Expanding your horizons

Five more unique electives for residency

Are you interested in aviation and space medicine? How about health services for indigenous people? Check out these and more unique residency elective opportunities.


In November, I wrote an article describing five residency electives open to residents from any specialty. Since then, I’ve been able to participate in one myself: the ABC News Medical Unit elective in New York City. I finished the rotation only two weeks ago and can easily say that it was one of the highlights of my residency experience. So now, I want to share five more elective opportunities that might be the perfect fit for residents looking to expand their experience and expertise. 

Principles of Aviation and Space Medicine 

Rotation Length: Four weeks
Location: Galveston, Texas
Website: Principles of Aviation and Space Medicine

Dr. Petty during her time at the ABC News Medical Unit.

This four-week, non-clinical education/research course, offered through the University of Texas Medical Branch, typically takes place in July. The course is constructed to provide a thorough familiarization with the history of aviation, spaceflight and the specialty of aerospace medicine, human physiology in aviation and spaceflight, human engineering concepts related to aviation and spaceflight and the role of aerospace specialists in the selection, training, standards, medical certification and health maintenance of aviation and spaceflight personnel. The elective is currently being offered as a virtual course with an option to participate in a post-elective workshop.

Indian Health Services

Rotation Length: Four weeks
Location: Crownpoint, New Mexico
Website: Indian Health Services

Located two hours west of Albuquerque, the Crownpoint Healthcare Facility (CHF) offers an elective to residents within the Navajo Area Indian Health Services. CHF provides full spectrum healthcare to the community and exposes senior residents to rural family practice. Settings include the emergency department, urgent care, inpatient, clinic and labor and delivery. Residents who participate in the elective are provided housing at no additional cost. The available spots do fill up fast, so it is recommended that residents apply well in advance.

Whiteriver Indian Health Service Resident Rotation

Rotation Length: Four to six weeks
Location: Whiteriver, Arizona
Website: Whiteriver Indian Health Service Resident Rotation

Located four hours from Tucson, the Whiteriver United States Public Health Service Indian Health Service Hospital is a 40-inpatient and outpatient facility serving the 14,000 members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Third-year residents from accredited U.S. residency programs are eligible to participate in the rotation, which consists of full spectrum pediatric, adult and obstetrical care. Residents participating in the elective are provided housing at no additional cost and will live on the reservation of the White Mountain Apache tribe. 

Integrative Medicine Elective Rotation

Rotation Length: Four weeks
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Website: Integrative Medicine Elective Rotation

The Integrative Medicine Elective Rotation (IMER) is offered to residents through the University of Arizona’s Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. Residents are introduced to integrative medicine approaches through modalities that include botanicals, homeopathy, mind-body, nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine and energy medicine. IMER is offered twice per year, once virtually and once in person.

Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) Student/Resident Elective

Rotation Length: Two to four weeks
Location: New Castle, Virginia
Website: Wilderness Medical Society

Offered in association with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine at Wilderness Adventure in New Castle, the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) elective exposes residents to wilderness medicine through field exposure and formal instruction, including small group discussions, lectures and the Wilderness Emergency Medical Responder Course. WMS offers a two-week advanced elective and a four-week standard elective.

Residents in the advanced course will also be able to work toward fellowships in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM), practice in-hospital care for wilderness emergencies with high-fidelity simulation and develop educational skills by designing and carrying out scenarios for medical students participating in the concurrent WMS Student Elective. Residents from all specialties are eligible to participate.

There are so many unique and interesting national and international elective opportunities that enable residents to combine medicine with other passions — or experience niche areas of medicine they wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to discover!

My advice for the ultimate residency elective experience is this: Think of your ideal resident elective, then go out and find it. Don’t limit yourself to what you think is out there without looking, and if you can’t find your perfect opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask your program director if you can make your own!

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.
Are you interested in completing one of these residency electives, or have you completed a unique residency in the past? We want to hear about your experience! Email us at thedo@osteopathic.org if you’d be willing to share your story.

Related reading:

Medical media elective: Exploring one DO’s time in the ABC News Medical Unit

Weighing your options: Should you pursue a research year?

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