The Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship™ is a Hawk Ventures program dedicated to training the future physician leaders of wilderness EMS. It represents a unique collaboration between Hawk Ventures and a community EMS system (Burke County Emergency Services), a community hospital system (Carolinas HealthCare System-Blue Ridge), a community college (Western Piedmont Community College), and an international research university (Wake Forest University‘s Department of Emergency Medicine).
The Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship™ differs from most wilderness medicine electives in that the emphasis is almost entirely on EMS activities, rather than general wilderness medicine. As such, the focus of the Extern is spent on learning the systematic response to and management of wilderness emergencies, rather than general environmental medicine and individual patient care. Particular attention is paid to hands-on and field training. Every effort is made for Externs to be learning their skills from actual field providers and in the field, rather than in a classroom from lecturers. This philosophy is exemplified by our motto: “esse quam videri”, or “to be rather than to seem.” Externs each year are chosen from a pool of medical student and resident physician applicants.
“Far and away the best month of medical school!” —2013 Extern
“By far the best month of medical training I’ve had. This is truly a unique experience that I will not only value on a personal level for the rest of my life but that will strongly contribute to my medical career. Burke County will forever be a second home to me now.” –2014 Extern
“This Externship is a career altering experience. Dr. Hawkins has created an epic experience for students interested in wilderness medicine by way of creating an EMS space with medics that are open and receptive to medical students studying under their wings. There is enough autonomy in schedule and research to allow me, as a medical student, to think about how this lifestyle may fit in my life plan. The social and business connections made during this month are abundant. The skills learned throughout the month will make a difference in a career that often bridges medicine and politics. This is a once in a lifetime experience in the career of a medical student interested in wilderness EMS.” –2016 Extern
“This was, by far, the best training I have received throughout medical school. From an EMS standpoint, the experiential learning was second-to-none...I give my highest endorsement to this program, and I will continue to recommend it to all medical students as the most unique opportunity available anywhere in the country (and probably the world). ” –2018 Extern
Externs live in rural western North Carolina for one month studying wilderness EMS. The course is based in Burke County – one of the most beautiful and rugged areas of the eastern United States. The county includes Linville Gorge (“The Grand Canyon of the East”), South Mountains State Park, and Lake James with its 150+ miles of shoreline, including Lake James State Park. Linville Gorge was one of the first wilderness areas in the eastern United States (established even before the Wilderness Act) and is the deepest gorge east of the Rockies. It has some of the best climbing and hiking in the country, but is also notoriously treacherous and extremely demanding, leading to frequent rescues and extended medical activities. South Mountains State Park is the largest state park in North Carolina and a popular destination for admiring waterfalls, mountain biking and horseback riding.
In 2018, the Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship received the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s “Innovation in Medical Education Award”, recognizing its nationally significant, innovative contributions to emergency medicine training and academic theory.
In 2019, the Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship received the Association for Experiential Education’s “Karl Rohnke Creativity Award”, recognizing our commitment to experiential education and our creative application of those didactic principles into medical education.
We invite you to explore our site and determine if our program sparks your interest and sense of adventure!
Navigate here for eligibility requirements and here for an application. Email us here for more information.