blood loss, following on from the work of Edinburgh researcher Dr Jackie Maybin. This will involve female participants self-analysing blood volumes using pictograms and analysis of blood samples collected over the course of this research project. This work is especially relevant to women experiencing the very common condition of heavy menstrual bleeding.

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LUNG FUNCTION AT ALTITUDE

This project aims to investigate a new approach of calculating lung oxygenation. This is very important for classing disease severity and is also an important measurement used in clinical trials. Currently non-invasive techniques used in medicine to calculate long oxygenation are less accurate than this new proposed technique. When at altitude this will involve taking arterial blood from volunteers and calculating their lung oxygenation using current techniques and our new technique. This will allow us to compare our findings and confirm efficacy. This work will be relevant for critically ill patients to class their disease severity.

 

THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE

Apex 6 will be lead by four Medical Students from the University of Edinburgh. 

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OLIVER VICK 
Expedition Leader

Oliver is a final year medical student and Expedition Leader for APEX 6. Besides making sure everything comes together on time, he will also be overseeing the logistics of the expedition - making sure everything is ready for us flying out, and that the expedition runs safely and smoothly. A keen traveller, Oliver has been to 50 countries, having caught the travel bug as a volunteer on APEX 5. Through travelling, as well as other areas, he has gained extensive experience in getting people and equipment from A to B and leading diverse groups of people. Aside from travelling, Oliver has an active interest in health policy, healthcare management, events management and politics. Oliver is co-leading the arterial blood gas research, but spends most of his time on organisational aspects. 

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ALASTAIR WOODHEAD
Head of Research and Funding

Alastair is a final year medical student at the University of Edinburgh, who developed a keen interest in expedition medicine as a volunteer on the APEX 5 expedition. For APEX6 Alastair is responsible for coordinating  the various research projects and ensuring sufficient funding is in place for the expedition to take place. He will also be undertaking his own research project investigating body clocks in Bolivia. Outside of medicine, Alastair's interests lie in sport and spending time away from his beloved bikes will certainly be his biggest challenge! Don't be surprised  to see him hiking up Huayna Potosi in search of signal to check on the latest sporting news! 

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SUZANNE GREEN
Head of Volunteering and Communications

Suzanne is a 4th year medical student at the University of Edinburgh and is head of volunteers and communications. This will be Suzanne's first APEX and she is very excited to get involved and help in the organising of the expedition. She will be running the Lung Function project alongside Oliver as well as coordinating and overseeing the volunteers whilst also managing our social media pages and website. Outside of medicine, Suzanne loves cooking and staying active through running and playing hockey.  She has only travelled to South America once before and is excited to go back to explore more of the continent!

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ISLA PETRIE
Head of Events and Sponsorship

Isla is a 4th year medical student at the university of Edinburgh. She is head of fundraising and events for APEX6 and the dark adaptation at altitude project which Sarah and Denisa bravely entrusted her with. She joined the committee this year and is really enjoying it and cannot wait to visit South America for the first time. Outside of studying, Isla loves the outdoors, walking, running and skiing.

SPECIAL THANKS
Sophie Hattersley
Sophie Hattersley

Sophie acted as Expedition leader for APEX 6 until she sadly had to step down due to her graduating medical school. She was key in setting up APEX 6 and we wish her all the best in her career.

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Erin Bennett
Erin Bennett

Erin worked along side Alastair as Head of Sponsorship and Grants. She will be greatly missed and we wish her well in her studies.

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Sarah Lewis
Sarah Lewis

Sarah worked as Head of Publicity and Volunteers until she sadly had to take a step back from APEX. She was key to setting up the website and in recruitment of the 2019 volunteers.

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Denisa Stroncekova
Denisa Stroncekova

Denisa was Head of Correspondence and International Operations for APEX 6 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She played a key role in securing sponsorship for the expedition as well as bridging communications with the Spanish-speaking world.

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VOLUNTEERS

APEX6 has recruited a fantastic group of volunteers. Meet the rest of the team!

