February 2016

This elective is FULL, please contact Stephanie Lareau for a place on the waiting list.
We usually take several students from the waiting list each year.

Visit the WMS Student Elective Blog

The Wilderness Medical Society in association with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine offer:

"A Standard in Wilderness Medicine Education"

Designed is for third and fourth year medical students, residents, 2nd year PA students and senior nursing students who are enrolled in a program at an accredited or internationally recognized allopathic or osteopathic medical school (PA or nursing school) or residency program in the US and abroad.  Students must be proficient in English in order to qualify for consideration (see below). This elective provides four weeks of instruction including:

• Small group discussions of wilderness scenarios
• Formal lectures of Wilderness Medicine principles and specific topics by leaders in the field
• Field and hands-on instruction in survival and pre-hospital patient assessment and evacuation
• Supervised five-day field-practicum incorporating medical assessment, treatment, evacuation, survival and improvisational techniques.
• Wilderness First Responder Course
• Eligibility to sit for the Wilderness First Responder National Registry Examination (as applicable in home state)

All this and more in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the Jefferson National Forest!

Educational Objectives:

• Act as a medical group leader in backcountry or other remote settings
• Advise a wilderness travel group concerning care and evacuation of ill or injured members
• Plan for the medical support of wilderness and adventure travel experiences
• Manage common illnesses and injuries in an austere environment with limited resources
• Understand the physician’s role in search and rescue
• Identify and plan for special hazards in a variety of extreme environments
• Demonstrate basic competence in exotic travel and wilderness survival skills


The curriculum is structured to be academically demanding. It was developed by a review committee of nationally recognized faculty from the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS). Each participant must query their own institution IN ADVANCE as to whether the elective will be accepted by their home institution.


The Grading system is Pass/Fail based upon a written, multiple-choice final examination grade of no less than 70%, a pass of the practical field exam, and completion of the 5-day Great Smoky Mountain practicum (hike). WFR course examinations are administered separately by Roane State Community College faculty in accordance with established guidelines.

Diversity and Discrimination:

The WMS does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or political affiliation. A reasonable attempt will be made by the WMS selection committee to maintain gender diversity within the class.  All class slots will be filled with quality applicants.

Physical Condition and Handicap:

Applicants must have camping/backpacking skills and equipment and should be in sufficient physical condition and health to complete a 4-day overnight field experience with a trek through the mountains (elevation under 8,000 ft) as a requirement for successful completion of the elective. 3rd and 4th year medical students, residents, and allied health profession students from accredited schools.

Attendees must be able to participate in rigorous physical exercise to include, but not limited to heavy lifting and hiking with a heavy pack over difficult terrain in bad weather. As such, course participants will be expected to be good physical condition upon arrival. Applicants with a physical illness or handicap will qualify for consideration if they can be reasonably expected to participate and complete the elective. This should be so stated by an examining physician on the medical form that accompanies the application. Participants with generally non-limiting chronic illness on medications who are otherwise qualified must arrive with sufficient quantity of medication and/or supplies to last the entire course. Determination of disqualification by reason of medical disability or illness is at the discretion of the Course Director.   Applicants that will be pregnant and in their 1st trimester during the duration of the elective are eligible to participate with a signed written statement from the obstetrical care provider.   Those in their second or third trimester at any time during the elective are not eligible.  Participants that are shown to have falsified medical information will be dismissed from the course and will forfeit all tuition fees.

Safety and Risk Management:

The Wilderness Medical Society and Wilderness Adventure faculty are committed to providing a safe and rewarding elective experience. However, all risk from injury cannot be eliminated. Course work will involve individual and group activities in rugged terrain, remote locations and bad weather. Leadership, planning, and conduct of these activities with respect to these risks is an important part of the elective educational experience. Good physical and mental conditioning is vital to successful completion of the course.

Students will be responsible for providing, maintaining, and transporting their own equipment. They will be expected to sleep outdoors and care for themselves in extreme weather conditions. Field activities such as the final five-day hike will be student planned with rotating student leadership and will be accompanied and supervised by one or more WMS faculty members. There may be occasions during preplanned free time in town or at the beginning or end of the course when students will not be supervised by faculty members.

The final hike will involve five days of travel in remote areas of the Jefferson National Forest and surrounding areas where rapid emergency rescue and medical response is impossible. While all reasonable efforts will be made to mitigate the danger inherent in back country travel, personal safety can not be guaranteed.  All applicants are required to read, understand and sign the liability waiver statement included in the application section of the web site.


The WMS subcommittee for Elective Planning established the tuition level for the elective. There were two goals: 1) set an affordable price while maintaining academic quality in a satisfactory training venue; 2) design a course that is self-sufficient with respect to funding. The tuition price of $1350.00 covers the following:

  • Lodging at Wilderness Adventure in bunk rooms in the main lodge. Basic Linens provided. See wilderness-adventure.com/group-retreats/modern-facilities.
  • Three meals per day for the majority of the course when training is conducted at the Camp. Weekend meals will be the responsibility of students. Due to the difficulties inherent in providing for the unique needs of individual students in the field, meals for the five-day hike are the responsibility of each student. Tuition will not cover the cost of these meals and attendees must be sure to bring sufficient funds to cover their purchase. Time and transportation will be provided during the course for meal planning and procurement.
  • Meals will not be provided during some weekend recreation periods when it would not be cost-beneficial to do so. Students will be transported to areas for shopping and/or recreation and meals during those periods or they may bring their own food for limited individual preparation.
  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training conducted  by a professional staff of wilderness EMTs and Paramedics.  Any fees associated with taking the WFR National Registry Examination are NOT included in the tuition fee.
  • An electronic course handbook that includes relevant administrative documents and the course syllabus with text outlines for each class.
  • Over 140 hours of combined didactic, interactive, small group, and case-based training with demonstrations.

*Note: tuition does not cover the cost of airfare for those students who fly to the elective.

Last-minute Cancellations:

In the event that, due to unforeseen circumstances after 1 November, a student on the primary list is unable to attend, he or she will be refunded their balance tuition payment after receipt of a letter from a medical school administrator verifying the validity of the cancellation. However, the deposit of $250 will not be refunded. In this circumstance another student may be selected from the alternate list to fill the vacancy.

Checklist for International Students:

  • Your medical school is internationally recognized (provide official contact information for the school)
  • Submit all application forms in English
  • Verify English proficiency with written/signed statement by a medical school official
  • Pay all fees in US dollars
  • Prearrange visa, passport and immunization issues for the duration of the course


Administrative (WMS Office)

Administrative Director: Teri Howell - teri@wms.org

Elective Details

Elective Director: Stephanie Lareau, MD  -  stephlareau@gmail.com 
Assistant Director: Rob Worthing, MD -  rmcworthing@gmail.com
Assistant Director: Erin Meyer, MD -   e9meyer@gmail.com
Out-going Director: Liz Edelstein, MD  - lizzard0202@mac.com