Staff and Bios

Staff Bios

Founders and Medical Guides:

J. Pearce Beissinger, MS, PA-C, DiMM, FAWM SPI BW copy copy

Pearce is a California native who grew up on the East Coast. With previous experience in orthopaedics, he has spent the last decade serving as a physician assistant in cardiothoracic surgery. "Going vertical" has been a life-long pursuit for Pearce. His first exposure to climbing and mountaineering was in North Carolina and New England. He is now an accomplished mountaineer with successful summits both within the United States and abroad. Whether in a gorge, gym, or on a Cascade volcano, he continues to explore climbing in the Pacific Northwest.

Pearce is a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (WMS) and an AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor (SPI). He has served on the board of directors for the Appalachian Center for Wilderness Medicine (ACWM), a non-profit organization promoting quality health care in limited resource environments. Pearce has dedicated many years of service to search and rescue teams and has participated in numerous mountain rescues both on the east and west coast. He is currently the Vice-President of Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR), has served as this organizations president, and in his early years served as a guide for LL Bean. Pearce is also the recipient of the 2017 Warren D. Bowman Award presented for contributions in service to wilderness medicine and to the Wilderness Medical Society.

Pearce also participates in mountain missionary work; He was a team member with Climbing for Christ (C4C) during their Mission-Nepal Expedition 2012 and most recently served as a medical guide with the 2014 and 2015 Equipping Saints for Ministry (ES4M) team during their Nepal mission trip. While he cherishes his time in the mountains, nothing compares to the blessing of his wife and two beautiful children who live with him in Portland, Oregon.

Seth Collings Hawkins, MD, MFAEG, MFAWM

Seth Collings Hawkins began rock climbing in Vermont in the 1980s, where he worked as a climbing instructor at Farm & Wilderness. He went on to become an emergency physician specializing in EMS and wilderness medicine. Seth is the founder of the Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship and the Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team (the first fully credentialed Mountain Rescue Association team in the American southeast). He serves as medical advisor for the NC Outward Bound School's climbing program and medical director of the Burke EMS Special Operations Team, providing emergency response to climbing areas in Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge in the eastern United States. He is also medical director of the NC State Parks system and its associated climbing areas.

Seth holds physician board certification in both emergency medicine and EMS. He was named a "Hero of Emergency Medicine" by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2008 for his wilderness medicine work and was named one of the Top 10 EMS Innovators of 2011 by the Journal of EMS. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Academy of EMS. He is also the first physician ever to be designated a Master Fellow by the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He is the editor of the textbook Wilderness EMS and also serves as the executive editor of Wilderness Medicine Magazine. In addition to enjoying recreational climbing he teaches for rescue and climbing medicine programs around the country, including the annual Carolina Wilderness EMS Summit, which he established in 2012. He is currently an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University and a full-time emergency physician in the Catawba Valley Health System.

Deb Simon, MSc, RNFA, DiMM, FAWM SPI BW copy copy

Deb, originally from Ontario, Canada, is a registered nurse and avid climber and mountaineer having summited peaks on five continents. She is an AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor (SPI), a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (WMS), holds a Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DiMM) through the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), and has a master’s degree in Mountain Medicine through the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Deb's first passion is climbing and her outstanding work as a climbing and medical guide resulted in her being named as the "Best Climbing Guide" in the Southeast United States in 2017 by the magazine, Blue Ridge Outdoors. She is also the recipient of the 2018 Warren D. Bowman Award presented by the Wilderness Medical Society for contributions in service to wilderness medicine. Deb is a member of the American Alpine Club (AAC), Medical Expeditions, and the Wilderness Medical Society. She is also a certified personal trainer and trainer-in-chief at Vertical Medicine Resources with a focus on high altitude fitness and nutrition. Anyone who has seen her ‘guns’ knows that she takes fitness in the mountains seriously.

R. Bryan Simon, MSc, RN, DiMM, MFAEG, FAWM SPI BW copy copy

Bryan, a native of West Virginia, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former U.S. Army infantry officer and a graduate of the US Army Ranger School. After an injury in 2003, he left the military to pursue other goals. He is an AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor (SPI), a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and holds a Diploma in Mountain Medicine from the UIAA. He is a graduate of Radford University, has studied clinical nutrition at Cornell University, and has earned a master's degree in Mountain Medicine through the University of Leicester (UK).

Bryan is the managing editor for the American Alpine Club's yearly guide, Accidents in North American Climbing, serves on the editorial board for the journal, Nursing, and is the former climbing medicine columnist for the magazine, Wilderness Medicine. He writes on a variety of subjects related to wilderness and climbing medicine and his work has been featured in magazines and journals such as Climbing, Dead Point Magazine, Emergency Medicine News, and Critical Care Nursing. He has also written Hiking and Biking in the New River Gorge: A Trail User’s GuideFirst Aid Kits for Home and Auto: Essential Gear to Survive until Help Arrives, Adventure! A Kids' Guide to the New River Gorge, and Animals of the New River Gorge.