Anna Prvulovich
Anna Prvulovich

Anna is a fourth year medical student who can’t wait to explore South and Bolivia during Apex! In her free time she loves cooking and swimming!

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Hannah Appleton
Hannah Appleton

Hannah is a fourth-year medical student who is really excited to be joining APEX 6! She loves cooking, reading, dancing and music, and can’t wait to explore South America.

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Camille Maezelle
Camille Maezelle

Camille is a first year medical student with a love for the outdoors and is eager to explore the adventurous side of medicine. Instead of studying, she enjoys hiking, skiing and baking. She is thrilled to join the apex team and can't wait to discover Bolivia.

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Madryn Riewer
Madryn Riewer

Madryn is a fifth year medical student who is looking forward to seeing a practical, adventurous side to medicine on this trip! Outside studies, she enjoys dancing, a good book and sunny walks.

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Alex Thomson
Alex Thomson

Alex is a fourth-year Biotechnology student interested in pursuing a career in medical research and development. He is very excited to be a part of the Apex 6 team and is looking forward to exploring Bolivia and all it has to offer. In his spare time, he can be found playing basketball, hiking, and overeating. As well as being a volunteer, Alex will be one of the researchers investigating the epigenetic changes that occur in neutrophils when exposed to hypoxic conditions.

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Ella McElnea
Ella McElnea

Ella is a first-year medical student and is very excited to learn more about expedition medicine on the trip. In her spare time Ella loves the outdoors and enjoys spending time mountain biking or ski-touring in the hills or heading to the beach to surf. She can’t wait to explore Bolivia and throw herself into South American culture!

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Colette Revadillo
Colette Revadillo

Colette is a second year medical student and feels very lucky to be part of the APEX 6 team! Having never ventured to South America she is looking forward to seeing what it will offer however is sad to be leaving her dog, Charlie. She is excited to see how much of her Spanish she can remember from high school...

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Theodora Kontaxi
Theodora Kontaxi

Theodora is a first-year medical student who loves spending time outdoors, hiking, camping and as of recently climbing! Having never been to South America before, she is excited to participate in APEX6 and get involved in medical research while exploring this amazing part of the world!

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Ella Andrea
Ella Andrea

Ella is a second year medical student who is very excited to attend APEX this year. Having joined university during lockdown she is particularly enthusiastic for the social aspects of the trip, as well as exploring a brand new continent. Outside of academics she enjoys music, psychology, and poker.

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Calum Weir
Calum Weir

Calum is a second-year medical student who can’t wait to be involved with APEX6. Having never visited South America, he is very keen to explore part of the continent, take part in exciting research, and meet loads of new people. Outside of medicine he can be found playing as much sport as he can, eating, or listening to soundtracks from musicals.

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Ellie Maltman
Ellie Maltman

Ellie is a second-year medical student and a keen traveller. She is looking forward to the APEX 6 expedition to see South America, research the body under strenuous conditions and meet (or irritate) new people! Outside of medicine she enjoys making her own clothes, reading, running and loves a cheeky puzzler.

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Harry Henriksen
Harry Henriksen

Harry is a first-year medical student with a special interest in the effects of high-altitude training on performance. He is excited to visit South America for the first time and learn more about Apex’s research. Outside of medicine, Harry enjoys running and cross country.

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Ben Harrison
Ben Harrison

Ben is a first year medical student and he is looking forward to gaining more experience of expedition medicine on APEX 6. He loves Spanish and travelling, and is very excited to be visiting South America for the first time. In his spare time he enjoys playing tennis and listening to music.

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Pierre Lardet
Pierre Lardet

Pierre is a first year, studying Maths and Computer Science and is delighted to be a volunteer for APEX. As a first-timer to South America, the expedition represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know lots of new people in an extraordinary place. Outside university, he likes to play the piano and stay active.

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David Geddes
David Geddes

David is a first-year medical student, keen to explore South America and take part in the APEX6 expedition. Outside medicine, David likes outdoor sports such as climbing, mountaineering and surfing. David is keen on travelling and is looking forward to visiting his 5th continent and seeing the varying cultures and sights it has to offer!

