Redpoint medical director leads rafting trip for graduate students in the Grand Canyon

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‘This is about as far away from the world as you can get’

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Dr. Avi Patil / Photo credit: UC Davis

Dr. Avi Patil took off his Redpoint Medical Director cap last month and put on his whitewater rafting helmet for an 18-day, 225-mile trip through the heart of the Grand Canyon. There were bighorn sheep, endangered condors, Anasazi ruins, geology lessons from noted UC Davis professors, and even an impromptu bath in the Colorado River — the first time Avi’s raft had flipped over in 19 years.

The trip was essentially a series of natural sciences classes for a selection of UC Davis graduate students, who split into groups. The first embarked from Lee’s Ferry, rafting 90 miles before hiking to the rim along Bright Angel Trail, where the second group descended from the rim and then rafted 135 miles to Diamond Creek. The expedition comprised hydrologists, geologists and ecologists, as well as Avi and UC Davis professors.

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UC Davis students on the beautiful Colorado River / Photo credit: UC Davis

“This is the fusion of cutting-edge science. Multiple sciences, in this case — and wild outdoors,” geology professor Nicholas Pinter told the university’s communications department. Pinter holds the Roy J. Shlemon Chair in Applied Geosciences, which partially funded the trip. “It’s more than an experience,” he said, “it’s an odyssey.”

For Avi, who has been guiding rafting trips for 20 years on everything from the Tuolumne River in Central California to the rapids of Costa Rica, these trips are about unplugging from a busy life as an emergency room physician and seeking the solace of open spaces.

“Being in such a remote place, so disconnected from daily life,” Avi said, “this is about as far away from the world as you can get.”

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