In addition to his work with Vertical Medicine Resources, he is a founding member on the board of directors for the Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team (AMRT) and currently serves as a board member for the New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC). Bryan is also the recipient of the 2014 Warren D. Bowman Award presented for contributions in service to wilderness medicine and to the Wilderness Medical Society.

VMR Instructors:

Heather Beissinger, MS, PA-C

Heather grew up in Vermont where she developed an appreciation for the outdoors and an active lifestyle. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she earned a Bachelor's of Science in Biology and graduated magna cum laude. She then pursued a Master's of Science in Physician Assistant Studies through Arcadia University near Philadelphia. In addition to orthopedics, Heather has a clinical background in general, vascular, and plastic surgery. She completed her AWLS training in 2014 and thereafter has been actively serving in vital "behind-the-scene" roles with Vertical Medicine Resources. While she enjoys rock climbing and cycling as well as exploring the outdoors with her husband and two children, she recently has developed a new affection for ski-mountaineering in the Northwest Cascades.

Dave Clarke, EMT-B

Dave Clarke has been an active member of Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) since 2000. He currently serves as a rescue leader and chair of the training committee. Dave recently completed a term as the President of the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). In addition to his work with the MRA, Dave is retired from the Gresham Fire Department where he served as a Captain and the leader of their technical rescue team.

He has delivered technical rescue presentations at several MRA conferences, at the International Symposium on Technical Rescue (ITRS), and at the International Commission on Alpine Rescue (ICAR).

Thomas Gall, EMT-P

Tom was raised in the Midwest but now lives at the base of Mt. Hood. Tom loves climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and whitewater. He has worked a career as a fire officer and paramedic for local fire departments and medic units.

Tom is a 12-year field member of Portland Mountain Rescue and has participated on several research expeditions focusing on glacier caves. He also has significant experience serving in multi-month long patrols with the Denali National Park Mountaineering Rescue Team where he was offered the opportunity to sharpen his focus towards wilderness medicine and rescue. Aside from his joy in being a husband and father, Tom's enjoyment of science and art has cultured a passion for beermaking with the Oregon state microbe: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 

Corey Winstead, NR-WEMT, FAWM SPI BW copy copy

Corey is a native flatlander from North Carolina who started making forays to the mountains of Appalachia to climb fifteen years ago and quickly decided to permanently relocate. He spent ten years living in Linville Gorge leading Outward Bound expeditions and teaching students and staff to climb on the sheer granite cliffs surrounding them. Corey is the Assistant Chief of the first fully accredited Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) team in the Southeastern US, the Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team, and serves on the Burke County Rescue Squad and North Carolina Mountain Rescue Team 3.

He has served as an instructor at the Carolina Wilderness EMS Summit since 2013 and is a high angle instructor for the National Park Service's NPS Basic Technical Rescue Training East. A WEMT since 2007, Corey has kept his wilderness medicine skills sharp by teaching WFR courses and recently authored the Education chapter in the text, Wilderness EMS. He has climbed and led expeditions around the United States and abroad and recently returned from establishing new routes in the Ragged Range of Canada. Corey recently left full-time work in outdoor education to pursue becoming a Physician Assistant and is completing work on his FAWM in the process. Corey is the 2020 recipient of the Warren D. Bowman award presented for contributions in service to wilderness medicine and to the Wilderness Medical Society.

Jenna M. Wiley, MD

Jenna began rock climbing in California at Joshua Tree National Park while also enjoying treks up Mt. San Jacinto which sparked her wilderness medicine career. She has been active in mountain search and rescue since 2009, volunteering for the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit (BAMRU) as well as South Orange Rescue Squad's Technical Rescue Team, NC's Statewide Medical Assistance Team, and Central NC SAR.

Jenna co-led the wilderness medicine interest group in medical school, completed the Carolina Wilderness EMS externship with Dr. Hawkins near Linville Gorge in western NC, practiced international emergency medicine in Thailand, and participated in a high-altitude research study to Everest Base Camp in Nepal with Xtreme Everest. She is an avid rescue scuba diver, having dived across the world and previously worked for Divers Alert Network, conducting physiological research to improve diving safety with research projects in Grand Cayman, Japan, Mexico, Florida and at Duke University's hyperbaric chamber. She also enjoys writing for Alert Diver magazine and is working towards her FAWM. She is now an emergency medicine resident physician at OHSU in Portland, Oregon and continues to have a strong love of octopodes. 

Additional Instructors:

Vertical Medicine Resources also employees a small cadre of instructors with many years of experience in wilderness and climbing medicine, in addition to specific knowledge of major ranges throughout the world. These instructors go through a rigorous vetting and credentialing process to ensure they meet the highest standards of care and expertise in their fields of endeavor. They are employed on a contractual basis based upon their individual area of expertise and the specific needs of the client to provide current medical, climbing, and geopolitical information.e

If you are interested in working as an instructor for Vertical Medicine Resources, please send a letter of interest and a current curriculum vitae detailing your wilderness medicine and climbing background to bryan(at)