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Robert Zhan
Robert Zhan

Robert is a 5th year medical student and is greatly looking forwards to exploring South America for the first time and getting a taste of expedition medicine. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and looks forward to getting to know his fellow volunteers. In his spare time he enjoys playing hockey and chilling out to music.

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Chloe Wightman
Chloe Wightman

Chloe is a 4th year medical student with a keen interest in emergency medicine, pre-hospital care and medical anthropology. She loves hiking, music and adventure sports, and uses her spare time to travel wherever she can. She’s excited to get involved with APEX and visit South America for the first time, but might have to pass on trying guinea-pig in honour of her beloved pet hamster.

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Wiktoria Karbowniczek
Wiktoria Karbowniczek

Wiktoria is a second-year medical student studying at the University of Edinburgh. As her first hands-on experience in research, she decided it would be a great idea to fly half way across the world to do it. Besides loving medicine and travelling, she enjoys music, the gym and outdoors. She is really looking forward to joining the APEX 6 team and travelling to South America.

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Amy Lussiana
Amy Lussiana

Amy is a fourth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. She spends most of her free time playing volleyball, dancing bachata or cooking Italian food for potlucks. She’s a keen traveller but APEX 6 will be her first time in South America!

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Gemma Woodhead
Gemma Woodhead

Gemma is a fifth-year medic who loves the outdoors and enjoys cycling and running. Having never visited South America before, she is really excited to be a part of APEX6 and looking forward to exploring this part of the world!

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Ella Crowther
Ella Crowther

Ella is a fourth year medical student (unfortunately that’s not her degree in the picture!). Outside of medicine, she likes riding ponies and playing the violin at a questionable standard. She loves the outdoors and is very excited about getting to explore completely new scenery, having never been to South America before!

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Heather McAdam
Heather McAdam

Hi! I’m Heather, a fifth year medical student intercalating in Global Health Policy. Alongside my studies, I enjoy advocating for better mental health and wellbeing through research, volunteering and running a peer support group. I am also a keen traveller, having travelled through over 50 countries via tuk tuk, slow boat, kayak and more! South America is the only continent I have not visited and I am keen to learn about a new mix of cultures there.

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Martin Rosenzweig
Martin Rosenzweig

Martin is a fourth year medical student, excited to travel to Bolivia and take part in the Apex expedition. He is very interested in expedition medicine and plans to carry out research alongside medical practice. He is Latin-American and is excited of the opportunity of continuing to explore the continent. Besides medicine, he enjoys football, cycling and reading.

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Anya Tan
Anya Tan

Anya is a third year medical student who enjoys cooking, reading and being in the outdoors. She is looking forward to visiting South America for the first time, and experiencing the culture (and food) while travelling!

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Darcey Smyth
Darcey Smyth

Darcey is a third year medical student intercalating in global health next year. She is really excited to visit South America for the first time and take part in research. In her spare time she loves hockey, running and getting outdoors!

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Cameron Norton
Cameron Norton

Cameron is a second year medical student with a keen interest in trauma and emergency medicine. He is excited for his first (hopefully of many) trip to South America, and to be involved in the exciting APEX 6 research projects. Outside of medicine he enjoys hiking and mountaineering; dislikes writing in the third person.

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Gus Bartlett
Gus Bartlett

Gus is a third-year product design student. Coming from a non-medical background, he is keen to join the expedition and learn about the medical research process. Gus is also a keen surfer and you can find him on the weekend getting barrelled at Pease Bay. Gus is looking forward to exploring South America and sampling some of the Bolivian cuisine.

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Bethan MacDonald
Bethan MacDonald

Bethan is a second year medical student excited to travel to south America for the first time as it has been at the top of her bucket list for a while! Outside of Medicine Bethan loves dance, baking and being up mountains. As a covid fresher she is excited to meet loads of people on the trip

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Becky Lillicrap
Becky Lillicrap

Becky is a fifth-year medical student who came to Edinburgh from St Andrews last year. She loves reading, travelling, coffee shops, running, and meeting new people so is excited for all that Bolivia has to offer!

