WMS Student/Resident Elective

4-week Student/Resident Elective: February 3 - 27, 2020
2-week Advanced Resident Elective: February 13 - 27, 2020

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"

Four-week WMS Student/Resident Elective

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 Emergency Medical Responder Course

Two-week WMS Advanced Resident Elective

The WMS Advanced Resident Electiveis designed for residents with a passion for wilderness medicine and is appropriate for residents with prior wilderness medicine experience including prior participation in student wilderness medicine electives, WFR courses, AWLS courses or other structured wilderness medicine activities. Residents should have wilderness travel experience including backpacking and be comfortable leading others into the backcountry. The four-week elective experience is more appropriate for those residents new to the field of wilderness medicine.

The goal of the two-week WMS Advanced Resident Elective is to develop physician leaders and educators in the field of wilderness medicine.  Residents will also be able to work towards their Fellowships in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) and practice in-hospital care of wilderness emergencies with high fidelity simulation. Residents will also develop educational skills by designing and carrying out scenarios for medical students participating in the concurrent WMS Student Elective. Residents will also serve as mentors for a four-day, three-night backpacking trip with medical students, allowing them practical “expedition” planning. Residents from all specialities are welcome!

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

Advanced Resident Elective Curriculum:


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 five-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 four-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 $1,500 ($950 for Advanced Resident Elective) covers the following:

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


The $250 deposit is not refundable. Before January 1, 2019, a $75 service fee will be deducted from any refund issued. After January 1, no refunds can be issued.

Checklist for International Students:


Elective Director: Stephanie Lareau, MD  -  stephlareau@gmail.com 
Assistant Director: Erin Meyer, MD -   e9meyer@gmail.com

For administrative questions, please email teri@wms.org.