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Medical Student Education

Medical students can participate with physiatrists and PMR residents and fellows to experience and learn about disability, rehabilitation, and the field of PMR including all subspecialty areas. There are opportunities for clinical interactions and applied or library research.


Medical students can apply for an elective in PM&R during their 3rd and 4th years of medical school, usually for 4 weeks and 4 credits. There are no prerequisites. Dr. Margaret A. Turk ([email protected]) is the Elective Director, and Michelle Hayes ([email protected]) is the department assistant and contact.

Periods offered: 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, 012


Students will have the opportunity to experience the broad field of PM&R encompassing musculoskeletal medicine (neuromuscular evaluation and treatment) and medical/physical/cognitive rehabilitation (diagnosis, interventions, and outcomes). Electrodiagnosis (EMG), ultrasound, and injections will be discussed and observed. Besides typical medical diagnosis and treatment, the PM&R elective provides experiences with comprehensive evaluation of functional abilities, transitions of care, multidisciplinary team functioning, management of long-term disability, and quality of life issues. Typical patients encountered include those with stroke, spinal cord injury, concussion, brain injury, cerebral palsy, pain, arthritis, amputation, multiple trauma and other neuro-musculoskeletal disorders. The rotation is organized by weekly focused experiences within our Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility, various outpatient programs, and the Syracuse Veterans Administration inpatient and outpatient programs. The teaching is contemporaneous with clinical encounters and through lectures and student directed learning. The elective is organized for students to spend one week at different sites. Students are expected to develop a 15 minute presentation at the end of rotation, based on an interesting observed case or concept.

Students may also consider a unique elective, which would focus on specific clinical areas of PMR, basic science (e.g., anatomy) or other clinical sciences (e.g. radiology) applied to PMR, or research. This requires discussion with the Elective Director and completion of paperwork.

Students from other medical schools please note: All VA hospitals now require a more extensive verification process to allow participation in on-site VA clinical activities. Please contact the Upstate PMR offices to discuss requirements ([email protected]). We can accommodate students who are not able to complete the VA requirements by developing a schedule without assignment to the VA services.

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Medical Student Interest Club (PMR Club)

The PMR Interest Club is organized by the students, and supported by the Upstate PMR Department. The purpose of the organization is to educate and engage students in discussions about the field of PM&R and disabilities. The organization will involve students in a variety of activities, such as workshops (e.g., ultrasound, MSK examinations, electrodiagnosis) and small group discussions (e.g., journal club, communicating respectfully with people with disability), and can include observerships and volunteer work.

Visit the SUNY Upstate PMR Interest Group Page

Medical Student Summer Clinical Externship (MSSCE)

This 8-week summer experience offers rising MS2 students a broad overview of the many different settings in which physicians who specialize in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R, also known as physiatrists) practice. It is supported by the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) and the Upstate Department of PM&R. Students will hone their physical exam and history taking skills, learn techniques and procedures from hands-on modules lead by residents and attending physicians, take part in literature discussions, and complete a scholarly project with attending guidance and support from the Disability & Health Research Team. tudents can earn credit, will receive a stipend, and will present their research at a national conference in the Spring.

Students selected for this program will rotate through a variety of clinical settings and subspecialties. Two-week rotations may include inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation at Upstate, outpatient and inpatient pediatric physiatry and spasticity management, Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) clinic and inpatient service at the VA, acute hospital consultation service, Bone & Joint musculoskeletal and pain clinic including acupuncture (Upstate, at Fly Rd.), and a range of outpatient experiences at the VA (e.g., EMG, amputee, and prosthetic/orthotic clinics). During these rotations students work with residents and attending physicians who are dedicated to teaching about their specialty. Students are given the opportunity to take a patient’s history and do a preliminary physical exam, and then present to their resident and/or attending. Each week features a hands-on workshop about different procedures or exam skills (e.g., MSK exams, ultrasound, electrodiagnosis), journal article discussions, communication sessions with people with disability, and other disability-related activities. The scholarly projects focus on quality and electronic health record review activities, including submission of IRB proposal for exemption, completion of data collection and analysis (with DHRT support), development of an abstract for submission and poster presentation, and participation in the AAP annual meeting (sponsored by AAP and Upstate PMR).

Visit the AAP Medical Student Summer Clinical Externship Page