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Renée de Maat
Renée de Maat

Renée is a second-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh and is looking forward to her first encounter with medical research on APEX 6. Besides medicine, she enjoys playing piano, hockey, and hiking. Having always loved travelling, she is excited to experience South America for the first time and can’t wait to see what it has to offer!

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Jaime Garcia Fernandez
Jaime Garcia Fernandez

Jaime is a 5th year medical student really interested in research and sports medicine. Currently training for an IronMan, Jaime has become really interested in how the body works under extreme conditions and can’t wait to explore this more at APEX! Outside of medicine, Jaime loves playing the guitar and basketball.

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Jonathan Lang
Jonathan Lang

Jonny is a 2nd year medical student volunteering on Apex 6. He is looking forward to taking part in some fantastic research, discover a continent and improve on his Spanish skills. During his free time, he loves to cook, work in his vegetable garden and skate Bristo Square.

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Sarah Barrie
Sarah Barrie

Sarah is a third year medical student and is looking forward to lots of firsts with APEX6 – first time visiting South America, first time doing research and first time being at high altitude. She loves playing hockey, baking and learning BSL.

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Karolina Futera
Karolina Futera

Karolina is a fourth-year medical student who can often be found on a run, or perfecting her multiple lemon cake recipes. She loves travelling, having visited 31 countries so far, and is very excited to explore Bolivia, take part in research, and polish up her Spanish!

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Expedition Doctors

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DR BEN WARRICK

Ben currently works as a consultant anaesthetist in the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Previously, he has worked with the air ambulance service and worked as a consultant in critical care. In his spare time, Ben enjoys outdoor activities in particular kayaking and mountain biking.

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DR KATIE FLOWER

Katie currently works as a anaesthetist registrar at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Katie previously volunteered with AMREF flying doctors which is a charity-based service providing aeromedical evacuation across east Africa. In her spare time, Katie enjoys sailing and has previously circumnavigated the UK on a 29 ft yacht. 

 

ENDORSEMENTS

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Tom Avery
One of the UK's foremost explorers

"I am proud to support APEX 6. The Bolivian mountains are amongst the more beautiful in the world, but they are also a real test of human endurance. The work of the APEX6 team will be invaluable in gaining better understanding of the effects of altitude on the human body.  I wish them a safe and successful expedition."

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Sir Chris Bonington
British Mountaineer

“I am delighted to endorse APEX 6. APEX has been hugely successful over the past years, with much exciting research being done into the intricate effects of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. This year, students will take on this challenge once again, with a further aim of collaborating with local Bolivian researchers. The group have my full support, and I wish them all the best on this journey.”

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University of Edinburgh Expedition Status
Approved by the University Expeditions Committee

APEX 6 is proud to be endorsed by the University Expeditions Committee. This endorsement follows a thorough review of the organisation of the expedition, safety measures put in place as well as the ascent profile. APEX 6 is officially recognised and approved by the University.

 

SPONSORSHIP AND GRANTS 

APEX 6 has been fortunate to be supported by the following organisations. We thank all of our supporters for their continued support for our expedition.

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Expedition Blog

Pre- Expedition

Just before the expedition started Oliver and myself (Suzie) flew out to La Paz to set-up and receive equipment prior to volunteers arrival. This was an excited yet stressful time for us which consisted and mostly cleaning out shops of their supplies of hand soap and sanitiser! After a couple of hiccups regarding oxygen supplies and finding the right size of saline, we got into a groove. Now we are just waiting in excitement for our lovely volunteers and committee to join us!

- Suzie Green, Head of Publicity and Volunteers

Day 1

Today was most volunteers' first full day in La Paz, so after settling into our hostel, we went exploring. After a lunch on a roof top terrace overlooking the Basilica de San Francisco, we headed back to the hostel where people got to planning further trips and read in the sun. For dinner we headed out to Sagarnaga and the fell to sleep!

- Madryn Riewer, APEX6 volunteer