The Summer Operational Experience (SOE) is an operational clerkship conducted as part of the pre-clerkship curriculum during the summer months. This experience provides medical students with additional operational context and increases their familiarity with the medical departments' capabilities, service specific operational environments, and general Warfighter skills. It provides exposure to the services’ medical capabilities and capacity, and to the services’ mission and the role of the medical department in support of the war-fighter. The SOE gives students an opportunity to explore different operational medical assignments and careers, and acquire and improve skills that will be directly useful in support of military units.

SOEs are conducted at various points during the 7-week summer and students sign up for courses from late June through early August. There are many different options to participate in, depending on the branch of service. While Air Force and U.S. Public Health Service students have mandated courses, they are also given the option to participate in a second Summer Experience if they so choose. Below is a small sample of the many options students have.


The week-long course, offered by USU’s Department of Military and Emergency Medicine and developed by USU alumnus Navy Capt. (Dr.) James Palma, focuses on the use of ultrasound for specific battlefield scenarios, such as advanced trauma assessment, using an ultrasound to refine triage decisions in mass casualty situations, and using an ultrasound to help make better decisions about evacuation priority in forward-based tactical situations. The course also explores topics tailored to global health engagement, such as applications for ultrasound with tropical diseases.


Operational Ultrasound


Operational Ultrasound



USAF Only - Aerospace Medicine Primary is a three-segment course series required for U.S. Air Force Flight Surgeons. It is a combination of experiences designed to prepare medical officers for basic mission qualification to perform duties in support of the Air Force military operation and Aerospace Medicine program.

The course introduces students to unique aeromedical issues relevant to the flight environment, while simultaneously providing them with the knowledge and skills required to treat aircrew and special operations duty members. Activities include flight simulations, parachute simulations, and one hour of time spent flying a Cirrus Aircraft.


Uniformed Services University


Uniformed Services University



This 10-day course is designed to provide extensive baseline knowledge in mountain/wilderness medicine. The course is designed with practical exercises that integrate operational medicine with tactical skills like mountaineering, map reading, avalanche basics, patient transport and more, all while stationed in a wilderness setting.


Uniformed Services University


Uniformed Services University



The Dive Medicine course is conducted at the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West, Florida. This 10-day course is designed to introduce the learner to dive and marine medicine as well as water rescue. The training includes didactic and practical exercises to enhance the learner’s ability to medically perform in the austere environment. The learner will be able to diagnose, treat and prevent conditions, and rescue victims that have willingly or accidently entered into a body of water. Students become open water, advanced open water and water rescue dive certified.


USU Dive Medicine


USU Dive Medicine



U.S. Emergency Medicine resident training requires ultrasound to be taught as a core skill, but in the Dominican Republic and Honduras, it is not yet part of the core Emergency Medicine curriculum.

During the first week of this U.S. Southern Command-sponsored mission, USU students teach ultrasound skills at the Honduran National Physician Conference, a large annual conference that includes physicians in all specialties.

The second week of the experience is spent in the Dominican Republic.  USU students spend their time teaching these skills to Dominican Republic medical students, as well as Emergency Medicine residents, and even attending physicians.


Uniformed Services University


Uniformed Services University



USPHS Only - As part of their commitment to public health, USPHS students are required to serve with the Indian Health Service (IHS) on an American Indian reservation for two weeks, providing care and serving an underserved population. Recently, USPHS officers worked with the Apache tribe at Whiteriver Indian Health Hospital in Arizona.


The shipboard experience takes place on a Navy aircraft carrier as part of RIMPAC, or the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, with more than 25 countries and 40 ships participating. USU students are embedded in the ship’s crew. Students spend approximately three weeks on board, sponsored by the ship’s physician and physician assistant. The day begins early, and includes twice-daily sick call at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Students are allowed to participate in mass casualty drills to learn how to triage and maneuver patients on the ship, as well as general quarters drills, where the students accompany the medical providers to practice triage drills at Battle Dress Stations.

In their downtime, USU students have been given the opportunity to explore the flight deck, hop aboard a helicopter flight, and watch flight operations.


Naval Ship


Navy Members



The U.S. Army Combatives Course works to train leaders and soldiers in close quarters combatives to prepare soldiers with knowledge in hand-to-hand combat. Students are pushed to their physical limit in this demanding but rewarding course, learning techniques heavily based on Brazilian Ju-jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA in a simulated combat environment.


Uniformed Services University


Uniformed Services University



The Special Operations Combat Medic Course (SOCM) is the course that combat medics go through at the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center in Fort Bragg, NC.  The course includes lessons to teach USU students about trauma care in various ways, such as utilizing simulated field treatment clinics to take care of trauma patients in prolonged field care, using simulated combat scenarios to have medics care for two casualties under fire during Tactical Combat Casualty Care, and Trauma Surgical Skills, which teaches students the correct way to apply a tourniquet and perform chest decompression using a needle.

Special Warfare Medical Group-Airborne


This clerkship is designed to acquaint medical students with large event medicine in an outdoor setting at the World Scout Jamboree, organized by the National Scout Organization. USU students can be found assisting pre-hospital responders and caring for patients in a setting with limited resources. Jamboree Medical Services provides care to approximately 50,000 participants and staff in multiple tent-based medical facilities. The majority of the patients tend to be adolescents; however, all age groups, including children and adults are represented, which will give the students a wide range of care experiences. Patient conditions range from acute to severe, with constant new problems being encountered, emphasizing a team approach to care while serving as medical volunteers.


More About the Courses

“There is a shortage of flight surgeons,” said Col. Tony Kim, Emergency Physician and USU Alumnus. “The earlier we can have students exposed to flight medicine, the more students will become interested in filling this job.”

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The course is the first of its kind - it takes students from a basic swim level to being open water certified, advanced open water certified, and water rescue certified, and includes 40 hours of classroom learning as well as training in the water.

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“[If] you want to make a person ready to deploy, you put them in an environment that is outside of their comfort zone, and train them to be able to do the tasks required of their jobs,” said ret. Lt. Col. Matthew Welder.

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